It's hard to believe, but the year is coming to a close in a few short months, which means it's time to start planning for the new year now. Taking the time to make a thoughtful and clear plan for your year can set you up for success ahead of time and hold yourself accountable. Here are a few tips to make the most of your annual planning.

Take time to reflect

Start by taking some time to reflect on the current year. What worked well? What didn't? Ask your employees, partners, and even customers for their feedback. You may have an idea of how the business is doing, but an outside perspective can help ground you in reality. Once you've established where you stand, you'll have a clearer picture of what you want to accomplish in the next year.

It's easy for businesses to get quantitative and qualitative feedback now with all the tools that are available. Through online survey tools and your email database you can start with surveys to your customers with only two basic questions; what do you love about my business and what can be improved?  

Set clear goals

To set goals that will really make an impact for your business, you must first prioritize what you want to achieve. You likely have a slew of things you'd like to do, but it's critical to decide where it makes the most sense to invest your time and money. Ask yourself, what will make the biggest impact on the success of my business? Perhaps it's investing in marketing or new training for employees. Whatever it may be, it's important to rank your goals in order of importance to determine where to spend your valuable resources. Have a goals board in your office or in a visible place that you can see every day. Ask yourself, how can these goals be dispersed? As a business owner, you don't have to be the lead on everything. Give your team leadership roles, this will help lessen your workload and make your team feel more accountable for the business.

Ask for feedback

Once you've developed and prioritized your goals, test them out by asking for feedback from others. Bouncing your ideas off employees, mentors, and partners can help you fine tune and could potentially open you up to new ideas entirely. Diverse perspectives should be something you embrace in all aspects of your business, including planning.

Grab a flip chart and jot down everything; for the list of what didn't work well, take immediate action. There is no need to wait until next year to fix something that can be fixed now. Once you tackle the immediate, then move on to the long term list. Take your customer feedback from your short survey, make adjustments and survey that same group of people a few months later. Small businesses sometimes think because they are small they can't be fact based but that is not the case.

Hold yourself accountable

After you've finalized your goals, it's time to put measurement in place to hold yourself accountable. It can be as simple as making a calendar with key milestones to check in on your progress. If you're not meeting your goals at these checkpoints, it's an indication you need to step back and ask yourself why and what you need to change. Your goals shouldn't be rigid, and you should expect to adjust throughout the year as your priorities change and your business evolves.

If you're thoughtful about your goals and dedicated to achieving them, you'll find yourself energized by the possibilities and motivated for success in the new year.

Published on: Oct 26, 2018