Creating a Business Plan for the Year: Be Like Santa, Check it Twice

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year! Santa is great at planning. He makes his list and checks it twice, always ready to revise who is naughty and nice.  Ignoring the judgmental aspect of this, Santa has the right idea.  If you have written your business or marketing plans for the coming year, here are some areas to check and possibly incorporate; and for those who haven’t yet begun, this can also serve as a good starting place. You also may want to check out previous articles on designing a project.  

(1) Have a Long-Term Vision – Ninety-eight percent of people create plans for the year without a clear vision of where they want to be in the future.  Okay, I did just make that up, but based on my observations, it's probably pretty accurate. I recommend writing one or two sentences describing where you want to be in ten years, and placing that at the top of your business plan.  I realize that for many people, this is easier said than done, but the resultant clarity and focus is worth it.  Is it very easy to get diverted from the things we really want and focus instead on the goals that others have for us.  Just because your mentor or spouse thinks you should be aspiring to become a partner at your current firm or just because your partners think you should develop your practice in a particular direction, doesn’t mean that is actually what is right for you.  Without taking the time to think through where you want to go, you will likely end up somewhere less than satisfying.

(2) Keep it Simple – It is very easy for our business goals to turn into a laundry list of everything we want to achieve.  If, in the past, you have found yourself becoming overwhelmed or simply ignoring your business plans, try limiting yourself to three big three goals for the year. Of course, the implementation will likely involve some other intermediate goals; but keeping it simple helps you to stay focused and prevents the business plan from devolving into one more never-ending to-do list.

(3) Focus on Results Rather Than Process – People often get mixed up between the goal and the tactics used to achieve the goal.  For example, rather than aiming for a particular number of twitter followers, instead focus on generating a certain number of clients or leads through Twitter or social media generally.  You may have noticed that you achieved your big picture goals for last year but didn’t actually follow all the steps that you had outlined to achieve that goal.  Or the reverse may be true, perhaps you followed the steps but didn’t achieve the result.  Having action steps is important, because it helps us move from fantasy into reality, but mistaking the action steps for the goal can lead to lots of work without the rewards.

(4) Include Personal Growth Goals – Business plans invariably identify concrete goals regarding the office, staff, clients, etc. For instance, you might want to restructure your practice group, alter your firm’s billing guidelines or get more of a particular type of client.  However, such concrete results usually manifest not just from more work, but rather, because people actual shift their own behaviors or attitudes. You already may be the smartest and most forward thinking person in your firm, but improving your ability to persuade others is probably the key to making those changes you want.  Similarly, the key to signing those new clients may be improving your delegation skills or achieving a new level of consistency and organization.  Once you have identified your top three business goals for the year, consider what type of personal growth would be beneficial to help you achieve those targets, and include those in your business plan.

Good luck with your planning, and see you next year!