People often ask me how important is business planning. I think we can all agree that it takes time away from the day in and day out of your business operations. However, what if I told you that when done properly it can make the difference in how well you can fulfill on your business and financial objectives for the year and that it’s worth that time investment?
In this video I’m going to share with you how to plan and prepare for your meeting, what to cover during the meeting, including some key questions to ask yourself and your team, and how to capture the promises and requests that are made with a by when, so that you can keep tracking your progress against your goals.
Hi, this is Jody Ann Johnson with ActionCOACH Team Sage, where we help small business owners to grow their companies, free up their time, make more money and get to a place of choice where they can take advantage of the opportunities that come their way.
In this first section I want to talk with you about preparing for your planning. It may seem like when you sit down that’s when you do the prep for the planning, but actually when you come into the planning meeting already prepared with the information and resources that are going to be needed to be effective, you actually allow for the planning to happen as opposed to devolving into conversations and going searching for this site and the other thing to get the information that’s needed to plan. So I’m going to share with you a couple of questions that I’d like for you to be considering and then we’ll go through items that you clearly would need, like your profit and loss compared to last year, last quarter or last month, whatever is relevant in your business. Here’s a couple of questions. What are the workplace challenges that you’re currently facing today? It might be a productivity issue, it might be a team issue. What are the challenges that you’re currently facing in the workplace today? The next one is: what are some of the objectives that you had either from the beginning of the year (if you’re in midcourse correction) or from last year, that actually didn’t get fulfilled? Why they didn’t get fulfilled? And then, what is your most successful initiative? How do you know that it’s the most successful initiative?
The next one is in the area of client acquisition business development. How many new accounts got brought in? What were the value of those accounts? How many additional transactions have you done with existing clients? Have you lost any clients? Are there any clients that you haven’t heard from or done business with in the last six months? And if so, what can be done about that? That might be a brainstorming session, but you want to bring the information about the number of clients, new clients, existing clients, the work that they’ve done with you and anybody who hasn’t interacted with you in the last six months. Who are your raving fans and how can you actually build on those raving fans and get additional referrals, which as everyone knows is the easiest way to build your business with the least amount of dollar investment? What’s made the greatest impact in your business? Either somebody who came in, like a who event, or what event that has had the greatest impact in your business, what can you do to build on that? What are some of the areas where you’ve looked at what’s working, not working or not working as well as you like, and seen something that’s actually failed? What criteria are you going to use to determine is this something that needs more time, or is this something that no matter how much time, is only going to have limited success? Or is this just a dismal failure and we need to stop it right now, and stop investing good time and money after bad? What are some of the aspects of the business that can be simplified? Where can you bring process improvement into the business, so that you can gain efficiencies in the business? Last but not least, what are some of the tired, worn out, old time strategies that you’ve been clinging to because they were right in the past, but may be totally and completely insufficient for the disruption that’s happening in every industry today that need to be retired? What are the things that we need to stop doing in our business so that we can reallocate resources to things that will actually move the business forward? Sometimes we just really hang onto what worked in the past. For instance, clinging to a program that was written 10 years ago that may not be relevant in the workplace today, or in your market today, or in the economy today. We keep trying to promote something that is actually outdated because we invested so much time in the development of that program. It’s a very good example. Or taking a look at where perhaps you put in, something like a relationship with your insurance broker, but you haven’t done an insurance audit in the last five or six years. Things have changed enormously in the industry of insurance and it’s probably time to go in and take a look at – is my insurance relevant for where my business is today? These are things that people tend to put in place and then totally forget. So there are strategies or programs that we’ve clung to because either they’re easy or we’ve invested a lot of time, but they may not be relevant anymore. Those are some of the questions that you can be asking yourself. Of course if you’re looking at your client list and what are new accounts and how much more business you’ve done with existing accounts and such, you’ll be looking at your contact management system, your database, your profit and loss, your balance sheet. And because we’re committed that people get to the place of choice in their business, meaning that within the next five to seven years they could sell their business or open another location, or be a passive income for them, we’ll want to know what is the value of this business at least on an annual basis and semi-annual basis. So we’re looking at that balance sheet, the statement of cash flows, our cash position and our profit and loss to see how well we’re doing, and all of that should be handy, so that when you sit down to do your planning you’re totally prepared for the kinds of questions that will come up.
The second area is actually in the planning meeting. It’s critical that you have an agenda that has been sent out to the people who are going to be involved in that planning in advance. That way, everybody knows what the agenda is, everybody has the resources they need to have intelligent conversations and you’ve got a way of tracking how much time is going to be invested in each one of these things. The recommendations, believe it or not, is that you save money for the end rather than the beginning of the conversation, unless you’re doing really well and you have a surplus of sales and cash – it can sometimes squash the strategic planning process. So having an agenda, making sure that everyone is clear and has all of the resources that they need. If you need certain people to be leading aspects of that conversation, then you’ll want to let them know in advance so that they can prepare. It’s my opinion that you involve people from every level of the organization in your planning process.
The latest research has shown that with the Internet and with connectivity, the things that want to emerge in your industry and emerge in your company come from the bottom up as opposed to the top down hierarchy way that we’ve seen in the past. So people that are actually doing the doing in your business can sometimes have the very best ideas of innovation. These are frontline with your clients and customers, with the products and services that you offer, and your best ideas could very well come from those people, through each level of the organization that they’re all involved in that. And that you bring people in that will not only agree with you and your position about the business, but will also challenge that from their perspective.
The last area is capturing requests, promises and by whens. By when is probably my favorite question. Well, maybe not my favorite, but close to one of my favorites, only because it moves things forward. When people have a by when, they know that this is the time that I have in order to be able to get this thing done. So what’s great about quarterly planning is that people know – ok, I’ve got 90 days, 13 weeks in which I have to produce X Y and Z. Or if there’s a timeline involved, they know that they’ve got to do this in order for things to move forward in somebody else’s department. So the requests, the who are there made by (because that person is responsible for managing the requests that they’ve made) and the promises that are made by people and by when those things can be expected. So all of that gets captured in a document that is shared with the rest of the company so that people know these were the discussions that happened, these were the outcomes that we’ve come up with, the promises requests and by when.
And once all of that is in place and the next planning session is established, then we can keep referencing the planning that we’ve done to make sure that we’re on track, stay focused and are able to allocate and reallocate resources of time, team and money as needed to reach your business and financial objectives, and ultimately have a happy thriving business.
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