The calendar may still say November, but before you blink, it will be the start of a new year. If you’re like a lot of businesses, that means taking stock of where you are right now and mapping out a plan for getting where you want to go next year—a plan for success.
Everybody knows that proper planning is one of the keys to achieving success, but I’d like to suggest that in order to plan successfully, you have to plan to plan. That’s not double-talk (and no, I’m not getting into the eggnog early!). It’s simply that planning for your business success can be a bit of a maze, and good strategic planning requires preparation. Here are five things you can start thinking about now, so that when you actually have your planning meeting, you’ll be ready to get some serious work done as you map out your plan for 2014.
1. What were you great at in 2013? Where did you exceed customers’ (and your own) expectations? Have you got data to back that up? Why do you think you were successful in those areas? What specific steps can you take to carry that success forward in 2014?
2. Do you have the right team in place to achieve your targeted growth in 2014? If you have weak links in the chain, can that be corrected by coaching, training, clarification of goals, or skill development? Or do you need to look at making some personnel changes? If you’re not happy with someone’s performance, there’s a good chance he or she isn’t happy, either.
3. Have you clearly identified your “A-list” clients? What are your criteria for determining that? Have you developed a clear and precise “persona” of what your ideal client looks like? What’s your plan for finding more clients that meet those criteria in 2014?
4. Where do you need to invest in 2014? Real growth doesn’t happen without investment. Your investment may be in training your people, or hiring the right skill set. It may be in your infrastructure (technology or equipment). Or it may be time invested in your process, to make sure you’re as efficient as possible. Those are a few of the things you need to invest in if you want sustained growth.
5. What lessons did you learn in 2013 that can lead to greater success in 2014? These lessons could be missteps you made (it’s not really a “failure” unless you fail to learn from it). Or you may have learned from someone else’s mistakes. Maybe you saw a competitor go down in flames. Why did that happen—and how can you avoid it? Or maybe you were surprised by an unexpected success (see #1). What can you intentionally do to make that kind of thing happen again?
Mull these things over (and have your leadership team think about them) before you meet to do your strategic planning. It’s a great way to clear the path to good planning—and success—in the coming year!