It’s the start of a new year, and you’ve probably made some personal resolutions — and set some business goals — for 2012. January is the perfect time to develop an internal business plan (the kind that’s for your eyes only) to help you reach your goals.
Here are a few tips for getting started:
- Take stock of your successes and failures. Before pursuing a new business agenda, it’s wise to analyze what worked and what didn’t last year. Examine your sources of income and the expenses associated with generating that revenue. Go over the marketing strategies you tried and calculate their return on investment. What needs to change? If you are under contract with particular vendors or service providers, when will you be free to renegotiate terms? Create a spreadsheet of relevant data that can help you determine if and when you should alter your business strategy.
- Define your business goals. Even if you’re not a startup, you may find that your plans for the business have changed over time. Maybe you’d previously planned to specialize in designing marketing materials for doctors, but decided that retail businesses were a better fit. In any case, think about what you hope to accomplish in 2012 and write down those strategies, whether or not they directly relate to your revenue objectives. For instance, in addition to getting 20 new clients, you might make it a goal to speak on five expert conference panels or write an e-book.
- Draw a road map. Unlike external business plans, which are typically used to seek funding, this plan is for your own company’s use, so there’s no need to go heavy on the PowerPoint or flashy graphics. Nonetheless, it helps to have a formula to work from: Check out this gallery of more than 500 example business plans to find a good model. If you like more structure, you can use a software program to help formulate your plan, such as Palo Alto Business Plan or Intelligent Business Plan.
- Seek feedback on the plan. Get a second and third opinion on your goals from seasoned colleagues you trust. They can help you pinpoint objectives that may be overly ambitious — or not ambitious enough — and offer suggestions for reaching your goals.
- Hold yourself accountable. If you’re a sole proprietor, then you’ll have sole responsibility for meeting the goals on your 2012 agenda. If you manage a group of employees, share your plan with them and make your goals specific to each department. Using a wire-bound planner or an online tool like Basecamp, set up a calendar of milestones with a series of challenges in each quarter. Be sure to plan a time to reflect on your successes and failures each quarter, and allow yourself to revise the plan as necessary.
By creating a business plan that is ambitious yet realistic, you may realize substantial growth over the coming year.