Planning Sessions Lead to Success in Business

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It seems like I’ve just finished my annual planning sessions with my clients and now the first month of the year is already a wrap!  I always come off these sessions excited about a new year.

The format of these sessions varies somewhat, but all have these basic elements:

  • Looking at the past year and acknowledging the good and the bad
  • Checking our numbers to see how they compare to what we projected last year
  • Asking ourselves if we accomplished the big goals we had set the previous year
  • Ensuring that we all have the same vision and look ahead three years, asking “Where do we want to be?”
  • Turning back to the annual plan to set revenue and net income targets so we can achieve the 3-year vision
  • Drilling down to establish what we want to accomplish in the next 90 days.

The teams I work with generally have 4-6 people on the leadership team.  We make an effort to block out two consecutive days with little interruption, to allow time for deep focus on these vital steps.  But you don’t have to have a team or two full days.

If you haven’t had an annual planning session (even if with yourself), get it done now. Evaluate your team to ensure that you have the right people in the right seats, and develop a two-page annual plan (20-page business plans tend to take a lot of time and generally end up sitting on a shelf collecting dust.)  Your two-page plan should contain:

Page 1:

  • Core values
  • Mission Statement
  • 3-year and 10-year vision (What do we look like in 3/10 years?)

Page 2:

  • One-year targets
  • Next 90 days goals
  • List of issues to address

The annual plan is just the start.  You should then book times for a quarterly review. At those meetings, ensure that you review your current 90-day goals and update/list new goals and issues to address over the coming 90 days.

With the correct team environment, these quarterly meetings and the annual in-depth meeting become essential and valuable components to a successful organization.

So now that month-one is under your belt, ask yourself

  • How am I/how are we performing?
  • Have I/we made progress on our 90-day goals?
  • Are January financials closed yet?
  • Did we send our December 31 trial balance to our CPA?
  • Have we been using a weekly scorecard for visibility and to ensure our leading performance indicators are tracking?
  • If we are off track, what are we doing to get back on? (If you get off track in the first months of the year, you will have a much harder time getting on track later in the year.)

It’s vital to make sure that you have closed your January financials timely and develop your strategic plan to conquer the upcoming year.  Utilizing these tools will help get an accurate picture of where you are and how you can do better.  Download the month-end closing checklist to verify that you are positioned well for success.