With the New Year now well underway, many business owners are just putting the final touches on their business plans. That doesn’t mean, however, that adjustments can’t be made to ensure your goals can be reached in 2017.
As a business advisor for many years, when it comes to planning, I tend to come across two types of approaches: the visionary and the executor. Both approaches have their pros and cons, but as I’ll explain, a combination is what you, as a business owner, should strive for, especially throughout the business planning process.
A visionary knows where they want to go. They have a “big picture” vision and are often concerned with growing the company by setting goals. However, they lack tactical deployment and detailed plan as to how to attain this vision. They tend to not pay much attention to the processes in which their goals are met.
On the other hand, an executor’s primary concern is detail-related. They set high performance standards but fail to align those tactics to the “big picture” of growing the business because they’re so focused on processes.
As a business owner, do these two approaches sound familiar? Whether you’re a visionary or executor, I recommend the following steps as a way to bring both visionary and executor together when developing your plan.
- Have a Vision
Think “big picture.” Have a solid idea of your current state of affairs, determine what changes you would like to make, and consider how much you want to grow and in what areas of the business. Some examples of this might be that you want to increase revenue in your X division by 10% , perhaps you want to acquire a smaller business this year to expand your national reach, or you want to offer an automated solution to your XX customers.
- Dig into the Details
Now that you know what goal you want to achieve, create a plan outlining in detail how you are going to get there. If your goal is to acquire a smaller company this year, then it makes sense that part of your plan will involve searching for available companies. The devil is in the details as they say, so capture as much detail here so the plan can be easily executed on.
At this point you’ll also need to allocate budgets accordingly and introduce the means or tactics in which the budget will apply to.
- Review your progress
As with anything in business, monitor your results. Regular progress meetings should be conducted to get an accurate picture of how your business is progressing. Most importantly, ensure you are consistently making modifications to ensure success.
A carefully thought-out plan that contains both a big picture vision and accompanying details required for implementation is crucial for success. Ensure you share the plan with your employees so they are aware of the role they play in its execution.
While your business plan is somewhat of a blueprint, having a vision of where you want to go and how you are going to get there will position your business for success.
Congratulations! You’ve landed a new client, now what? The first few months of your new business relationship will determine the level of satisfaction your client has with you and will ultimately factor into whether or not you have a solid working relationship from which to grow. In order to maximize your level of service during this new and exciting time, I highly recommend following a carefully crafted onboarding process.
An onboarding process acts as somewhat of a blueprint for the next few months of the new relationship by clearly outlining expectations for both parties involved. Moreover, it protects both parties by mitigating any form of miscommunication or false expectations.
I’ve outlined below the steps involved in creating an effective onboarding process:
1) Send a welcome email
With most things in life, first impressions matter. This is no different in business, and sending your client a personalized welcome email from a C-level individual at your company not only shows your commitment to working with them, but it’s also a nice gesture that opens a line of communication.
2) Learn their resources
Since every company is different and operates in their own way, knowing what resources they have available is important to accomplishing your goals. For example, and depending on the type of services you’ll be providing, you’ll need to establish what platforms each company uses, what internal staff will be directly working with you, and whom you can go to with questions.
3) Establish mutual goals
A new business relationship is a two way street, and success is dependent upon clear communication and support offered by each party. Simply because a working agreement has been established, it doesn’t automatically mean both parties are on the same page. It is through the onboarding process that the details of the contract can fully be planned for effective execution.
4) Have a kick-off meeting
Whether over the phone or in person, hosting a kick-off meeting with key members involved in the launch of a service is an important step for setting expectations and weeding out any kinks that may have been overlooked during the original planning phase.
5) Obtain feedback
Once your business relationship has begun, checking in with your client to provide updates and ensure their satisfaction is key to demonstrating your willingness to foster a successful relationship. Not only will this show them your commitment to providing excellent customer service, but it will allow for any concerns or necessary changes to come to light. Having a 30, 60 or 90-day feedback session is recommended, but you can customize this plan based on your client’s preferences.
As you’ve probably realized in your business ventures, every client is different. Making tweaks to your onboarding process may be required depending on what each client’s expectations of you are and vice versa. Ultimately, an onboarding process is created to help you achieve success and maintain a mutual understanding with your client, so putting in the time to carefully craft one is in your best interest.
Do you have an onboarding process in place for new clients?
Forbes published an article on the importance of peer advisory boards, “10 Reasons To Join A Peer Group.” While I thoroughly enjoyed the read, I noticed the author overlooked a few key benefits that I’ve been lucky to witness firsthand as a facilitator. As a business advisor, I take pride in facilitating a peer advisory board that has proven results for my members. The peer boards help business owners reach new heights and succeed in ways they never imagined.
Peer advisory boards led by trained facilitators embody the power of collaboration, accountability, and perspective. A deep bond can be created and a business asset is formed that business owners crave and are hard pressed to find in any other forum. I’d like to share with you my list of top 7 reasons many business owners join a peer advisory board:
One of the greatest benefits of joining a peer advisory board is the exposure you’ll receive to other small business owners much like yourself. Entrepreneurship is unlike any other job, which means the challenges you face on a daily basis are just as unique. As a member of a peer advisory board, you’re able to share ideas with people in similar situations. As a result, the business ideas you’ll be provided with won’t just be erroneous but tried and true.
As the owner of a business, there aren’t many people you have to report to other than perhaps a Board of Directors or other shareholders. When you’re part of a peer advisory board, however, your fellow business owners will often hold you accountable for the executive decisions you’ve elected to make. Many peer groups meet once a month and they often expect some form of progress each month.
We’ve all had ideas that we considered to be foolproof, but as we’ve come to know in business, not every idea is feasible. In becoming a member of a peer advisory board, you’ll receive constructive criticism from the board regarding your potential business decisions. This allows you to fill in any gaps that you may have overlooked.
With competition at an all time high, it’s difficult to know whom you can share your ideas with. With peer advisory boards, anything that is discussed is confidential among members, so you’ll receive reassurance in knowing that you can freely discuss your business decisions without compromising trade secrets.
As previously mentioned, you’ll surround yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs as a member of a peer advisory board. What this means is that you’ll witness them experience successes and/or setbacks, just as they’ll witness the same for you. Either way, you’ll challenge one another to learn from your mistakes, grow, and ultimately succeed.
A common benefit I hear from board members is that a peer advisory board allows them to focus on developing their business rather than working in the business. Don’t get me wrong, one of the best qualities of a business owner is someone who knows the ins and outs of their product or service, but when it boils down to growth, strategic decision-making is a necessity.
As the saying goes, “it’s lonely at the top.” But it doesn’t have to be. Your fellow board members are there to support you through your journey, and many if not all are experiencing, have experienced, or will experience the trials and tribulations you are facing as a business owner. They are as much of a support group as they are anything else.
Have you ever considered joining a peer advisory board? What would be your top reason for joining?
It’s hard to believe, but we will soon be entering the final quarter of the year. It’s an important time to ensure your business is on track with achieving its goals, in addition to setting your goals for the year to come. But depending on what your anticipated goals are, you may want to set something a little more specific – key performance indicators. While similar, the two can greatly differ so knowing what these differences are can surely help move your business in the right direction.
What Are Key Performance Indicators (KPI)?
A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. While goal setting illustrates a set of objectives you’d like to achieve, implementing a KPI will actually measure the success in achieving these targets. More importantly, however, is to know what type of KPI to implement, and this all depends on your type of business and what part of the business you’d like to track.
For example, if you’d like to see how your marketing efforts are assisting your sales objectives, setting an Incremental Sales KPI would prove highly beneficial. This specific KPI analyzes how your marketing efforts have increased your sales revenue during a specific campaign. The end result of a KPI will show you if the resources and budget you’ve allocated to a specific campaign, resource or individual have proven effective.
KPIs can fall under the following categories:
- Financial Metrics
- Customer Metrics
- Process Metrics
- People Metrics
How Do I Know The Right KPIs For My Business?
While setting KPIs are beneficial to your business, they can be just as detrimental to your time management if you do not set the correct ones. There are thousands of KPIs to choose from, and it can be overwhelming not knowing where to start. Here’s a tip – not only do you want to select KPIs that suit your industry, but ensure they also match your strategy. Additionally, ensure the targets or goals you are evaluating performance against are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). By using this key formula you are ensuring both your goals and KPIs are achievable.
Where Do I Start?
Are you interested in incorporating KPIs into next year’s strategy? Start with these simple steps:
- Define what areas of the business you’d like to measure.
- Identify what questions the decision-makers, managers or external stakeholders need answers to.
- Select your KPIs. Consult your peers and business coach/advisor for input.
- Measure, measure, measure, don’t stop measuring when results are unsatisfactory.
Never hesitate to change or add KPIs throughout the year. After all, the main purpose of a KPI is to inform decision-making!
As a business owner, you may have already set your business expectations in December. If you haven’t, January is a great time to set your expectations, plan how to achieve them, and begin execution.
Like setting a personal New Year’s resolution, we need to be realistic about setting our business expectations. Set them high, but not so high that they are impractical or unreachable but just high enough so your team has to stretch a little to get there. Stretching is good; as long as it is handled with strong leadership and a well thought-out plan.
Setting expectations is one of the basic fundamentals of management; yet, many business owners and CEOs fail to do this very important step effectively. Setting expectations requires planning and communicating your plan to your team.
To create realistic expectations, you’ll need to rely on your previous performance. For example, if you usually have 10% growth, then setting an expectation of 40% growth may not be realistic. Set an expectation that exceeds what you know you can achieve, but also encourages you to stretch to achieve it. If you are starting a new business or going into a new market / selling a new product, then you do not have previous performance results to rely on, but you can do some research to understand how these markets and products usually perform and set an obtainable goal that is not discouraging but high enough to help you get established.
Create a Plan
Once you know what you want to achieve, the next step is to create a plan to achieve this. Break your expectation down into smaller, more manageable parts that have actionable items.
For example, if your goal is to grow your business by 25%, you’ll need to ask yourself:
- Where will I get these new revenues from – existing customers or new customers?
- If it is from existing customers, which ones? How will you get the new business from them e.g. a marketing campaign targeting a new service/product?
- If it is new customers, how are you going to find them and market to them?
- What staff resources do I need to achieve this?
- How can you increase customer knowledge of your new service/product e.g. online advertising, brochures, your website?
Track Your Progress
Whether through Salesforce or other CRM platforms, you’ll need to keep track and monitor your progress towards meeting your expectations. For example, if you are planning on meeting your expectation by obtaining new clients, then you need to see how many new leads are being generated per week/month and how many result in a sale or new client. If there is no progress by the end of the first quarter, then you might want to look at your resources and your methods.
In my 20+ years of providing business advice to hundreds of business owners, I have learned that achieving the “impossible” is usually actually possible with hard work, dedication, and creativity, and setting ourselves up for success involves first creating realistic expectations. Every time I see a business do this, they’ve actually surpassed what once seemed impossible!
Remember back in January of this year, when your vision for your business was fresh and clear in your mind, when your business goals and objectives had a well-defined path to achievement? If you are like most business owners, your vision may have remained the same, but the execution and delivery to meet your goals and achievements was not exactly how you had planned. This is typical of most businesses, as our plans cannot possibly allow for unpredicted circumstances, whether positive or negative.
In preparing for the New Year, I encourage you to take the time to reflect on this past year and start preparing your plans for the New Year by considering the following questions:
- Revisit the tracking of your business plan and any other planning documents including your action plan, and review last year’s goals. Did your business accomplish what you set out to do? Why or why not? Write a list of all the company’s major accomplishments for the year (or lack of them). These will be handy when you do your business planning for the current year.
- What barriers prevented you from reaching your goals? How can you avoid them or prepare for them in 2016?
- What is the key area you want to improve on in 2016? What steps do you need to take to accomplish this e.g. hire more staff, expand into new markets, increase marketing/branding, etc.?
- Are there things you might have done differently e.g. hired too quickly, expanded too quickly, didn’t hire fast enough, etc.?
- Have you started a business plan for 2016 that includes writing your goals and plans for next year?
- Have you created a budget for the next year if you work on a calendar year fiscal basis?
- Have you reviewed your vendors and providers recently? Do you need new ones or replacements for existing ones? Review your list and score them, see where you might need to add or even get rid of any that are not providing you with added value.
- Have you reviewed and updated your marketing and advertising plans? Make sure you consult with your internal or external marketing professional to ensure you are strategically placing your marketing budget to align with your business goals.
We all know how important business planning is, so before you break for the holidays, take the time to reflect and plan for the New Year. You know the cliché: businesses that fail to plan, plan to fail.
Kick the New Year off with a clear plan with attainable goals and remember to take time off over the holidays and enjoy time with your family and friends. Thank you for following my blog over the past year. Happy Holidays.
Every business owner, regardless of how big or small their business is, needs goals to keep their business moving forward, their employees motivated and to maintain momentum. There are many different approaches to goal setting, and each one can be as successful as the next.
As a business owner you should define short and long term goals, and establish a plan for how to get there. Goals set for your business should align with your personal goals, and be fueled by a big-picture, forward-thinking perspective. Without strategic goals, you may struggle to find the path from where your business currently stands to where you’d like it to be.
I’ve put together some goal-setting tips that should help you achieve even your most ambitious business goals!
Tips for Goal Setting
Determine who you are and where you stand. Determine what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats may be helping or hindering you from reaching success. Ask yourself why you began the company — does that old spark still drive your business as it is now? Revisit your personal vision and reflect on how your company has evolved.
Write your goals down. Putting your goals in writing and sharing them with your team confirms your commitment to achieving them. While brainstorming is a great place to start, without writing down your goals your focus will fade. Force yourself to focus by outlining specific goals you and your company can work toward.
You may even find writing your goals down to be exciting! In my experience, goal setting brings out the optimism and ambition in myself and my colleagues, and acts as a reminder of how much good we all have to look forward to.
Have realistic expectations. Setting unattainable goals won’t lead you to success, and it certainly won’t give you the motivation needed to get there. Goals should be attainable through hard work and effort, and focused around the most important aspects of your business. The goals you set should challenge you and your team.
Establish milestones so you can track and measure success. By failing to plan, you are essentially planning to fail! Think about short and long-term success, and visualize what will help keep you and your team motivated. Have a schedule and set monthly milestones so you can track whether or not you are accomplishing the things you wish to. While tracking your success (or failures… because it happens!) you will be able to see what roadblocks lay ahead, and how you can get over them to come out on top. Once you reach a milestone don’t forget to celebrate!
Think of how your goals affect your whole team. While goal setting, be tactical and set goals for individuals, different departments, and the business as a whole. Have employees contribute their knowledge and ideas when goal setting to help keep goals realistic and attainable. Sharing goals with the whole team can encourage team effort, and a sense of responsibility.
Know your plan of action. Create a plan that supports your specific goals. When reviewing your plan be sure to think about how you will tackle issues as they occur, how issues will affect the team, clients, stakeholders, and whomever else is connected, and whether or not you are clinging to goals that no longer make sense for your business.
Fear of failure should never hold you back from setting goals and reaching for them! Effective and strategic goal setting will allow for individual accountability, and most importantly, will help keep your business aligned with your vision, and on the track to success.
Do you have short and long term goals set for your company? Do you feel like your goals are attainable and motivating? Tell me about your experiences by commenting below.