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Make It Your Best Year Yet

Raise your hand if you dread creating an annual business plan! Well you’re not alone.
We’ve all heard the famous quote from Benjamin Franklin, “failing to plan is planning to fail”, yet how often do you hear people say “I don’t have time to do an annual business plan”.

Taking time to do an annual plan saves time and increases productivity. This article is designed to give you a simple framework of how to perform an annual business planning session. The key is to set aside uninterrupted time for it, preferably on a couple different days so you can have some time to think about it in between sessions.

1. Start With Why – The Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland said it simply, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” If you have not clearly defined the why you do what you do, now is the time to do so. Your Why is your Mission Statement and serves as the north star for your business. Your annual business plan defines how and what you need to do to advance the company and its mission. In addition, review your vision statement, the what you do, and your core values, how you do it. Combined, these three elements create a culture for your business.

2. SWOT Analysis – Next have a clear understanding of where your business is today. Review the goals and your performance from the prior year. Where did you do well and be brutally honest about where you did not meet your goals. The SWOT Analysis is one of the most common ways to start planning for your company. List out all of your current company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Gather input from team members in all areas of your business so your plan can be as robust as possible. Compare these findings with your successes and failures from the prior year. Tony Robbins sums it up like this: “Success leaves clues. Go figure out what someone who was successful did and model it. Improve it, but learn their steps. They have knowledge” It is pretty remarkable what happens when you include your team in this part of the annual planning. We do this in our agency using Survey Monkey so each team member has a chance to respond anonymously.

3. Big Picture Goals – In my opinion, it is best for companies to have no more than 3 big picture goals for the year. When setting goals use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. to help guide you. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time. Each goal must be specific enough that your team members can understand what the desired outcome is. That means the goal must have something measurable assigned to it. Whether that is a total amount of new customers, an increase of the number of five star reviews on Google or a decrease in the number of injuries for the year, make sure you can track it. The goal also should be attainable and realistic given the current state of your organization. Stretch goals are great if they are accomplished, however, stating a large stretch goal can have a negative consequence on employee morale if the year does not go as planned. Lastly, each goal needs to have a time element to it. When do you want the goal to be achieved? A goal without an end date is not a goal that your team members can rally behind. Give your organization a chance at accomplishing the goals you set by making them S.M.A.R.T.

4. Objectives for Each Goal – When you have your three big picture goals written down, take a look at each one of them and break them up into smaller objectives. Assign these objectives or tasks to individuals who have the ability and responsibility to accomplish them. Make sure each team a member understands their role and is willing to do what it takes to complete their part. Go back to the SWOT analysis and align objectives with the people on your team with the strengths in the area needed to accomplish the objectives. If there is an area of weakness, incorporate training needs to bolster your team’s resources and effectiveness.

5. Check-in and Make Adjustments – Because each goal has an end date, create a timeline of when to check-in on the progress of the goal. Paying attention to the status of the goal throughout the year will allow you and your team an opportunity to make any adjustments necessary to achieve the goal. In addition to setting up a series of small check-in points, schedule a semi-annual review. Here is an article devoted specifically to your mid-year review.

Since creating an annual plan can be challenging, the team at ArboRisk provides business strategy workshops and annual business planning sessions as part of our Thrive program to help your business become extraordinary.

Written by: Jim Skiera