I pull up to our office and squeeze into the one empty spot on the far right of our building. Hmmm… busy this morning. I grab my stuff from the back and head in. I smile at several people waiting as I pass through. Ten years ago I would never have guessed this scene. I say that, but it was always part of the business plan. I guess it feels like I just woke up one day and it was here. Voila, vision achieved.
I quickly replace my immediate gratification with the reality of the years gone by. When I first began my coaching and counseling practice it was pretty much just me. My husband would shake his head as I proclaimed yet another blog post absorbing my time. Little did he guess then that he would also be working at Crossroads full-time.
When I flip through old journals and notebooks I confirm that this was always the plan. I learned early on in my corporate days that if you execute without a business plan you don’t know where you may end up. You could do well short term however, not build your business to achieve any long-term results, goals, or vision.
I set a vision all of those years ago to build a coaching and counseling center with other professionals with different areas of expertise. We would be a resource for the community. We would be a vessel for God to work through.
Look For God’s Vision For Your Business
God set the vision and then I went to work each year taking baby steps forward. You see with a God vision, the when is not as important as the direction. However, having a vision ensured that when I came up with plans, I could evaluate whether they were leading me in the right direction or not.
This turned into a formal planning process each year.
Not only for Crossroads, but soon it was a service we were offering for our clients.
We begin to plan in the last quarter of the year for the following calendar year. If you have never prepared an annual plan before, let me walk you through our process… at least for the first planning process.
Our Annual Business Planning Process
Hopefully, you already have a vision for your business and you have a market strategy i.e. online business, bricks and mortar location, outside sales force, etc. If you don’t, you have to start here.
Many small business owners have a hard time envisioning what is possible when they haven’t even opened the doors yet. But you need to try. Your vision can be fine-tuned into an annual business plan once you are operating, but you have to know the direction you are going. Without a solid vision, you will end up just taking on any kind of revenue-producing opportunity there is. Soon you will find you are spread too thin, you have people doing things outside of their expertise, and you will be running a business that is just trying to keep up rather than one that glorifies God.
Assuming you have a vision for your business, you can start the annual planning process.
2. Planning Retreat
You can do this on your own if you don’t have a team, or invite the key leaders in your organization to participate. I did many years alone. During this time you want to look at where you are, what you want to change, and how you will get there. My next post will specifically focus on the actual planning retreat format and content. Here I just want to include it as part of the overall process. When you leave the retreat you should have goals and key initiatives prioritized for the upcoming year and the resources required to execute and achieve the next year’s goals.
3. Budget Preparation
Now that you have the goals, key initiatives, and resource needs for the new year, it is time to do a comprehensive month-by-month budget. Budgeting can look different depending on the detail you want, the size of your company, and if anyone else in the organization has budget responsibilities. If your company has separate departments, you may want to consider letting those departments provide the budget for their area, or at least provide the assumptions.
Make sure you start the budget department early enough to get feedback from others and to make one or two rounds of changes. You also want to leave enough time to logistically get it imported into your financial system. This will provide regular reporting about how your business is doing compared to the budget.
4. Marketing Planning
Once the budget is complete you should have an idea about how much you can spend on marketing. If you have your budget and your key initiatives, you want to make sure your budgeted marketing dollars will be directly supporting the achievement of the company goals and/or key initiatives.
Most small companies don’t have huge marketing budgets, so it is imperative to take the time to determine what you want to do and how you will do it. Execution is so important to marketing effectiveness. To get the most out of your dollars you really want to ensure you have plans by the quarter before the year starts and that everyone who has a role in executing the marketing plan is fully on board and ready to do their part.
5. Compensation programs
Some companies only have positions with base salaries, but many also have bonus programs, commissions, or other sales incentives. Each year these compensation plans should be reviewed by position. Leadership and sales positions are the ones that usually carry additional bonuses or incentive pay. It is important that the compensation plans:
- Are set based on the goals and initiatives of the company.
- That they create a strong enough motivation to meet or exceed the company’s plans.
- That they are easy to calculate and understood by the employee.
- That everyone can tell how they are doing against their compensation plan.
- (And many times that incremental sales will pay for the incentives).
The Key To A Successful Business Planning Process
Believe it or not, one of the most important aspects of a successful business planning process is having it completed on time. Of course, it needs to be a quality plan, but if it isn’t finished before the year begins you are always playing catch-up. You also miss the momentum that achieving plans provide by starting the year without a measurement tool as to whether or not you are doing a good job or the company is performing.
In summary, other important factors are:
- Have a strong, clear vision everyone knows about and is committed to.
- Provide enough time to get all of the pieces and parts delegated out, and back in, and pulled together. For some companies this is a couple of days, for others, it is 2-3 months.
- Get input from others that you want to be responsible for parts of the budget.
- Make sure that the actual plans to achieve the goals and initiatives are fully developed and ready to begin on January 1.
- Make sure you have reports and measurements in place before the year starts so you can provide the appropriate reporting that will keep each person on the team knowledgeable about their performance and how the company is doing against its goals.
Benefits of Annual Business Planning
Planning and budgeting may feel like an arduous process, but trust me, all of the clients we have worked with all agree that they feel more confident starting off the year, they can make decisions easier and faster because of the planning and plans, and that their teams are more unified and work together to achieve the goals of the company.
This is our process. It has worked for a lot of years with a large number of clients. I feel confident it will work well for you too, however, would love other suggestions from those that have found a planning process that works for them.
Here’s a free guide that will help you with annual planning in the areas mentioned above. Download it today and you will be well on your way to planning for success in 2018!