For many of us, 2022 has had its fair share of challenges. For others, it has been one of the best years ever. Perhaps you find yourself somewhere in the middle of that continuum. Wherever you are, we can all agree that planning for the year ahead will help us to set the course for an exciting and fulfilling 2023.
For those determining how they want to see their business grow over the next year, it may help to take a step back and evaluate the bigger picture. Once we can see the full picture, we can better understand where we are and where we need to go. So how can we get to where we need to be? Well, it all starts with setting business goals and creating a business plan before the new year arrives.
One thing I find helpful when planning for business growth is to ask focused questions that highlight where I am currently and where I would like to head. Some of the business-growth questions I find most helpful in guiding my direction for growth are:
- What are your current business objectives? Where are you headed with this business?
- Why are you reaching for those objectives or headed in that direction?
- What do you expect to experience when those objectives are reached? What will success look and feel like?
- What comes next? What new business objectives would you like to target, and why? What will success with those objectives look and feel like?
These questions work great whether you plan to start a business in 2023 or hope to grow your current business in 2023. Whatever your ultimate goal is, the key is that you identify that you need to move forward and are prepared to do what it takes to reach the next level of success.
There is a clear distinction between business goals and a business plan, so let’s start with some simple definitions:
- Business Goals – A goal is a target you want to hit or an accomplishment you want to achieve. Most businesses have multiple goals, and each goal is specific to one clear business objective.
- Business Plan – A business plan is a detailed road map establishing processes and systems to reach business goals and objectives. Your plan takes what you want to achieve—goals—and identifies a clear strategy for success.
We all have our own way of determining what the right next steps are for our businesses. What works for one person may not work well for another, but there are a few steps that we can all take to establish business goals and put them into action in the months ahead.
Beyond creating realistic and achievable goals, putting them into action is equally important to ensure that by the end of 2023, we’ve accomplished what we set out to do with great success. With our business goals to drive us, it is up to us to build the road to success.
Do you currently have a business planning process in place? Whether you do or not, it’s a good thing to have, so I’d like to share some tips I use to create and improve my business plan regularly.
If your business has a planning process, it’s a good idea to review it before setting new goals. Oftentimes, I find that I’ve outgrown my process because my business has shifted or taken a pivot in the previous year. Sometimes I find myself adding a step, while other times, I change the process entirely – so it’s good to be aware of the various planning strategies.
Some of the business planning approaches that I myself find to be the most helpful in planning for business growth include the following:
- Use the traditional business plan format. This long, detailed process requires you to think about everything, from your products to finances to competition.
- Conduct a SWOT analysis to understand your path to business growth better. The process identifies your company’s strengths and weaknesses and then explores opportunities and threats from the outside. The opportunities section is particularly helpful in the business goal-setting process.
- Every business is different, and the business world is not the same today as two years ago, let alone 20 years ago. So, be in the present, establish clear and relevant business objectives and goals and then create your business plan. A business plan aims to identify clear processes and systems that will carry you toward each business goal you set. Think of it as designing a treasure hunt that will take you from wherever you are today to wherever you want to land in 2023.
For those who need help coming up with a process for business planning, just writing down some goals is a great start. If the actual planning comes later by breaking those goals into milestones and action steps, that’s still a business plan.
Now that we understand business plans let’s focus our attention on the goals themselves.
Goal setting is exciting because you get to move beyond the big picture and onto the details of what you really want to achieve. Every business is different, so there are no right or wrong answers here.
Some examples of growth-oriented goals may include:
- Double the current client base.
- Increase revenue by a certain percentage.
- Lower expenses to increase profits by a certain percentage.
- Expand online reach by hitting target thresholds for social media following, email or SMS marketing lists, etc.
- Increase brand recognition by marketing to new demographics.
- Open additional retail locations.
- Expand operations or offer new categories of services and products.
But the question is, how can we go from simple goals to an effective business plan? There are many ways to approach it, but I will discuss one of the most straightforward processes today. It starts with long-term goals that you can dissect into a working plan.
I enjoy coming up with long-term goals because it gives me permission to spend time dreaming, brainstorming, researching competitors, and thinking about the ultimate vision of success for my business. Long-term goals are accomplished over time and require significant work to reach, so thinking big is part of the fun.
Here’s a simple exercise that may help get your imagination going: Imagine it’s December 31, 2023. What has your business accomplished in the last year?
The next step in this business planning process is to break your long-term goals into milestones. I like to start by asking myself what I can do in the short term to make my long-term goals possible.
Focusing on something shorter-term is often less intimidating for those who find big-picture goals overwhelming. Each short-term goal takes us one step closer to what we want to achieve. It’s like leaving a breadcrumb trail to business success.
You aren’t alone if you get to this point and start second-guessing yourself. So many of us set goals and lay out plans only to wonder if it’s the right plan for our business. We don’t want to step into the new year following a plan that won’t deliver our desired results.
One way I check my goals for alignment with my desires is to make sure each goal meets the following criteria:
- Specific to one clear achievement or target
- Aligned to business objectives, culture, and brand
- Reasonably attainable, even if difficult
This is similar to the SMART goal-setting system that guides you through setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. I’m also encouraging you to think about how the goal and resulting outcomes align with your company culture and brand.
It’s time to talk about what you do with your short-term goals. You can use an established business planning process at this point, but I want to introduce you to reverse engineering as another option.
The concept of reverse engineering is taken from computer science but applies to business goal setting exceptionally well. The process looks like this:
- Take the goal apart to understand all of its components or elements. How does it work?
- Identify systems and processes that bring all components and elements together
- Create milestones or steps that connect all components and lead to the final goal
For example, let’s say my goal is to expand to two new social media platforms in 2023 because I wish to extend my online reach and brand awareness. In this case, I would do the following to reverse engineer that goal and come up with dedicated systems and processes to implement in the new year:
- List all social media platforms currently available
- Research those platforms to determine which are most relevant to my industry and popular with my ideal clients
- Research how specific platforms I may want to use work and what the success metrics are for each
- Determine how to create accounts and get established on the platforms I decide to target
- Create processes for the day-to-day work needed to succeed on each new platform
- Create marketing strategies that align with my goals for each new platform
I came to those action steps by thinking about what it takes to reach the goal and what processes might ensure the work I do daily leads me in the right direction. You may use reverse engineering a little differently, but as long as your planning process works for your business, you’re on the right track.
So, if you need help coming up with growth-oriented goals or building confidence in your current business plan, now is the time to contact me!