Most everyone working in any type of business hardly has
time to set goals and objectives, let alone do any short-term daily planning.
Walking into the office with a preset list of daily “to-do” items will surely
go to the bottom of the in-box within a matter of minutes. And, in the
long-term, matching quantifiable outcomes with goals and objectives just isn’t
part of reality. Or is it?
An increasingly demanding marketplace coupled with the need
to get more done prevents some from planning, setting business goals and
measuring outcome. Yet other business owners make time for this critical
process. These entrepreneurs have experienced, firsthand, how applied business
projections can turn dreams into currency.
The need to plan for the future of your business dates back
to the Stone Age. As elementary as it may seem, cave men who hunted for food
found they could not transport much on their backs or in their hands, so they
planned for the future by inventing the wheel. Once a vehicle to carry food was
available, the goal was achieved, and life was much sweeter.
Our business environment isn’t much different. We realize an
end result through a goal- and objective-setting process. For example, your
goal might be to increase business in 2002 by 10 percent. How are you going to
get there? What’s keeping you from reaching that mark now? Asking the right
questions generates the critical information you need to turn action into
results. Even more important is accessing the data needed to set your goals. If
you’ve never attempted this kind of planning before, you aren’t alone. Properly
executed, this type of planning can significantly impact a business, but most
entrepreneurs aren’t sure what to focus on, so they focus on what is urgent.
Often, though, what is urgent is not a priority in the lifespan of your
It’s much easier to begin the process by thinking of the
task in small, easily reachable segments. Following a streamlined, eight-step
approach to planning keeps you focused. Even though you may already have taken
on some of these points and begun the planning process, revisit them for a
1. Make sure you are looking at the right numbers. If
you are looking at financial statements, you may be looking at what we call
lagging indicators. These numbers tell you what has already passed. What
transforms action into measurable results is setting goals based on leading
indicators – specific measures that give you a real-time snapshot of areas
within your business. This gives you the power to make changes now rather than
later. Often, what seems to be the area of concern is actually a symptomatic
sign of another area that needs attention.
2. Assess the company’s strengths and weaknesses. Even
the most advanced, revenue-generating businesses can benefit from assessing
strengths and weaknesses. Gather your teams and create! First, you’ll quickly
realize you have as many weaknesses as you have strengths. Second, if the group
is given creative freedom without pressures of being watched by the boss,
you’ll receive honest feedback.
3. Conduct a thorough market segment analysis. Who
are you trying to reach? The same customer or client you had just a few years
ago may have morphed into someone completely different. Perhaps you’re going
after an audience that no longer has a need for your services. Consider
generational differences (Gen-X, Baby Boomers), demographics (age, race,
gender) and any other indicators that match your company’s mission.
4. Analyze competitors. You can’t begin to make any
headway without determining your competition. The answers “we don’t have any”
and “we are the only ones who provide this niche of services” isn’t viable.
Everyone has competitors; yet, they may not be apparent at first glance. If you
can’t come up with a short list, talk to your customers or clients and ask
their opinions. Chances are they’ll tell you who the competition is, but more
importantly, they’ll tell you why you’re different than the competition.
5. Create company goals and objectives. This task may
very well be the most fun, but again, be careful not to be too aggressive with
your goals and objectives. It’s far better to concentrate on two to three
specific items that can be accomplished, rather than a long, complicated list that
sets the company up for failure. Of course, setting simple goals that don’t
challenge your team won’t yield the results you truly desire.
6. Formulate strategic options and select the appropriate
strategies. What are your options on reaching your goals and objectives?
How are you going to organize your teams to accomplish your end result? Weigh
factors like budget, people and staff time when planning your strategies. If
you plan for 10 percent growth, what are your options – do you have the staff,
money and time to reach this goal?
7. Translate strategic plans into action plans. This
is the most creative step in the entire process because of the progression
involved in coming up with action plans. The most productive meetings with the
best outcomes come from dynamic, group sessions in which everyone offers their
suggestions. Most companies are amazed at the creative knowledge inherent
within employees during this stage.
8. Establish accurate controls. As in any business,
controlling expenses and resources is paramount to any process. You can’t sell
the farm if the farm isn’t for sale! Be sure to outline during the action plan
stage just exactly how much the company is willing to commit to the effort, and
attempt to stick to that whenever possible. Of course, there will be some
deviation, but more likely than not, a well-defined set of controls will go a
long way to ensuring goals are met in a timely, cost-effective and efficient
In addition to these eight steps, companies must evaluate
the effectiveness of its plans throughout the process. Assessments must be
reviewed and thoroughly analyzed to determine what’s working and what needs to
be changed. You won’t want to wait a whole year, for example, to rethink your
goals. Plan a mid-year review.
In five years, where do you want to be? What does your
company look like? Put the incremental plan in place that will get you there
and stick with it until you reach your destination. Business performance is key
to realizing company objectives. Give us a call so we can help put you on the
fast track toward reaching your goals.