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Don’t join the ‘planning to fail’ club

Where do you want your business to be in five years? What are your one-year goals? Have you scheduled key strategies and KPIs for the upcoming quarter?

If you can’t answer these questions, then you may be member of the “not planning to fail, but failing to plan” club.

Experience and best practices have proven that thinking ahead by a minimum of three years is necessary in order to focus your business over the next 12 months, and more specifically, in the upcoming 90 days.

Many ideas may be doable, but can be short-sighted without considering the bigger picture. A multi-year plan will identify critical issues and help you address the key areas that require focus, energy and action.

Begin by writing down what your vision for the business would look like in three to five years. Develop an organization chart that reflects your anticipated staffing needs.

What infrastructure changes will be needed in order to support growth? Will you have to consider a move to a larger site to accommodate the staff you expect to employ and the products you anticipate you will sell?

What revenue and profits do you expect?

Once you’ve developed this new vision for your business, develop a similar picture of what your personal life will look like when your company reaches its potential. What does success feel like and how will it influence your family?

This picture attaches emotion to your vision. Very few goals are reached without some level of emotion.

What do you have to accomplish in the next year to take the next step to ensure long-range success? Remember, progress will not be linear. The first year sets the foundation; the second and third years should accelerate growth.

Then review your current vision and mission documents to see if they are still relevant.

Do you have a USP (unique selling proposition) and a solid guarantee? Did you accomplish your goals over the past year? Are there goals that you need to carry forward, or discard completely?

You should be able to answer the following five key questions.

• What are my revenue goals for the upcoming year?

• How will I retain my existing clients? I recommend reading the book Raving Fans. This is an excellent book that teaches how to not only hold onto clients, but to make them raving fans of your business. Learn about the loyalty ladder and how to move your clients up the ladder until they become “raving fans.”

• How will I attract new clients? Break this into two areas; attracting prospects, and converting them to clients.

When you focus on attracting prospects (marketing), consider several strategies such as strategic alliances, host beneficiaries and referral programs. Test and measure to determine what works, then repeat those that get the desired results.

Focus on converting prospects to clients (sales). Define your uniqueness and include a meaningful written guarantee.

Document your sales process for consistency, print a benefits list and educate on value, not price. Several strategies will involve your team, such as a product and sales training, and setting individual and team goals (with bonuses).

• How will I control costs and maintain my margins? Be proactive with you financial/tax planning. Establish some strategies for team incentives based on margin goals.

Ensure you’re paying for marketing that works. Some companies now sell products over the Internet.

Rate your clients A, B, C and D. Fire your D clients, the ones that chronically pay 60 to 90 days late and the whiners that take an extraordinary amount of staff time.

You’ll be surprised how quickly you will replace Ds with better clients, plus retain staff.

• How will I retain staff while controlling costs? Start by analyzing what you, as owner and leader, need to do. What do you need to improve: leadership skills, financial literacy, time management?

Get your team involved; they can contribute insight and ideas. Increase product and other types of training for staff. Keep staff in the loop. Have regular meetings with defined agendas.

After you have answered these five questions create SMART (specific, measured, achievable, reasonable and time-oriented) goals for each area. You must include the activities you need to complete in order to meet each goal.

Assign and schedule activities to the appropriate people, including you. Completed activities add up to completed goals.

You’re now ready to develop your first 90-day plan. Completing and adhering to a 90-day plan takes practice, but will increase your success in the short term and long term.

So, “plan your work and work your plan.”

ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at or by phone at 403-340-0880.



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