It’s a brand new year and as such many of you are likely to have given some thought to business planning. You probably have a list of ambitious goals that you would love to achieve over the next 12 months and why not, the start of a new year is the perfect time to think about what you want to accomplish in your business this year.
Personally, I love nothing more than the blank slate a new year represents and creating a plan for my business is one of my favourite things to do. There is, however, a fundamental problem with the approach I see many people taking when it comes to business planning. What I see, more often than not, is an alarming absence of strategic thinking and an over-simplistic focus on goal-setting.
I’m here to tell you that there is so much more to your business plan than goals.
When we focus, first and foremost, on the goals we would like to achieve, we fail to create a strategic context for those goals and miss out on so much, like:
- Recognising the overall aim of our business.
- Strategic thinking about why we’re choosing the goals we’re going to work on (and whether or not they will support us to achieve our overall business vision or aim).
- Important details around the how of what we’re trying to do.
- Joined up thinking between our desired business outcomes and our preferred lifestyle. I.e. How is your business going to support you to have a happier life this year?
In this post I want to share with you just three strategic essentials that you can bring into your business plan for 2019 that have the power to increase it’s effectiveness ten-fold.
The importance of strategic thinking
Before we dive in to these, I want to say a few words about what it means to be more strategic in your business. Strategy is a word that gets thrown around and most people, if asked, would be hard-pressed to clearly define what it means. Let’s just get some clarity around that before we begin.
The dictionary defines strategy as: “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim” and strategic as: “relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them.”
Sounds simple enough right? Well for the purposes of our annual business planning, lets unpick this a little. Let’s start with: “the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests.” When we jump straight into goal-setting, we fail to remind ourselves of the long-term or overall aim of our business. Some business owners, fail to ever clearly identify this in the first place but knowing the big picture of what you are are aiming for lies at the heart of being more strategic in your business. So getting clear on your vision for your business is an absolute must.
Next let’s consider this part: “the means of achieving them” which in essence relates to how exactly you’re going to achieve your overall aims. Taking time out to consider both of these before you start to set goals is crucial.
You might be surprised how often I’ve coached people who are working on goals that in no way support their overall business aims.
Some examples of where the means don’t align with the aims include someone who is building an online business so that she can have the freedom to travel and work from anywhere in the world yet all of her goals relate to finding clients locally and working with them in person. Or the woman building a business so that she can spend more time with her family but who is employing tactics that see her burning the candle at both ends trying to make the business work (I’ve definitely been guilty of that one!)
Setting goals that aren’t strategically sound i.e. they don’t support the achievement of your overall business aims, is more common than you might think. To avoid this, use the following three methods to ensure that your goals are truly aligned with what you are trying to achieve.
1. Identify your overall business aim
Before you can even thinking about setting goals, you need to know your destination, right? Your goals don’t exist in a vacuum, they exist to support you to achieve your overall aim or vision.
With that in mind it’s crucial that you take some time to consider the question:
What is it that I really need my business to do in 2019?
In essence, where do you need your business to be by the end of the year? Do you need to be generating more income? Do you need to have created more products? Do you need to have hired a team? Whatever feels like your most important business aim, you need to have it clear in your mind before you even thing about the goals you might set to help you to achieve it.
To give you an example of a business aim. Mine for 2019 is this:
To create regular, predictable and sustainable income from my business that covers all of my financial needs.
My business is making money and covering my outgoings but it’s not doing so in a consistent way. Some months I make several thousands of dollars and then other months not as much. Overall, I’m okay financially but my goal for this year is to move myself out of the feast and famine phase that many young businesses go through. Perhaps you can relate?
Knowing this, helps me to get clear on my priorities for the year ahead.
2. Get clear on your priority areas
With your overall business aim for the year identified, you’re ready to pick three strategic business priorities for the year ahead.
Strategic priorities do a couple of things
- They speak to solutions for your biggest business problems.
- They focus your activities on your business priorities and overall aim.
- They provide a strategic container for your goals.
To get to your strategic priorities, you want to be asking yourself questions like:
- What is the overall aim of my business in 2019?
- Which area(s) of my business really need my focus in 2019? (hint: pick no more than 3!)
- What, if I had it, would make my business more successful in 2019?
- What in the long term is going to support me to build a truly sustainable business?
- If I consider my overall business aims and objectives, what are the key strategies I might employ to achieve them?
This year I have three strategic priorities. Content, Outreach and Revenue. Other examples you might consider include: Marketing, Passive Income, Product Creation, Audience Growth, Team Building, Outsourcing and so on.
So how do my strategic priorities tie in to my overall business aim? Well, because I believe that strategically speaking, a greater and more consistent focus on creating content for my audience and reaching out to support them directly will bring about the business growth (both audience and revenue growth) I’m aiming for.
In 2019, audience growth is a top priority for me as I know that more people in my audience will translate into more consistent sales and I believe that providing quality content and building strong relationships (based on trust) with my audience will lead to long-term and sustainable growth (as opposed to using marketing tactics that erode trust and long-term viability). Having revenue as my third priority allows me to set some goals and metrics around what I’m trying to achieve, financially.
Only now, with your priority focus areas identified do you want to turn your mind to setting goals.
3. Create systems for your goals
It’s important to carefully consider which goals make sense under each of your strategic priority areas, carefully avoiding the temptation to set too many. Trust me when I say that it’s far better to have 4 or 5 goals that you actually achieve than 20 goals, none of which you quite manage to complete.
Which brings me on to element three. Systems.
Under each goal you’ll want to identify and schedule a system for achieving that goal. This represents the how of your goal, something that often gets overlooked.
To give you some examples:
If you goal is to get 2 new clients a quarter then you might consider creating a system that sees you reaching out to 10 new people a week. Or if you have a goal of creating $5,000 in passive income this year then your system might be to create one new online course a month.
You’ll want to make sure for every goal you set you also write out your system for achieving it.
Goal = Get 2 new clients in a quarter.
System = Reach out to 10 people a week.
Goal = Create $5,000 in passive income
System = Create 1 new online course every month.
You see how it works? It’s not enough to simply set the goal, what we must do is create a system for achieving it and then focus on that system above all else. It’s the system that we want to schedule into our diary and truly commit to getting done.
So you see, when we’re clear on our business aim for the year and we create a context for our goals with priorties and systems, our business plan starts to look a hell of a lot more strategic and with that, much more likely to succeed.
I’d love to know if you can relate to what I’ve shared here. Let me know in the comments below what comes up for you as you read this post and if you know anyone who would benefit from reading it, then feel free to share it.
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