Wise business owners know that careful and consistent planning for growth is critical when it comes to success. Whether your business is old or new, it’s immensely important to keep optimization in mind year after year.
At the very least, creating a yearly business plan is a prudent practice to follow. With a new year just around the corner, here are six steps to creating an annual business plan that will help you reach your business goals in 2019.
Preparing with a SWOT analysis
Before you jump right into planning, the first thing you must do is prepare. To know where you’d like to take your business in the next year, you need to evaluate your current successes and failures. Take a look at your financial reviews and be critical when analyzing.
If you have multiple departments, then you’ll want to examine those in detail, too. Ask each team the same questions you asked yourself for the company as a whole. Having an open annual dialogue will help assess what’s working and what isn’t — pointing you to any changes that should be made.
The best approach to take after you’ve spoken to your team would be to complete a SWOT analysis. This is a study used to determine an organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as their external opportunities and threats. You can find various templates online for free.
When answering these questions, make sure to note every little thing you can think of, which will keep you organized and allow you to quickly brainstorm for the future. And start your preparation early, as you’ll want to have as much time to think about your future goals as possible.
Setting goals with KPIs
Once you know where your business currently stands, you can officially start planning for where you want it to be next year. The best place to start is with your key performance indicators (KPIs). These give you measurable values that demonstrate how effectively your company is hitting strategic business objectives.
Set your high-level KPIs (overall performance) and low-level KPIs (individual departments/processes) at the same time, so you can see any sort of cause-and-effect correlations in the future.
Most importantly though, you’ll want to set your north star metric, which is the sovereign of all KPIs. This will be your main goal for the new year and what you’ll use to determine your overall success. After this, it’s time to examine the finance, operations and marketing aspects of your business.
Figuring out finances
Go back to your preparation guide and look at your financial income again. Analyze where you spent money, when money came in, how much you made and how much you lost. Then use that data to create income projections for the next year on a monthly basis.
Using this data will help you to create a budget that you can follow for next year. If you keep your business up to date with this financial budget year after year, it will become easier to project your business’ success and failures — and to create reliable new budgets.
Getting operations in order
Once you’ve handled the executive level business plan, you’ll want to move straight into the various departments. Remember how it was stressed to keep your departments in the loop when handling the preparations? That’s because operational improvement is only successful when everyone is on the same page.
It’s important to make sure that each department leader is educated and up-to-date with the company’s new annual objectives. That way, they can share your vision with their team and help the company obtain its future goals.
The best way to ensure a smooth, cohesive transition is to include your departmental leaders on the annual plan. Have them create a single page outlook sheet for their department that defines their initiatives and how they fall into line with the company’s overall goals and objectives. Of course, nothing should go live or be greenlit without the understanding and agreement from each department. If there are contradictions or inconsistencies, your operational goals won’t run smoothly.
Now, if you run a smaller business, this part should be even easier for you. Operational improvement can happen via a couple of meetings with your team members who can give you some important insight and their opinions on future initiatives. Review your goals on a monthly basis and try your best to keep track of your progress. Whether it’s positive or negative, the numbers will help you to create a stronger business annual in the future.
Making marketing magic
With your budget done, you can now start thinking about your marketing plan. Here, you’ll want to list out your main priorities. Assuming you’ve already had strong marketing practices in place, you’ll find that your objectives won’t change much when it comes to these specific goals. Some of the important questions you’ll want to ask yourself are:
1. What makes your product unique? This should be short and concise. You basically want people to know why you’re valuable in your industry.
2. What is your marketing message? This question should be focused on your experience, reputation, system, training and your business guarantee. Essentially, it’s all the things that make your business your business.
3. Who is your ideal customer? Use your best customer as a guide. What makes them the best and how could you find more customers like them? Aim your focus towards getting more people like your best customer.
4. What is your marketing medium? This is the way you get the word out about your product. There are plenty of ways to advertise, from commercial spots on television or streaming services to social media campaigns. You may even use snail mail depending on your clientele. Identify what works best in your industry and go with those. You’ll want at least five marketing mediums if you can get them.
5. What is your budget? Now that you’ve identified your medium, how much money do you have to spend on that medium and how often will you be advertising? Create a budget for the whole year so that you don’t wind up shortsighted later on.
Once those questions are answered, you should create a marketing calendar where you can plan out all your marketing for each month. Utilize a marketing dashboard where you can track how well your advertisements and communication channels are doing and what works best for your business.
Communicating the plan
The best way to implement a successful annual business plan is to keep all communication lines open — and keep it as simple as possible.
When the plan is complete, the best thing to do is host a kick-off meeting to let your team know that everything you’ve been planning for has officially gone into effect.
The kick-off meeting not only makes sure everyone is on the same page one last time, but it also keeps the morale high and the positive energy flowing. The result of a strong annual plan is an improving business that will continue to grow year after year.