7 Keys To Planning 2018 So It’s Your Best Year Ever
2017 is coming to a close. As you get ready for the holidays, it’s important to start thinking about the year ahead and how to make it your best year ever.
Below are 7 areas to dig into and examine to help you plan out the next 12 months. Do this exercise well and you’ll enter the New Year focused and clear on the steps you need to take.
As you answer the questions, you will identify areas that need attention. When you do so, ask yourself why this remains a challenge. Sometimes, what we see as a problem is actually a symptom. Is it because you didn’t know how or that you don’t know what to do about it? Is it because you have the wrong person responsible? Is it because the team lacks clarity? Is it because you need more accountability yourself?…
1) Personal Growth: Your business will grow to the extent you do. I had a client who fought me on the ability of his business to grow in his market. Eventually, he took on an intensive exercise in self-growth. When he was fighting me, he was around 500k with 4-5 staff. He’s now doing over 6 million with 35+ staff. He now acknowledges that every stage of business growth is accompanied by a new level of personal growth. This applies both to you and to your team.
In what ways are you developing yourself? What excuses do you use most frequently? How do you describe yourself that holds you back? Are there beliefs about yourself, your abilities, your worthiness, your people or about your industry/market that keep you from giving it your all? How can you tackle these?
2) Product: Look at the products and services you offer. Do you offer the right mix? Are there complimentary offerings that could increase your average transaction size or increase the number of transactions per customer? Or broaden the range of customers?
For instance, a client of mine offers high end custom creative and production services that are only affordable by very large enterprises like banks and car companies. They then introduced less expensive packages with limited options that, while still high value, made their expertise available to underserviced medium to large size enterprises.
It need not always be that dramatic. For some businesses, it can be a service contract, maintenance contract or extra warranty. Instead of just focusing on market share, think of share of wallet. How much of their purchase decisions in a given area could be directed to you? Think about the dollars you might be watching walk out the door and consider if there are additional products or services you could add this year.
3) Promotions: Your marketing and sales are what bring in the customers and therefor the money. Do your marketing and sales perform? Do you have a clearly understood Unique Selling Proposition that isn’t about you but speaks to the need, want or pain of your market(s)?
Do you have a diversified marketing strategy or do you rely on just 2 or 3 tactics? If the latter, you’re fishing with a fly rod rather than with a net. Do you measure results so that you know which tactics are working and which are not? (By “results”, I mean do you track leads, conversion rates and average transaction size?) Are you aware of your acquisition cost? Have you implemented a sales management process? Have your sales people received sales training? (I once tripled a client’s conversion rate in one 45 minute meeting just by mapping out his sales meetings.) Do you have a strategy to get customers coming back to you? Are you measuring customer satisfaction?
If you answered no to several of these questions, the good news is that you have a lot of upside to tap into.
4) People: Your ability to extricate yourself from daily operations depends on the quality of your people, where quality is the sum of their character, their commitment and their competence. When you have an organization of high performers focused on delivering great results for clients because they care and because they share a set of values, you enjoy a culture that will give you personal freedom and that will be the envy of your competition.
Do you have that? If not, are there personnel changes you need to make this year? Are there roles that are critical to fill?
To make sure you keep the high performers, do you have a reliable recruitment process that filters out poor candidates and only serves up those with high potential? Do you have an onboarding process that gets them productive quickly and that convinces them they made the right decision? Have you created performance management, compensation and recognition processes that aren’t just annual performance reviews? Is your team “bought in” to a set of important values that drive their behaviours?
If not, it’s possible that you are wasting payroll dollars and likely providing customers with experiences that are less compelling than they could be.
5) Process: If you don’t have good systems in place, you’re doomed to get sucked back into operations regularly, which keeps you from focusing on high value strategic activities. One of the challenges in any organization is determining the balance between process and culture. Some organizations prefer to systemize everything so there is virtually no discretion. This is important in settings that require absolute consistency in manufacturing or fabrication. Other organizations benefit from minimal systems that support a team of high performance problem solvers who are guided by a clear set of cultural values.
There are basically 3 buckets of processes: customer facing processes (marketing, sales, account management, customer experience), production/delivery processes (project management, manufacturing, supply management, etc) and “administrative processes” (financials, recruitment, payroll, legal etc.).
Consider where things break down in your organization. Where do things slow down? Where are the bottlenecks or places where quality slides? What do customers complain about? At what stages do your people perform tasks “their own way”? Where do you lose money or miss the opportunity to maximize productivity? What work drives your people crazy? Do you deliver consistent experiences to customers or does it vary?
If your sales and marketing are delivering customers, but you’re working too many hours or find customers aren’t as happy as you might expect, this is the area to explore.
6) Planning: You know the old adage, right? Failing to plan is planning to fail. Having the discipline to develop a plan and then to follow the plan is critical. It’s actually one of the most common differences between fast growth companies and those that grow in a more plodding fashion.
Planning occurs over 4 different time frames. The first is your 3-5 year time frame. Honestly, beyond setting visionary targets and some round-figured financial goals (which are important to set), doing detailed 5 year planning is largely a waste of time for most small/medium sized businesses. (I know there are some who will find this heresy and want to debate me. I’m happy to have that discussion.)
The second is annual. Right now is the time of year to do this kind of planning and is what this article is about. Do your strategic plan. Identify your key priorities. Select your tactics. Spread them out over the 4 quarters so you aren’t trying to do everything all at once.
Third, do more detailed planning quarterly, or at the least, on a trimester basis. This is where you get specific. Who is doing what by when?
Finally, plan on a weekly and daily basis. This guides your specific actions and ensures you and your team are working to hit your quarterly targets.
7) Principles: One of the greatest sources of stress and lack of fulfillment is the dissonance that emerges when one doesn’t live in alignment with one’s important values. Similarly, a great source of staff disengagement occurs when either there is no clarity on what the business stands for or where your people feel the company’s stated values are not being lived.
Do you have a well-articulated set of values for the organization? Do they reflect your personal values? In your daily activities, do you feel there is a tension between what you feel is right and what you believe the business needs? If so, the important question becomes how you can forge greater alignment between what you hold to be important and what you do in your business.
There you have it. If you work through each of these areas, you should have some clear insights into things you need to focus on over the coming year. The next steps are to 1) prioritize them, 2) schedule them 3) assign them 4) schedule check-ins to ensure they are happening.
Please let me know if you found this useful and if I can be of help as you work through it.