SAN FRANCISCO — What a year it has been! Much about 2011 was erratic—the economy, sales trends, financial markets, even the weather. Plus, there were asteroids headed for earth, natural (and man-made) disasters, industry consolidation … and the necessity to proactively sell our services.
The uncertainty created by all these events affected our customers as well as our businesses. It has made budgeting and goal setting for the coming year a greater challenge than ever.
Although there were strong signs of improvement, there are no guarantees for 2012. If you feel that 2011 drove you to be reactive instead of proactive, now is the time to create your strategic and tactical plans for the year ahead.
As a business owner, you have worked to improve your efficiency, but this may not be enough to generate distinctive competitive advantages.
Brian Tracy, a successful sales coach to corporations both large and small, writes in his book, Success Through Goal Setting, “The payoff for setting goals and making plans is being able to choose the kind of life you want to live.”
So, if you want to choose “the kind of life you want to live,” whatever that may be, setting goals is a good beginning for 2012.
Goal setting provides a focus in the quest for higher revenues and profits. Your innovation in pursuing ways to make your products and services more appealing to your existing customers and your target prospects will greatly influence your bottom line through increased revenues. It will also build the foundation for expanding your business in the markets of tomorrow.
You can achieve your goals through an appropriate mix of strategies and actions. Strategic goals reflect the long-term vision for your operation while tactical action plans are the short-term means to achieve them.
A strategic plan will help you:
A tactical action plan will help you:
Start by examining your company’s status. You might find it helpful to ask some probing questions.
Where do I fit?
Have you been successful but are now looking for the next level? Do you have a plan but tend to underachieve? Are you fighting the daily fires and can’t see the long-term plan?
Where is my pain?
Define your company weaknesses. Start with the most critical issue you face. It may be:
Where is my opportunity?
Define your strengths and capitalize on the weaknesses of your competitors. Prioritize your ideas to exploit the opportunities you identify. Use the classic reporter’s questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
Synthesize the results of these steps. Whether you use a straightforward manual planning template (which we would be happy to share with you), or a more sophisticated online planning program, the key is to create the plan.
Don’t forget to take into consideration the constraints imposed by outside forces such as government regulation and economic forces beyond your control.
No plan can succeed without a realistic allocation of resources, including one or more of the following: money, people, equipment, time, and/or promotional effort.
The plan may require up-front investment to carry the project until it is a profit-producing enterprise, or it may involve intermittent expenditures to help it overcome seasonality until it becomes self-funding. Either way, this realistic investment of resources must be budgeted.
Start implementing your tactical action plan. Do not store it in a file drawer! And revise and redirect as needed. Even a “perfect” plan needs to be revisited periodically to adapt to surprises in implementation and changes in the market. This is a normal and essential part of driving your company to continual prosperity.