Last year, you created a business plan. At the end of your planning process, you saved the document to your desktop. Then, you saw January come and go, and tax season passed by, too. Annual client reviews and staff and personal vacations happened, and client service maintenance followed. When you finally came up for air, it was June, and the business plan you crafted with vigor had been sitting untouched for the past six months. Sound familiar?
When you go through the process of creating a plan but you fail to actually drive your business plan objectives forward, you are less likely to want to try the process again next year. But business planning is essential to a growing, thriving practice. So, how do you make that leap from an untouched, idle desktop document to a living, breathing guide that you can follow to achieve your business goals?
1) Prepare to Plan
Before you start developing your plan, take a moment to consider your business’s past, present, and future:
Be mindful of the past. Why didn’t your previous business planning initiatives come to fruition? Assessing the “why” can help you identify what got in the way of achieving past goals and determine what you need to do differently this year to make sure you stay on track.
Review the current state of your business. Take a step back, and look at your business as it exists right now. Where do you see the most room for improvement? If you are in growth mode, for example, and your biggest goal is to add more clients, then you’ll want to focus your plan on strategies and tactics that will help you attract new clients to your firm.
Be realistic with your time. If you believe there will be events in your personal life that will take time away from the business in the upcoming year, then it’s important to be realistic about how much you can accomplish. Be sure you can continue to drive your business plan objectives forward by choosing reasonable goals you can achieve while leaving time for your personal needs, too.
2) Dedicate Time to the Planning Process
Workable business plans take time to develop—so don’t cheat yourself of that time. As hard as it may seem to spend a few hours away from running your business to focus on planning, doing so is crucial for setting up an effective plan to achieve your business goals. Take enough time up front to brainstorm, consider the current environment, and conduct a SWOT analysis to ensure that you have done a full review before setting your goals.
3) Include Your Staff
Getting your staff involved in the business planning process helps to bring a level of understanding of your goals for the year. Employees often play a limited role in increasing firm production, so it can be challenging for them to find connections between their daily activities and their impact on the overall direction of the firm. Including staff members in the conversation allows them to feel a sense of ownership in helping to drive business plan objectives forward. Whether they are responsible for a specific goal or involved in the logistics of organizing a business planning day, find a way for each member of your staff to take part in the plan.
4) Create Consistency
Be consistent with the time of year you plan so that the process becomes a part of the office culture. You might try switching up the location of your brainstorming sessions to keep things fresh, but the “when” shouldn’t vary. Whether it’s monthly or quarterly, regularly checking on your goals throughout the year is important as well. Sticking to a consistent schedule will help your staff fall into a routine; they will come to expect planning meetings at a certain point every year, and planning will become a part of the rhythm of the office—and with your staff on a schedule, you’ll have your team to hold you accountable.
5) Keep Your Goals SMART
Many advisors aren’t focused on the specifics of their goals, as they prefer to look at overall strategy first. If you want to achieve your business goals, however, you’ll need to make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) so that the details of how you’ll achieve each goal are laid out in advance. A great way to test your plan is to ask your partner or spouse or a staff member to review the goals you’ve set. If he or she can make sense of what actions need to take place before each goal is achieved, then your plan is likely in good shape.
Break down larger goals. For longer, more involved projects, there are multiple moving pieces to address before they can be completed. For example, moving to a new CRM system is a project that involves hitting a series of smaller goals that add up to the achievement of the larger goal. Breaking down large projects into smaller tasks helps provide a clear picture of the time needed to complete each step in the process, which can give you an idea of when you’ll realistically be able to finish the entire project.
6) Find an Accountability Partner
Some advisors do well with a peer or formal accountability partner to help them drive business plan objectives forward. If you believe you are coachable and could be helped by this kind of partner, don’t hesitate to look into it.
7) Celebrate Your Wins
Did you achieve one of your goals last quarter? Be sure to celebrate that achievement and recognize everyone who was involved in the success. Giving yourself and your staff a reward each time you achieve your business goals will help keep you motivated to accomplish even more.
Once you get into a routine of creating a business plan and achieving your goals each year, I think you’ll find yourself more excited for the year ahead each time you sit down to lay out your plan. A year of success with your business plan will push you forward into the next year, creating momentum to keep you going in the right direction. Devoting the necessary time to your plan up front—and remembering to celebrate your accomplishments along the way—can help you stay on the path to achieving your larger goals and building a successful business that continues to grow and improve year after year. Happy planning!
This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice.