A new year is the perfect time to get a head start on refreshing your business plan. It’s also the perfect time to reflect on the passing year, consider triumphs and failures, and craft new goals while dusting off others which still have some life left in them.
Whether you’ve already started on next year’s business plan or need a little nudge to start, here are a few considerations to include in your startup’s 2018 business plan.
Goals, goals, goals
The first thing you need to do is look back at 2017 to review what you accomplished and what you didn’t. If you aren’t looking in the rearview mirror, you may be creating goals for the new year that are disconnected from your current business needs.
Using those 2017 accomplishments and missed opportunities, assess what your new goals should be. Prioritize your list to focus in on one or two goals that can move your company forward in a significant way. Setting your sights on too many goals can make them hard to achieve, difficult to track and nearly impossible to maintain over a calendar year. Focusing on one to two specific long-term goals will help align your team, too. Goals should be defined for your company, each department, your employees and yourself.
Create your measurables
Here’s where the rubber meets the road, because goals without measure are simply dreams. Measurables are in many ways as important as goals. To be effective, goals should be in writing and constantly shared with your team as they are evaluated. Provide each department and team member with a single achievable goal. These become your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Each team member will know what they are being held to and how success will be measured.
Measurable goals should be frequently revisited. Month-to-month and even quarterly evaluations will help keep your team leaders on track. If you are up for it, try and get weekly updates, even if the information is only directional. The earlier you can detect that your team is off target, the more time you will have to steer them back on course.
Finally, shared reporting allows team leaders to gauge progress against measurable goals and head off any potential issues or misalignment. There are plenty of free business goal templates out there to help you get all of your important business information and KPIs in one easy to manage place. Depending on the complexity of your business, you may consider having a custom template made to ensure accurate reporting.
Plan your continuing education
Don’t become the dinosaur of your industry! Your industry is constantly evolving. It is your responsibility to your team, your customers, your clients and yourself to get better each year. Make it a point to read industry-related content daily, attend conferences quarterly, network and meet influencers regularly. Encourage your team to do the same! You can take it a step further and require continuing education as part of annual employee reviews. You can even weave it into standing meetings or schedule team lunch-and-learns.
Follow your customer journey
Be honest, would you hire you? The only way to know is to become a customer. Take some time this month to walk through your sales funnel as a prospect. You may be surprised to find out what your customers are experiencing through a purchase with your company. Evaluate your sales process for pain points, friction and off-brand messaging.
For e-commerce sites specifically, locating where customers left the checkout process can provide valuable insight and where changes need to be made. This kind of review is often overlooked and can reap your biggest rewards for growth, conversions and revenue.
Revisiting your brand should be a part of every yearly business plan review. A lot can happen in 12 months. There are many factors that can affect your company’s branding. Inspect your business value proposition, logo, brand colors, taglines or slogan, mission and visions statements and company descriptors like boilerplate about language. It’s not about changing them, it’s about revisiting these brand elements to make sure they are still as simple, concise and effective as when you first launched.
Additional aspects your brand review should include are your business website, social media strategy, paid social campaigns, PR pieces, email programs, lead forms, blogs, Google Analytics, Google AdWords campaigns and search engine optimization (SEO).
A solid business plan is key to long-term success, and it’s important to keep it relevant each year. 2018 will be here before you know it, so putting your refreshed business plan together now can help you have your best year yet!