Business planning and goal setting for 2021

by Kathi Clarke

Business Planning 2021
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“You must be joking – is it even possible after the year we’ve just had?”, has been the typical response I’ve received when reminding the business owners that I coach that it is time for planning and goal setting for the 2021 trading year. Despite the fact that very possibly we can’t see even a week ahead, let alone a year, and that many of us are exhausted by just surviving 2020, business planning remains as relevant as it has ever been.

Why is this still so important?

Having detail around our current net position and where we need to end up are the starting points for any plan. These plans may be compromised and worse than we’d hoped, feeling out of the realm of possibility – but nevertheless our net present position is still calculable, and our future is still something we can picture and dream of and strive towards.

The fact is that our plan or road map is the ‘true north’ of our business. It may have gotten a lot more complicated and now needs to be tweaked and reviewed much more regularly than ordinarily, but without it we remain the poorer as business owners.

Additionally on the motivational front, as humans we are enormously resilient. Even if our starting point seems to be off an impossibly low base thanks to COVID, by stating out loud where we want to go, we can focus all our execution efforts on working on the solutions. By planning, re-visioning and goal setting, we allow ourselves to employ our subconscious, galvanize the law of attraction, rally the team and provide an essential context to prioritise.

Most businesses are in recovery mode right now, having had to respond to the impossible, the unwanted and the downright difficult. For this reason, a plan with clear goals is helpful to keep us going as humans. They remain key to activity and team motivation in tough, uphill, hard times. They are an opportunity for little wins to celebrate on the way. So develop them. Keep them simple, focused, clear and SMART.

Keep them regularly reviewed, re-commended often and open for questions. Keep them front and first, and keep them going.

The elements of a workable plan

There is no value in coughing up a “tome or volume” that looks good on paper, but is too complicated and not sufficiently practical to be of use. Future planning first and foremost should focus on what needs to actually get done tomorrow/next week/next month/next year to stay in the game. Thinking and planning needs to be strategic, and also needs to be grounded and clear around execution: Who has to do what by when?

Plans need to be to the point, and uncomplicated. As an entrepreneurial coach that appreciates the need for ‘uncomplicated’, I am a big fan of Verne Harnish’s One-Page Strategic Plan. It – as with most good plans – includes:

  1. Values – that which is “always or forever true” of the business, come what may and at all times. If you can express these values as verbs, all the better as teams and other stakeholders can then “see” these values in action.
  2. Vision – where is the business heading in the next 5 years?
  3. What will we all be able to see with regards to deliverables 5 years from now around the 5 P’s:
    – Performance (financial numbers)?
    – Prospecting (the sales and marketing machine that will get you the numbers)?
    – People (who’s needed on the team to deliver the numbers)?
    – Products (includes service offerings if that’s what you trade in)?
    – Processes (what systems/technologies are needed so they drive the business and people drive them)?
  4. What are the interim milestones or shorter-term goals that you need to work for to attain the these 5 P, 5 year outcomes in:
    – The next 90 days?
    – 1 year from now?
    – 2 to 3 years from now?
  5. SWOT on these 5 year deliverables and on-the-way milestones:
    – Strengths relative to the competition that set you apart and need to be commended in your marketing?
    – Weaknesses that create choke points to the plan and need to be considered as brutal facts?
    – Opportunities over the next 12 months, within your control, that will allow you to exceed plan?
    – Threats over the next 12 months, within your control, that can destroy the plan?
  6. What are your critical measures – your key dashboard numbers – that will tell you whether you’re on track or not?
  7. What are your top 3-5 marketing strategies per quarter to get you sufficient leads, to get you sufficient sales closes with prospects, to get you sufficient revenue? Do you have a clear target number for each strategy and target cost per lead? Remember to explore all that can be done for free or little investment including leveraging tech and electronic forms of reaching your audience.
  8. Have content that “promotes to sell” – not just promotes (there is a real difference). Have crystal clarity around both your value proposition and who is your target before launching into the expense of how you will attract them. Have the plan to keep you on track and not wasting time and money – which is easily done with marketing.
  9. Your budgeted financials for each quarter (turnover, cost of sales, expenses, net before tax and projected profit) which will tell you categorically whether it’s working or not. Use these to make good business decisions, what to start/stop/continue.
  10. Your brand promise and USP – value proposition that makes you special, different and better from the competition and is part of what you deliver every time.
  11. Your elevator pitch that you use in response to someone asking you “so what do you do?”. It is a free marketing opportunity, often not used and good sales practice.
Why is a plan so critical to team motivation?

The vision is your prerogative as the owner – what you get to tell the team about where this business vehicle is going – and in this you need to be the most positive person in the room. The plan however, is the public road map that needs all heads in the game. It is a shared, working document that needs everyone’s input and ultimate buy-in to be optimal.

This plan is what dictates and ultimately sets the deliverables for your monthly actual vs budget meetings and every single employee in the business. And these monthly goals are what gets broken down into the weekly deliverables that are reviewed in your weekly meetings (or huddles as we call them). Where you go from department to department along your process flow – from prospect to money in the bank to ensure you’re bang on target to the monthly goal….or not. And these weekly deliverables are what should prescribe the activity daily that is the content of your daily meetings (we call them standups so that you don’t hang around in them for too long) where direct reports meet their direct boss and confirm the day’s activity and any problems preventing it from happening.

The goals, deliverables and activity spell out what people have to do, a benchmark for them to see if they are progressing or not – like a feedback loop, and a place to question. Without these, teams are unclear and uncertain – neither of which makes for motivated employees.

The cost of NOT planning and goal setting

No plan and no goals? Well, then you get the future you get and it will certainly NOT be what you designed or hoped for. That is a guaranteed fact. And while a plan and goals don’t always result in you achieving them, you retain a 1000% better chance of reaching them if you set them. They also are the key to economic use of resources like time and money; optimal deployment of the team; the glue holding you all to a “true north” and peace of mind for you.

With business planning you can at least know if you are on track or not. With goals you can at least know if you did or didn’t hit them.


Kathi ClarkeAs a business coach and strategist, Kathi Clarke has a passion for helping businesses position themselves to survive and thrive. She is a registered industrial psychologist and an internationally-accredited business coach with ActionCOACH, the world’s number one business coaching company. Visit: www.kathiclarke.actioncoach.com


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