Do you have a business plan? If so, is it sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere, never seeing the light of day? And can you actually remember what goals and targets you set out in it? While a full-blown business plan has its purposes (securing bank financing being one of them), an inspired, action-oriented success plan will prove to be far more effective in driving your business forward.
The steps to developing an effective action plan are to:
- Set inspiring goals, based on a compelling vision of the future;
- Identify the strategies (actions) that will enable the goals to be achieved;
- Set a time-frame for completion of the goals;
- Allocate ownership for critical tasks;
- Incorporate measurements to evaluate success.
When it comes to planning, consider the words of General George Patton: “A weak plan that is executed will deliver better results than a great plan never executed.” Sometimes, simple is better. Other factors to consider when preparing your success plan are:
Look Back Before You Plan Ahead
Know where you are today before you start planning where you want to go tomorrow. Look at your financial results and Key Performance Indicators, and consider how they compare to your goals, and the averages in your industry. Then take a few minutes to write down your accomplishments (big and small) for the previous twelve months or last quarter. It’s important that you recognise the things you did well. Finally, make a short list of the things you didn’t accomplish, and ask yourself what held you back, and what lessons you learned from failure. Don’t dwell on these, but make sure you apply the lessons learned as you move forward.
Break it Down
Big goals are nothing more than a series of much smaller ones. If a goal you set appears too big to conquer, or takes a long time to accomplish, chunk it down into smaller goals over shorter time periods. For example, a business sets a goal to reduce employee turnover by 10% within twelve months. To accomplish this, they may have 5-10 goals and strategies they will employ, including communicating business goals, implementing monthly team meetings, creating effective job descriptions, developing a team incentive or performance bonus program, creating a strong recruiting and hiring process, etc. These smaller goals and strategies are much easier to handle, and together will move them towards the bigger goal.
It pays to think big when setting goals. The old saying “shoot for the stars and if you fall short, you will hit the moon” explains why. Often we set ‘safe’ goals because we fear failure or simply can’t figure out how we can get there. Of course it’s safe to set a 5% growth or improvement goal — but what if you chose instead a 30% improvement target, and asked for advice on how to achieve it? You could call on employees, alliances, suppliers, other business owners and maybe even a business coach for new ideas, but you do need to ask the question. What if you fall a little short, and only grow by 20%? You are still better off than you would have been with a 5% improvement target! So think big, and believe you can achieve.
Measure, Measure, Measure
Would you ever play a round of golf and not keep score? Not likely, because you want to know if you have improved, or beat your previous best. The same is true in business. If we don’t link measurements to our goals, we have no way to evaluate how we are doing. What we measure, we can improve. So what types of things should you measure and track? Revenue, gross profit margins, fixed expenses and net profit are obvious, and most owners track these. But most businesses also have other factors that drive their success. Depending on your goals, industry and type of business, these will vary. Here are just a few examples of some common Key Performance Indicators:
- number of leads;
- sales conversion rate %;
- average £ sale;
- gross margin %;
- customer and employee satisfaction ratings;
- labour costs as a % of sales.
Make it exciting, and share it with your team
An exciting goal is a motivating goal. How much more energy do you have when you are working towards something that you really want to achieve, rather than some dull old target? Also if your team is equally motivated by the goal, then how much easier and more fun is it if you all work together to achieve it? Being an open and honest business owner will build trust and commitment from your team, and enable you to make progress far quicker than taking on the responsibility all on your own.