The ABC’s of Business Planning – What to do in the New Year

If you’re a business owner, where should you start the New Year?

The first thing I would recommend is to find a couple of hours, or an afternoon, to reflect on last year and the year before. Go somewhere outside of your normal environment, where you can be inspired and get creative – maybe a beach, a café, or a park…

Thinking back over the last two years, what was different? What worked, and what didn’t? Think about your team members, the organisation and operational side of your business, your customers and most importantly your financial results.

Now bring yourself back to this year – 2018. We’re almost one month in already… what is that you want to achieve this year?

Are you wanting to grow your business, multiply it? Do you want to step it up to the next level? Are you wanting to diversify?

You need to get really clear on what success looks like. If you can’t see what success looks like, it will be so much harder to achieve it.

Now, compare the results you have achieved to the results you want to see at the end of this year and ask yourself what needs to be different to reach those goals? Are there some strategies you need to START doing, or some you need to STOP? What do you know you need to do, but keep putting it off?

As an example, if you’re looking at your financials:

  • Have you analysed what your gross profit margin is (that’s the portion that you keep, after each product or service has been delivered to a client)? Is your gross profit margin going up, or down?
  • What are your sales figures like? Are they increasing or declining?
  • What about your expenses? Have they remained the same, or have they grown more than your sales have increased? Have you reviewed them, and ensured your payables like superannuation are in accordance with industry changes?

It’s important to have a look at the above and consider what your Budget is for 2018. Have you set a Budget yet? Once you’re clear on your financials, have a think about your operations.

Are your operations seamless or are there things that you need to implement to be more efficient? Perhaps it’s having a Customer Relationship Manager so you can keep track of your customers?

What you need to remember is that Learning is your ‘L’ plate to ‘earning’.

Whatever area of business you would like to change or improve, there will be some element of learning. Think about it; if a doctor wants to become a specialist, he’d need to do some more learning.

It’s exactly the same as running a business. So ask yourself, how is your business tracking to plan and what needs to change for you to have greater success and optimise your capabilities?

Begin by asking yourself if you have the right team on board, to steer the ship towards success… Do they know what the goals of the business are? Do they know what their roles are and would they describe their top roles and KPI’s the same as you would? Are everyone’s KPI’s tracked?

You can then focus your attention on specific areas of your business that need work. Let’s say you need to focus your energy and attention on sales…

  • Are you really clear on who your target market is and are you directing your marketing strategies in the right direction?
  • Are you testing & measuring those strategies to ensure you’re getting a return on your investment and attracting the right customers?

Regardless of where your focus is, what are some key strategies that are going to make a difference to your business in 2018 and make it a better year for success?

Plan for success, don’t just follow the motions and hope for the best. What does success look like for you at the end of this year? Be pro-active in taking the time to think about what this really means.

To start, simply visualise the below 3 areas and what your ideal would be at the end of 2018, as a quick guide to start planning for success.
  • What do your financials look like?
  • Who are your clients?
  • What are your team targets and are your team members pro-active in reaching them?

I would suggest reviewing all major areas of your business at least once a quarter, not simply the end or start of a new financial or calendar year. It is however critical at the start of the calendar year to review your results from the previous 6 months and see where you can improve your chances of success for the end of the financial year. Once you’ve done that, see if you can plan to the end of the calendar year, and even further if you can vision your success beyond 12 months.

Start by setting yourself a budget for success for the next 12 months (i.e. target turnover, gross profit margin and expenses) and chop it up into quarters so you’re even clearer about what to do in each quarter to reach those end goal figures.

Now you’ve got 6 months to step up to the next level and you can plan in advance, beyond the day-to-day tasks, to see where you’re heading long-term.

Pick one or two really big strategies per quarter that are going to step up your business… Maybe you need a new website? When is the last time you’ve reviewed everyone’s job descriptions and set new KPI’s? Perhaps that will involve putting a bonus system in place for your team? Most people want to smooth out their operations because there’s too much wastage of time or materials…

You need to work out what’s going to make the biggest difference in your business.

One particular client came to me 12 months ago and said to me,

“My business has been operating for about 10 years, we’re not doing that well, we’re in a bit of a loss situation, and I just don’t know how I can turn things around…”

First and foremost we sat down and reviewed where exactly they were at, got clear on their goals and focused on the areas that needed the most immediate improvement. In just twelve-months we set up and started tracking their budget, got their website up-and-running, created a great organisation structure, put some strategies in place of how to pick a better target market and have now not only increased their turnover and profitability, but also reduced the hours that the business owner has been working. For the first time ever, they took a whole month off work and didn’t have to worry about how that would affect their business.

For change to happen, you have to change, and there will often be some pain in that change and some element of learning. You can’t grow without learning, you can’t change without learning; whether it’s learning a new skill, learning about yourself, learning what hurts and what doesn’t, what works and what doesn’t.

It’s really important if you want change to occur, that you need to invest time into reflecting, planning, strategising and learning how to make the changes that will make the biggest difference to you.

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