Posted: 3rd January 2017
Anyone in business will tell you that this time of year is one of mixed blessings. Christmas has come and gone and although for some businesses it can be the busiest time of the year, many suffer from a quiet January. For some, it can be a time of uncertainty as diaries that were congested are suddenly empty and you wonder where your next customer or client is going to come from.
Whether you are a product or service based business, the New Year is often the time to set goals and objectives for the year ahead, both personally and for your business.
However, I would always suggest that Business Planning and Goal Setting should be carried out hand in hand and should be considered as an ongoing activity in your business, rather than a once a year occasion.
I recall my first ever business plan. I was very proud of it. My business mentor said it ticked all the boxes, the bank manager liked it as it looked at the short, medium and long term goals over a three-year period, as well as the important financial aspects. However, I didn’t look at it again for another two years! It was filed in a safe place in the “top drawer”. It was one of those responses I could proudly state, “Of course I have a Business Plan. It’s a three year plan”. However, I never updated it. When I finally picked it up, it was so out of date it was unrecognisable.
It soon became apparent that the only way to move my business forward was to have a working plan which included a number of goals and objectives.
When I work with clients, I always liken a Business Plan to a journey. It basically records your journey in business and how you are going to get to your destination…your goal. Think about a holiday in the South of France as a goal. You wouldn’t simply jump into your car and go. You would decide on a date and plan the steps on how to get there. In all likelihood, you would book a place to stay, pack what you need, check the car is roadworthy and insured, has fuel, arrange fuel stops and comfort breaks, book a ferry and allocate time to each of these tasks. Sadly, many people don’t deal with their business goals in the same way.
The starting point is always the end point…What is your goal? Then you can work out the steps you need to take to achieve it and allocate time to carrying out those steps to ensure that you reach the goal. People often talk about SMART Goals, which are great, but it is the practical steps to achieve that goal that are frequently overlooked.
I now have a Business Growth Plan which is a working document. Each of my goals are set out in the relevant part of my plan along with associated costings, any marketing activity and resources required, timescales and responsibility. I also include an Action Summary.
I revisit the plan regularly and set goals throughout the year. Where necessary, I allow myself to tweak a goal if things take a slightly different turn, as no-one can see into the future and something may take you along a new pathway. However, one tip is to stay focused as well as flexible. If you need to remove a goal, as it’s not workable in practice, remove it. Don’t just stick to a goal because you have written it into your plan. Come up with a variation or a new one.
Happy New Year and I wish you every success for the year ahead.
Sandra Garlick is a former business and employment law solicitor and is now a business growth consultant, mentor, trainer and public speaker. Speak to Sandra about Start Up Support and Business Mentoring. She frequently speaks about Start Up and other business growth topics.
Follow @SandraGarlick @SGBusConsulting