If you’re anything like me, a brand new year makes me do two things: look back at the past year and look forward to the months ahead. And that’s the way it should be done; using our freshest past experience to guide us into the future.
This is no simple pointless act of reflection and dreaming! What we’re doing is taking stock. Where have we been? Where are we now? What needs to change? And that means adding a new chapter to the ol’ business plan.
Do You Have a Plan for Your Business?
I consider a business plan a must. If you don’t have one, you’re not a true business. You’re just pretending. Beyond the basic facts and figures – this is the time we’re getting our tax records together, after all – it’s time to use the best part of a good business plan: its fluidity!
Life, as we all know, has a tendency to plot a different course than the one we’ve planned. A good business plan will allow for this. In fact, it’s designed for it.
So, I start off by looking at what I wrote last year and answering these questions: did I accomplish everything I set out to do? Were my changes successful? Was there anything I could’ve done better? What unforeseen things, good or bad, happened?
The plan should track sales goals. For me, this breaks down into how many jobs I had hoped to increase by from the year before vs. how many were actually booked.
The same is true for income: did my real world earnings match my expectations? Until you can answer these questions, you have nothing to base any new goals on. Once those taxes are done, a clear picture will emerge.
My Fun Summer Project
One of the more fun parts of my business year is my summer project. This can be one huge thing or many small things, or even a combination of both. This is where you plan what is done with the portion of your income you’ll reinvest in your company.
So, for instance, you’ll plan your new equipment purchases and upgrades, plan and detail any custom build needs, puzzle out any changes to your marketing materials and plans, and list and prioritize any vehicle repairs, replacements or maintenance.
Plan to tie up any unfinished business from last year, if (and ONLY if) those plans still apply. If they don’t, then don’t lose any sleep over it. Life is like that. Simply move on.
By figuring out where you started a year ago (and yes, you’re allowed to look back two, three or even more years), and making the comparison to where you stand now, your strengths and weaknesses become crystal clear.
Do not waste ANY time beating-up on yourself if you fell short! This isn’t about punishment or blame, but a healthy self-evaluation. Your goal here is to economize your focus.
So, for instance, if you’ve been neglecting your equipment replacement cycle because you put too much emphasis on that cool new façade or custom case configuration, you have been alerted, and now know what to focus on in 2013.
The goal is to advance, not by great leaps and bounds, but in a steady, controlled pace that you can afford in both time and money.
Good Planning Can Avert Disaster
Naturally, the categories you’ve set up for your business plan might be very different, and hopefully this doesn’t seem all ethereal and vague, like the stuff the so-called “motivational” speakers espouse. I’m here to deliver the goods.
Spotting weaknesses through data is much better than spotting them when something goes wrong in the real world. If your plan shows that the required oil change for the van was overlooked because a new hard drive was needed, you may have averted a true disaster!
A new year always promises a fresh start, and another cool thing I like to do is shake-off any left-over angst from the previous year.
It IS a fresh start, and we can maximize the potential of the New Year by blocking out some time, looking at our short and long-term business plans with fresh eyes and, with the accuracy of 20/20 hindsight, move confidently into the year… and years… ahead!