Planning is not a quick fix; it is the first step in a journey. So like anything in life the quality of the output is directly proportional to the amount of preparation.
You have an advantage – you have history and that tells you a great story. Knowing your history allows you to look into your future with knowledge and to make educated decisions based upon experience.
Here is a handy checklist to guide your thinking and research as you prepare for your planning process.
Things to think about as you reflect back over the past year:
- What worked; what didn’t work? In all areas – clients, team, product, market, financials, operations.
- What have been the special accomplishments? What are you very proud of?
- What were the distractions? What can be done to minimize them next year?
- Were their good distractions like a product development? How can you maximize the work you did on those distractions and/or use them to move forward?
- What gaps have you identified that need to be filled in the future? For yourself and your business.
- Are last year’s goals still valid? Are they still exciting?
- What got you really excited last year? How did that play out? How can you stay really excited this year?
- What projects did not get done? Do they need to be done? Are they still valid? What can be saved or repurposed into something else?
- Did you meet your targets? If not why not?
- Where did the business come from? New clients, existing clients?
- How did the business come to you? Referrals, Pay per Click, advertising, newsletters, cold calling?
- What products sold and WHY? What products didn’t sell and WHY?
- What products could you have that you don’t have now?
- What are people saying about your company? Did you conduct a survey? Are you going to?
- Is your message right and working?
- Are your marketing tools working? What marketing tools are you not using and why?
- Revisit Ideal Client. Has it changed? Who is really buying from you?
- What do you need to do to stay on top of things?
- What are the trends? What is happening in the industry?
- Look into the future. What do you think is coming up down the road? What do other people think is coming up?
- Is the industry growing? Why?
- Is the industry shrinking? Why?
- Financials for the past year(s) – revenue and expenses. What is the revenue for each product? What are the expense items that make up 80% of your expenses?
- Client list. Who is writing the cheques?
- Sales by Client – Who is buying? What is the average sale? Who are the top 20% of clients by revenue? Are they profitable? Are there any clients not profitable?
- Sales by product/service. What are the popular ones?
- What were the costs and results of your marketing activities?
- What do all these numbers mean?
As you work through your planning preparation don’t spend too much time thrashing through the things that went wrong. Yes, you should be aware so you can avoid them in the future. Instead, focus on what went right and determine how to duplicate those things.