7 Steps to checking your business is ready for 2012


Regardless of when the fiscal year starts, many businesses see January as the start of a new year and hence a new cycle for the business.

Having said that many business owners struggle to step back from their business and plan the year ahead as they drive towards the year end. They make the decision to “do their plan” in the first week of January but find that they’re straight back into the business and the plan is either looked at when there is spare time or not at all.

But without stepping back and creating a new plan your business will meander through the next annual cycle and hopefully grow. At the best of times this is not a good idea…in this economic climate, this is simply crazy.

You cannot purposefully get to a particular point/destination/goal without a plan.

Here are 7 important checks to help you make sure you’ve covered the key areas.

1. 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 all the many questions you should ask. This assessment will help you set some of the goals for the year ahead so that your company is stronger and more effective.

2. Work on your findings
From the assessment identify any weak and vulnerable areas and identify where you differentiated from your competitors as these are strengths that you need to exploit. Once you have these listed create plans to strengthen weak areas, exploit strengths and mitigating plans for all risks to your business.

3. Check your core purpose
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.

Things can change and events may occur which can impact the core of the company’s reason for being and what it is striving to achieve.

4. What to do
Create a balanced set of hierarchical goals; a set of goals that drive the business forward and make it stronger and more effective. Too often goals are simply an extension of what was achieved the previous year; revenue + x%, profit + y% and so on.
Be creative and set one or two visionary goals that will take the business to another level, 4 or 5 vital goals that will achieve the growth you need in the next 12 months, 6 or 7 important goals that will support the other goals and make sure they are achievable and some routine goals which will improve aspects of your business but which won’t have a detrimental effect on results if not achieved.

5. How to do it
Plan how you intend to achieve these goals. Work with those responsible for implementing the objectives and tactics and create a plan with measurable milestones and responsibilities. If you own your own business, with no people, do this anyway…you need to step out of your business and set targets.

6. Making it work
Make sure everyone in your company and other key stakeholders like your bank, investors and strategic partners understands and embraces the plan. Even share it with key customers assuming it demonstrates how your plan helps their business. Create a one-page summary of your strategy plan, print it onto large paper and put it where people can see it and see how their role contributes to it.

7. Staying on course
Establish a system and timetable for monitoring and reviewing progress. All companies stray off course if progress isn’t regularly monitored and reviewed. Set early milestones to check you’ve headed in the right direction during Q1.