If you want to knock it out of the park business-wise, focus on long term planning at least once a year. It’s really easy to get caught up in the weeds of day to day running of your business. So it’s critical to step back and do a reality check on where you’re going.
The last couple of years have been rough on all businesses. And most entrepreneurs have been working long hours under a lot of pressure to keep their doors open. The successful ones have learned to seize opportunities and, in some instances, radically change the way they do business.
This focus on the day to day and the minutiae of expense management, etc. is all necessary. But, it also tends to narrow our viewpoint, which can be very bad for business long term.
To Think Outside the Box, Get Out of the Office
Take time away from the office and sit down to really think about your business options, challenges and opportunities. Take two consecutive days physically located someplace far enough from your desk that you won’t be tempted to just check a couple of emails or take care of something on your To Do list. Shut off your phone and your email too…that’s what auto responders and voice mail out-of-office messages are for.
Leave the office behind visually and mentally – go to a park, to a museum, to a hotel, to the beach, to any place you can clear your head of distractions and concentrate. Strategic planning is necessary for businesses to thrive. It can’t be done effectively while you are also dealing with clients, customers or your employees. You need time to think…not to react, not to respond, not to worry about how much there is to do waiting at the office.
And if you have key employees, bring them along to brainstorm with you.
Evaluate Your Business & Then Plan for Profitability
On Day One, analyze this year – what’s working, what isn’t, what surprised you, what have you learned about your customers, what products or services are making money and which aren’t.
On Day Two, look ahead – brainstorm new opportunities, create goals, think about possible challenges, consider solutions for what isn’t working well, develop your financial projections, and identify the resources you need to meet your planning goals.
Business Financial Planning is Critical for Success
You may or may not have a business plan. If you do, and haven’t revisited it in the last year or two, it’s probably outdated. A business plan is critical to your success because it gives you guidelines to help you make decisions throughout the year. Most importantly, it sets out financial goals, timelines and other measures so you can judge your progress to you know if you are on track to achieve your bottom line.
Large companies always incorporate off-site strategic planning retreats into their annual workplans…that’s because it helps them to succeed. You’re just going to do the same thing on a smaller scale. Getting away from your day to day office routine can help you to see more clearly and spending un-distracted time concentrating on your business planning is an investment in growing your business.
Make it a Priority to Get Perspective on Your Business
The end of the year can be a good time to do this, although it’s usually pretty busy for all of us and trying to find time away from the office is admittedly difficult to do. So figure out when the best time in your annual calendar is to do this & put the calendar reminder on auto-pilot.
Time flies, especially for busy entrepreneurs. We’re running hard to keep up with all our personal, professional and charitable commitments – one week runs into the next and it’s easy not to take the time to critically evaluate what’s working and what’s not. And, more importantly, where are the new opportunities for your business and how can you convert opportunities into actual revenue?
This is important investment in your business. Taking the time to think strategically and create your business plan now will pay future dividends for you. It’s something that should be an annual habit from now on.