Make it Your Best Year Yet

Make it Your Best Year Yet

Raise your hand if you dread creating an annual business plan! Well you’re not alone.

While we’ve all heard the famous quote from Benjamin Franklin, “failing to plan is planning to fail”, actually taking time to do an annual plan is harder than it seems. This article is designed to give you a simple framework of how to perform an annual business planning session. Keep in mind that an annual planning session can be done at anytime in the year, so if you are reading this in August, don’t think you’re off the hook until December. 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.


According to Tad Jacobs of Tree Masters, who spoke at the TCIExpo in Charlotte, NC, there are five separate departments within a tree care company. They are Tree Work Production, Plant Health Care Production, Maintenance, Sales and Office. Keep these distinct operational components in mind when planning for the upcoming year.


  1. SWOT Analysis – To start your plan, you must have an understanding of where your business is today. 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. 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.
  2. Define your Why – If you have not clearly defined the reasons for why you do what you do, now is the time to do so. I recently wrote an entire article on this topic, which can be found here. Use the responses from your team members as well to create this very important concept for your business. Your Why will help guide your business throughout the year and brings everything that you do in your organization together.
  3. Big Picture Goals – Okay, you knew i was going to get to setting goals for the upcoming year. Setting goals can be kind of tricky, however, the most important thing to realize is that a goal is a way to help you get to where you ultimately want to be as an organization. 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 member understands their role and is willing to do what it takes to complete their part.
  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 reach new heights.

Written By: Eric Petersen


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