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  • Aspire » Small Business Strategy » Are you leaving your business plans out in the cold?

    Are you leaving your business plans out in the cold?

    Your business can make you feel pretty cold when you don’t where it’s going.

    If you’re like most business owners, you probably have an annual sales goal for the year (maybe it’s even been written down and translated to something measurable).  You may even have a longer term vision of where you’re taking your business (possibly not written down and likely not tangible or well communicated).

    However where a lot of people get into trouble is the translation of those visions and goals into an actionable plan and a way to track progress.  You’re likely headed in roughly the right direction, but without a more detailed foundation to work from, it becomes a guessing game to determine how well you’re doing and if you’re going to make your targets…and if those targets mean the difference between success and failure, well that can lead to a lot of chilly stress!


    Goals for the year

    The first step is to have a really clear, written set of goals that you want to achieve for the year.  There will definitely be a financial component to the goals (revenues, profits, etc.) but there will also be other key outcomes that you’re shooting for.

    Maybe you’re planning on expanding your organization and will have 3 new employees by the end of the year.  Maybe you are launching 2 new products this year (and all of the effort that goes into that process).  Maybe you are opening up new space or pursuing a new marketing strategy.  Whatever it is, it should be clearly documented and your list of top priorities should be narrowed down to 3 to 7 major things you’re trying to do this year (less is more).

    Remember the way to get things done is to keep a laser like focus – when you try to do everything, it’s likely that you will get nothing done.

    Break it down to Quarterly Goals

    I’ve been reading a lot things lately that support an idea that intuitively matches my experiences.  People can’t focus for more than about 3 months at a time.  Therefore you must break down your goals and your plans into 90 day increments to keep people focused.

    So as you look at your annual goals, how would you break that into a calendar?  If you have a seasonal business, it’s likely that some parts of the year are busier than others.  If you’ve got several major initiatives that take time and money, are they appropriately spread out so that you have enough resources (cash, time, people, etc.) to actually achieve them.  In this context, when is just as important as what.  You can’t create a plan without including a sense of timing.

    So what are you doing in the next 90 days that moves you towards your annual goals?  Remember to keep your focus and only work on 3 to 5 priorities per person for the quarter.

    Develop the plan

    So you’ve got a clear idea of what needs to get done by the end of the quarter, the next step is to develop a clear plan on how you’re going to get there.

    Let’s say you need to sell $100,000 worth of revenue in the first quarter and your average sale is $5,000.  Do you know what activities you need to take to land those 20 sales?  If you’re sales conversion rate is 25%, then you need to be actively working a list of 80 prospects.  What activities are you using to identify those prospects?  Are you working with a highly targeted list that matches with your best customers (i.e. have you defined your target market down to a really detailed level)?

    If you’re hiring 2 new employees this quarter, do you have a clear plan on the activities and time frames involved in that activity (identifying the position, documenting the responsibilities, documenting the core values that you’re looking for, developing a strategy for how you’re going to find the resources, your interviewing strategy, etc.).

    Whatever your top priorities are, you’ve got to have a set of clear actions that you (or your staff) are going to be taking to reach those goals.

    Measure and document results

    Finally, it’s critical that you are measuring and documenting the activities your doing as well as the results that are coming out of those activities.  If you previously assumed that your close rate was 25%, but you’re only getting 20% in the first month of activities, then you are going to either need to increase your close rate to get to an average of your target for the quarter, or increase the number of prospects so that you can still reach your targeted outcome.

    If you are relying on others to deliver critical priorities (hiring, moving, strategies, etc.) then you’ve got to have a way to measure their success – ideally as they’re going.  If you’re waiting for the end of the quarter to find out if they succeeded or failed, you’re setting yourself up for some difficult obstacles to overcome. 

    Things that get measured get achieved.  People will respond much differently if they know that their progress is being tracked.  The other benefit is that your measurements will help you fine tune the plans for next quarter.  You may not be able to hit your goals at first, but as you get better at the overall process, you’re planning process will get much better as well.

    Set and document annual goals, plan them out quarter by quarter, develop actionable steps for each quarter and document your progress.  It sounds simple (and in a lot of ways it is), but it can have profound effects on getting things done!

    How do you plan and execute for the year?  I’d love to hear other examples and thoughts on this process.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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