6 Steps to Make Sure Your Business Is Ready for the Year Ahead


Happy New Year! I hope you had a relaxing break and that you’re energised and ready for the year ahead.

Getting off to a great start is crucial in so many ways. You need to know that:

  • You’ve set your business on the right path that will get it to where you want it this time next year;
  • Your business can actually make the journey;
  • You can keep it on course.

If you look at these points how do you feel?

Do you feel positive and energised because you’ve prepared for this journey? Or do you feel a bit unsure and maybe lost because you didn’t manage to find the time to plan for the year ahead?

If you feel more like the latter, don’t despair, you’re by no means alone and you haven’t left it too late.

One thing that must be crystal clear though. If you don’t have a plan showing how you intend to grow your business through the next 12 months, then your business will meander through the year and you can only hope that it will be a better one.

If you want to have more control and more certainty than that then you need to make sure your business is ready for the year ahead.

Here are 6 steps to help you.

1. Check your core purpose and mission

Review your company’s purpose, vision and mission.

From the year that’s gone are they still sound and valid? A year is a long time in business and it’s worth checking that you’re still on course to reach your long term aims and that these aims haven’t changed.

Even if your long-term vision and purpose haven’t changed your mission – how you aim to realise your purpose and reach your long-term vision – may have.

Your purpose, vision and mission lie at the core of your business and all you do. They help keep you on track and if you later find that they are no longer valid and not where you want to take your business then you could well become lost as you try to find your way again.

They are well worth reviewing and reminding yourself why you do what you do and the difference you make to others.

If you haven’t set them for your business and aren’t sure how then check out the article in my library of free resource.

2. Define where you want your business to be

What’s the next major step forward in your business? What’s the next level? What would transform the fortunes of your business so that it was worth 5 or 10 times or more than it does now? What’s the next big leap – the big idea?

Think big and come up with this transformational strategic destination.

Once you’ve defined this strategic destination, how long will it take to get there – 3 years, 4, 5? If you are just starting out the next big level may be 18 months to 2 years ahead. That doesn’t matter – what does matter is that you have a clear destination in mind that will transform your business.

Draw a time-line from where you are now to this destination and let’s say it’s a 3-year time-line. Now break the line into 3 segments and you have your annual time-lines.

Now work backwards from your strategic destination.

To reach this destination where does your business need to be in 2 years? To get your business there, where does it need to be in 12 months?

Having done that, you now have a clear idea of where you need to get your business to in 12 months’ time.

Before you break this journey down into manageable milestones you need to know that your business has the resource and capabilities to make the journey. You need to know where your business is now.

3. Review and learn

How did the last 12 months go? What worked and what didn’t? Did you spend more than you anticipated? Did you lose some opportunities or customers? Did you support your customers well? Have you grown market share? Did you meet your goals? What happened that you weren’t expecting? What worked really well?

Do a thorough review of how the year went and make sure you have answers to the many questions you need to ask.

I talked about this in more depth in my last post so if you missed it check it out here.

Please don’t skip this step because you do need to know that your business is ready to make the journey ahead. You need to identify what didn’t work and why and if there are any weak and vulnerable areas in your business that you need to address (potential goals in their own right) that could impact your ability to make the journey.

If you’re not sure how to thoroughly assess your business I have a tool and guidance videos that will definitely help you assess where your business is now and where you need to focus some time and effort on making it strong enough to get to where you want it to be.

4. Breakdown the journey

You have a clear strategic destination which, assuming is longer than 12 months, you have broken down into major milestones which includes a 12-month milestone.

You have also identified where you need to strengthen your business so that you have every chance to get to this milestone and beyond.

12 months is still a long way off and too long to plan how you’re going to get there in one leap.

So, you need to break this 12 months down further. To get to where you need to be in 12 months where does your business need to be in 9 months, in 6 months, in 3 months?

Turn 3 months into 12 weeks and keep breaking this time line down into smaller, more manageable milestones or goals.

Some of these goals will come about from the assessment you will have carried out and will be goals that are aimed at strengthening weak and vulnerable areas of your business.

Apart from really helping you drive your business forward rather than just getting by, the beauty of setting these manageable milestones is that you only need to concern yourself with the next milestone. Each milestone leads on to the next – hit the next one when you plan to and you know you’re on track.

It’s vital that you make these milestones or goals, specific and measurable. Only that way can you know for sure that you’ve hit them.

5. How to reach your goals

Your goals are targets. What you need to do next is map out how you intend to hit these targets. What do you actually need to do and how will you do them?

These are your objectives (how you intend to achieve something) and tactics (the actions you will take).

For example, if you have goals related to acquiring new customers then your objectives will focus on how you intend to acquire them – online marketing, networking, cold calling, trade shows and so on.

Having defined these objectives you then map out what you will actually do and map out, in this case, your online strategy, which networking events you will attend, who you wish to meet and what you will say, how many cold calls you will make and again, to whom and what you will say, which trade shows you will attend or have a stand at and what you need to do to make that happen.

Finally, you’ll know week by week where you need to focus your efforts and what you need to achieve.

Having done this, the first thing you might well feel is overwhelmed. How are you going to do all that you need to do in order to meet your objectives that will get you to the goals you have set.

This is where you could easily realise that you just don’t have the time, resources and capabilities in place to do this at this stage of your business.

But seeing that, you can then decide where to focus your efforts to get the best return and bin the rest. It can be a tough thing to do but it’s vital if you are going to reach your goals.

And that is one of the many powerful reasons why you should plan all this out.

6. Make it work

Once you have your plan – your strategy – you need to make sure that you, and any others involved, make it work. You need to make sure you stay on course.

To know you’re on course you need to be able to review your progress against desired results. This is why your goals and milestones and your objectives and tactics need to be measurable.

An objective to make 20 cold calls today is measurable. An objective to make some calls isn’t.

The former will keep you on track to achieving the 20 calls. Once done, you’ll be able to then measure your success rate.

Do the latter and simply aim to make some calls and you’ll make maybe a handful until you’ve had enough and you’ll be distracted by something else. You won’t have a target to stay focused on and the success of this task will be far less.

Repeat this pattern day in and day out and the accumulative effect on the success of your business can be dramatic.

With measurable targets and objectives, you can properly monitor the progress you’re making against your plan and adapt as necessary.

For example, if your aim is to have 2 meetings arranged for every 10 calls you make and for one in 3 meetings to lead to a sale or contract worth a minimum of £5,000 then you have targets that you can measure progress against.

If you then find it take 15 calls and 4 meetings which leads to sales worth mostly £4,000 you know exactly where you are on your plan and you can make changes to get back on course according to your plan (or to adapt your plan if that is the realistic option).

Without these measurable targets you will make a few calls, be pleased to have converted at least one of them into a meeting and repeat the process until one of the meeting results in a sale.

You make a sale but have no idea if how you are working will get your business to where you want it in 12 months because you have nothing to measure progress against.

Establish a system for monitoring and reviewing progress. Simple spreadsheets are often all you need.

Without these measurable targets and a system in place for monitoring and reviewing progress you and your business is running blind and it’s a foregone conclusion that you will veer off course and not get your business to where you need it to be in 12 months’ time.

And the journey becomes so much harder. Business owners who don’t plan like this, don’t see where they should focus their time and efforts. They become distracted by shiny objects, spread themselves too thin, stress about what they should be doing and end up achieving far less.

These steps are key to success. Don’t skip them if you want your business to grow and move forward with certainty and control.

And this brings me to the hard part for you. If you haven’t planned where you want your business to be this time next year what are you going to do?

Do you think you don’t have time to do this? The year has started, you need to pick up where you left off and hope that the year will be better than the last.

Or will you make the hard choice and step back now and spend a week or so getting this right and then moving your business forward to a known target that will ultimately lead to getting it where you want it?

I hope you do the latter – it’s not too late and it will make all the difference to your year.

Setting the right goals and milestones, creating a strategy plan that shows how you will achieve them and keeping to it isn’t trivial. If you haven’t done much of this in the past and want to get it right then check out my course Small Business Strategy for Success. I’ll take you through all the steps you need to make sure you get your business to where you want it to be.


Photo Credit: Tony Alter at Flickr