Have you begun your business planning for 2018? If you’re looking for a few places to start, I’d like to offer some recommendations. The process of putting together a detailed plan is what I refer to as The 2018 Business Imperative. There’s an old adage, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Quite frankly, we work too hard to let that be the case.
Note: This article was originally published in the Louisville Bar Briefs (December 2018, edition, page 20)
Performing a deep dive into your key metrics, not just revenue numbers, will show you things you may have missed during the year. Outliers are one thing, but identifying specific trends and comparing them to the assumptions you made at the start of 2017 can be quite telling. Nonetheless, this is simply a post-mortem. It’s historical. We need to turn our attention to the upcoming year.
There are new markets emerging, new technologies to help you and new capabilities you’ve developed, even if it’s just because you’re a year more experienced than you were. How can you leverage these changes (this evolution) in terms of your business as well as your clients’ businesses? That’s the essence of effective, business planning.
Where will you invest in 2018? I recommend you divide this into 2 key areas: Money and Time. In terms of your financial investment, it usually can be broken out into personnel, training and equipment. As for your time, take a hard look at your processes. Are you actually spending the majority of your time on the activities that generate the most cash? If so, continue the DIY approach. If not, it may be time to consider outsourcing or delegating. For most of us, letting go of the reins can be one of our greatest challenges. Remember, this may be the very decision that’s been holding us back from achieving significant progress.
One important question I’ve often asked clients is: What are you willing to put down on paper?
In terms of business planning, I’m trying to get you to consider defining those goals, actions, activities and changes that will significantly impact your business in 2018. More importantly, I want you to define for yourself those issues you’re willing to actually commit to, on paper.
Something interesting happens when we actually write it down. We begin the process of visualizing the goal(s), as well as the steps necessary to achieve them. Like any road trip, you have to begin with the destination in mind.
It’s interesting how many people don’t take their business planning to this logical step. It’s almost as if they’re afraid of committing, because that creates the risk that they may fail in the endeavor. Can I share a secret? There are really only 3 outcomes in this process:
The point is, it’s your choice. In many cases, it’s up to you. It’s the very reason you started this journey in the first place.
Beginning right now, you have the opportunity to reinforce, refocus and refine your vision.
Aligning your 2018 business goals with your overall vision provides clarity. Then, it’s simply a case of laying out the path you’ll use to get there. This exercise provides you the opportunity to look objectively at your situation and to move toward the desired outcome. You have a clean slate, if you’ll take advantage of it.
As you wrap up 2017, it’s time to focus on the 2018 business imperative. Understand what happened this year. Evaluate it against the assumptions you made. Business planning gives you the opportunity to adjust to take advantage of what’s changed. Then charge forward with clarity and determination.
I hope you’ll take time to step away from working in your business, to spend time working on your business.
If you’ve never gone through this type of exercise, I can help. If you want to tackle it on your own and then discuss your plan, that’s another option. Let me encourage you to have someone review your plan. It’s a way to gain valuable perspectives that can validate where you’re heading, or possibly keep you from going down the wrong path.
Business planning enables you to stretch beyond your comfort zone. It may be what keeps you from stagnating or worse yet, achieving irrelevance.
The new year will be full of changes and opportunities. Thanks to those of you who trusted me to help impact 2017. Now it’s time to climb higher so we can reach for bigger dreams. After all, we work too hard to settle for anything less, right?