It’s the time of the year when we all start working, to some degree or another, on next year’s business plan. While it’s a process all business owners have to go through, and there are many ways to do it, I thought it might be useful to share with you some of the thinking I’ve gone through to help streamline the process and make it more effective in helping us to reach our new goals. You may want to apply some of these ideas to your 2013 planning.
While trying to estimate where and how well we’ll do in meeting third-quarter and year-end goals and objectives, I’ve come to the conclusion — perhaps like many business owners today — that it has become all but impossible to accurately predict business conditions. Certainly, it is frustrating at the least.
A better approach is to simplify planning in a way that all employees can see, understand, and work toward the results we want to achieve. Here’s the process I’m now using to help our company reach its goals and objectives. It helps to clarify — for me and our employees — where we are, where we want to go, and how we plan on getting there.
Like most small businesses, we have a number of departments set up that are necessary to deliver our product: circulation, production, sales, marketing, editorial, etc. For each department we have a one-page summary that includes the past procedures, the present procedures, and where we want to be in the future. When it comes to the future, we have to list a specific goal and the tactic(s) necessary to implement in order to achieve the goal and our desired result.
An example: One of the goals is to produce feature articles 90 days or more in advance of their publishing date. The more lead time we have on editorial features, the better the quality of the articles, the more we can promote them, and the better our sales team can do informing prospective advertisers. So our next question is how are we going to accomplish this goal on a consistent basis?
The tactic we use: Identify author(s) six months in advance of an article’s publishing date. In Month 6, identify the author and develop an outline for the article. Month 5, the first draft of the article is due to the editorial team. Month 4, revisions, author approvals and necessary artwork/graphics completed. Month 3, create an article synopsis for use by the sales team and develop marketing and promotion to alert advertisers to the upcoming editorial and its importance to the HVACR contractor audience.
The desired result: High-quality editorial content for the publication along with creating the potential for additional advertising sales. Without appropriate lead time to promote the value of the editorial, sales is at a disadvantage. With good lead time, increased sales. So we have two positive outcomes for our goal: better editorial for our readers, and more potential to increase sales for the sales team.
As a company we try to have eight to 10 goals for each department. When we originally adopted this planning method, we had three short-term goals, three medium-range, and three to four longer-range goals. And this process has worked well for us.
As we accomplish one goal, we add a new one. And we continually modify or try to improve the tactics that will help us, as a team, reach our goals. It’s fairly easy to look at the goals and see that if we are not reaching them, we need to review, modify or change the tactics. And we keep at it until the goals are accomplished.
One of the really positive benefits of this approach to setting business goals is that it allows for easy sharing with the entire company. Everyone, in every department, knows what we are trying to achieve — as a department and as a company. And, of course, in our department meetings, everyone is invited to add additional goals and provide input on the plan. It helps any leader create a shared vision for the organization.