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Posts Tagged ‘Business Planning’

5 Steps to Nail Next Year for Your Business By Learning from This Year

Monday, December 6th, 2010

It is mid-December and the year is almost over.  And what a year it has been.  Tough economic times has made it hard for many businesses to grow and build momentum.  So as we round the end of the calendar year and are only days away from January we can do two things for our business planning for next year: You can blindly go into January and beyond trying to create a brand new strategic and marketing plan or you can take a look back at the wealth of information and data from your business this past year and try to plan your strategy for next year based on the lessons learned from this year.

Our recommendation, based on what we are doing ourselves, is look closely at your strategy, tactics, execution and plans for this year as you plan for next year.  That will help put you in a better position for success next year by avoiding the tactics that did not work and instead building on what did work.  Here is how we suggest you do it:

1. Take a complete inventory of what worked and what did not over the last 12 months

This one may take some time, but it will be time well spent.  As you make your plans for next year, take a morning (or even longer) to conduct a detailed analysis of what worked for your business or startup this year and what did not.  Your analysis should not stop there.  Take the additional steps to think about did the items that failed fail because of bad execution or they just were not really good tactics in the first place.  If it was bad execution, you should think about whether those tactics that failed could be better executed and then become successful.  Also for the items that did work, consider whether if you put more energy and focus on those items, could you build on them next year?

Bottom line: Make sure next year’s plans eliminate tactics and strategies that failed this year and instead focus next year on building on specifically what did work.

2. What are 3 Trends in your business that you saw this year?

Look back on the year.  What are 3 trends that you saw in your business?  They could be marketing trends, operating trends or even product trends.  I like the number 3 because it is simple and not too overwhelming of a number for people to focus on.  So when you are planning for next year, take the time to make sure that whatever those trends may be in your business that you have them woven into your strategic, marketing and operating plans.  That will help ensure that you do not get left behind.

Bottom line: All businesses should take the time to step back from their company and track and plan for the trends that are impacting their business and industry.

3. What 3 major areas of  feedback/comments did you receive from your customers over the year?

Businesses get a lot of feedback from customers over the course of a year.  The key to any business is making sure that they are keeping their customers happy and serving their needs.  Accordingly, any business needs to pay attention to the major customer issues and feedback that are repeatedly being seen.  But paying attention to these areas is only half the battle.  Your business should track these 3 major areas and ensure that your plans and strategies incorporate addressing and acting on customer feedback.  Here is an excellent article from our one of our favorite entrepreneur magazines, Inc., on using customer feedback for your strategic plans.

Bottom line: Any planning for next year should take into account your customer’s feedback and comments that you have received this year.  That way you will know that your customers’ concerns are being addressed.

4. What is one area of you business you devoted more time to that could have yielded larger growth?

Every business faces this concern, but the trick is to acknowledge the issue.  We all think about areas of our business that we wish we could spend more time on, but we just cannot.  Take the time to really identify these areas and make of list of them.  Then determine if you can outsource any of these areas to freelancers, interns or other professional service providers. Here is a great post from Startup Nation on small business outsourcing.

Bottom line: For these areas of the business where you wish you had more horsepower, next year outsource those areas and see if you can build off the work from experts that will help you focus more attention on your core business.

5. What is two items that you absolutely need to get accomplished by both July 31 and Dec 31 of next year

This is a business planning tip for next year.  Frankly, it may be something we should all do yearly in our business.  When we set out our annual goals we should take the time to go one step further.  That step is to identify two “must dos” for the coming year.  That is a must have accomplishment for the middle of the year (July 31) and then a must have accomplishment by the end of the year (Dec 31).  This will help you focus on two core items for your business that you tie to two time deadlines.  That way at the end of each year you should be able to look back and know that two main areas of your business have seen key goals being met.

Bottom line: Creating a list of goals and targets for your business each year is necessary to track progress.  But having two must have goals set out at the middle and end of the year will help you focus even more to move your business forward.

So in the remaining part of this month, use these steps as you build, develop and fine tune your strategic and marketing plans for next year.  Building these plans on your lessons learned from this year should help you set your business or startup for more success in the coming year.

Let us know how you are approaching strategy and business planning for next year.

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