It’s that time of the year again. No, it’s not just the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s time for you to begin laying the groundwork for your small business to grow in 2014. This means looking at trends, anticipating economic conditions, legislative changes, and setting realistic goals.
As a business coach, my role is to ask a lot of questions and to get you to think. Even though we’re not face to face, I’m going to offer the same coaching in this article. If I were meeting with you, I’d ask you:
- What type of financial growth would you like to experience with your small business in 2014?
- If your business was to grow beyond your expectations, how would you handle the ‘growing pains’ that will come with the growth? Will you need more employees, more capital, or a bigger office space?
- If the economy dips into a recession in 2014, what strategies will you use to protect your company and keep it moving forward?
If you start now, you won’t be rushed to slap something together at the eleventh hour. While there are many ways to approach your planning, I’m going to share some best practices that will offer significant benefit if used.
Here are some best practices for you to consider at your upcoming annual planning meeting:
- Location – pick a location out of your office environment. Make sure it is relatively quiet so you can focus on your business goals and objectives.
- Time – give yourself at least a couple of days out of the office without many interruptions. If you are a sole proprietor or run the day-to-day operations, go away on the weekend to work and play.
- The plan – don’t jump right into putting paragraphs of information together. Consider jotting down bullet points as you think of specific content. Then you can go back and assemble the bullet points into full sentences that make sense to you.
- Projections – don’t get overly optimistic about your numbers! Just because you may have done well this year or last year, doesn’t mean that next year’s economic conditions are going to allow you to do the same. Anticipate changes in the economic climate and error on the side of being somewhat conservative. Don’t set the bar too low but give yourself a realistic chance at achieving your goals. After all, if the economy does better than expected and your company sells more than expected, that’s not a bad thing, right?
- Two brains are better than one – consider planning with some of your team members. If you work with your spouse, be sure to include them in the planning process. If you work by yourself, consider extending an invitation to your accountant, attorney, or other critical team members who can play a part in helping you develop a realistic plan. Two or more brains are better than one!
- Don’t forget you – when planning, make sure you think about including yourself in the plan. What I mean is that your development as an entrepreneur / business owner is just as critical as the other items mentioned in the above bullet points. Honestly evaluate yourself in the following areas: leadership skills, cash flow and money management, sales, marketing and branding, and developing efficiencies in your company by creating systems or standard operating procedures. If you rate yourself low in any of these areas, consider taking a workshop or class to help develop your skills.
My hope is that these suggestions will prove valuable to you when assembling your annual plan. If you don’t currently do any annual planning, I’d like to challenge you to try it and compare the results to a year when you did not plan. Of course, creating a plan means that you are not going to put it on a bookshelf and allow it to collect dust. The plan should be reviewed often and adjusted when needed.