Planning Ideas for Next Year
Ah, fall… my favorite time of year on the east coast—crisp fall mornings followed by gentle afternoon sunshine. For me, these weather changes provide a sign that a new business year looms around the corner. And it’s also time to do some high-level business planning, or at least to start the process before it’s too late. I try to avoid those crammed plans that some of us inevitably face. Have you ever waited until your banker or investor asked you for your business plan and not been ready? Not fun—and it’s not like the author of The One-Hour Business Plan would ever do that! The point is, to start planning the process of business planning. In other words, (and as strange as it might sound) “planning for your plan.” Some questions that you might want to ask yourself to get started include:
- What do I want my business to achieve next year? This is more than just about money, sales, and profit objectives. Here we want to dream big about what could happen—while keeping our feet on the ground with a reality check. There is nothing like planning for your dream and making it happen.
- What information does my staff, management team, or subcontractors need to know about my business goals? One of the purposes of planning is to communicate with a variety of people. Think about who needs to know what. Normally we need help to achieve our larger goals. It helps to consider how these people can contribute to completing our goals. If there are any potential issues we can foresee, we can begin planning ways to deal with them.
- What business metrics do I need to achieve? Before the bottom line, certain operations or marketing metrics can point the way to future bottom line performance. For example, producing a certain number of marketing leads for sales, or completing a specific number of product or service deliveries each month.
- What costs are associated with next year’s business initiatives? One of the common mistakes that I see in business planning is for the planner to list a goal, describe what they want to do, then ignore the costs associated with achieving that goal. We can and should make financial estimates before obtaining quotes for our plans.
- What non-monetary resources do I need to accomplish my new business initiatives? Carving out time from employees’ schedules to work on a new business initiative can be one of the most precious resources that must be planned for (particularly in the eyes of your employees). Often another organization’s expertise becomes necessary to accomplish something new, such as a prototyping or engineering expertise. Identifying the internal personnel and external organizations required to achieve your goals will be worth planning for.
- What are we afraid of? The two most common forms of fear I see in business planning are either a fear of the unknown, or the feeling that they don’t have the time. These fears can morph into roadblocks, bottlenecks, passive resistance, or uncooperativeness when ignored. We need to anticipate potential fears when we start planning, not just for the people around us, but also for ourselves.
A lot of other questions arise when we think about business planning. We won’t go into detail about them here. We simply try to address the most important questions that surface most frequently. A good conversation starting point might be: “How is my business finishing up this year, and what might my budget look like for next year?” For new business initiatives, it helps much more to anticipate roadblocks and bottlenecks during planning than during execution. Other questions might come, up such as: What do my business stakeholders need from my business? Can we afford raises for the staff? How much will health insurance employee benefit costs affect my cost of doing business? OK, I’ll stop here. What? There’s more? No, that’s enough questions for now. The point is to start planning to plan for the new business year. It’s all about knowing what you want to accomplish in the year ahead. And remember to start planning for your plan now, at least on a high level (as the aforementioned questions prompt us). If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, then start planning by making a list of what you want from your business. The second tip is to anticipate the fears, roadblocks, and bottlenecks that you will most likely encounter from others or from yourself. If I hear “I am too busy!” one more time… Finally, make a sketch, outline, or list of what your business plan needs in order to make progress towards your goals. There, now you’ve planned for your plan. And it’s the beginning of fall. What better time to plan for next year? Copyright © John J. McAdam 2014. All Rights Reserved.