Title is a quote from Yogi Berra. 😀

The Q4i team recently spent a few days doing what we spend so much time encouraging you to do – working ON the business. More specifically we spent the week focused on 2019 planning.

For those of you who may not know, the Q4i team is spread out (literally) across the country: Seattle, St. Louis, and Tampa. It takes a bit of effort for us to get together in person.

And, I know that given the craziness of 4th quarter, it takes effort for you as well. But, if you are going to run a successful business in 2019, you don’t really have much choice.

I’ve heard from many of you, “Yeah, I KNOW I need to work on my 2019 plan, but it will just have to wait.” I’m sure a big part of what you’re waiting for is for 4th quarter to pass. But guess what? 2019 is going to have a 4th quarter too. If you wait to do 2019 planning until 1st quarter, your effective year is going to be WAY too short.

Don’t make it harder than it needs to be

Most of you aren’t spread out like we are, and you don’t have to do your planning the way we do by taking a week out of the office. Most of you have the luxury of spending in-person time with your team on a daily basis. Take advantage of that opportunity.

2019 planning doesn’t have to happen offsite and it doesn’t have to require day-long blocks of time. Break down your planning items and just start talking through them one at a time. It will be a nice break from the daily grind of the renewal cycle, and you’ll feel good about the conversations and the anticipation of future-looking goals you set.

Break down your conversations

Here is an outline of the items you should be discussing in planning for a successful 2019. Schedule weekly conversations and tackle the items in this following order. Get through as much as you can each week, and by the end of the year, you’ll find yourselves excited to take on 2019!


We always start with a strategic look at the organization. Pick a timeframe (maybe it’s three years out, or maybe two, or maybe only one) that you feel you can see with reasonable clarity and describe in detail what your agency needs to look like.

  • What services will you be offering?
  • What new skills/behaviors do you need to develop on your team?
  • What will revenue numbers (including profitability) look like?
  • What will staffing look like?

You get the picture, spend time reflecting on every significant area of what makes you who you are and, more importantly, who you need to become.

What is and isn’t working

With that Vision outlined, spend time reflecting on your current situation. What is working well and gives you confidence in your ability to make your Vision a reality? And, also, be honest about what isn’t working right now that needs to be fixed in order to achieve that Vision.

Look bigger

Of course, there are extenuating circumstances that will impact your journey. With your team members, do an ODDS (opportunities, dangers, distractions, strengths) or SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of the market and your internal operations.

Get to know yourself

As important as it is, way too often the agency annual plan only focuses on the numbers of the business. I know the following items are a challenge, but clarity in these areas make the numbers much easier to achieve.

For examples, we’ve included some ideas from our own planning throughout this section.

Purpose – What is the emotional fuel of your organization? What is that when you and the team make progress, you get that, “THIS is why we bust our ass every day!!” feeling?

Our answer – To transform the industry.

Brand – What do you want the market to say about you? Your brand is your organizational reputation and is the fuel as to why people (prospects, clients, and employees) want to be attached.

“Q4i understands the industry from the inside out, and says what needs to be said. They are at the forefront of leading people in new directions that help shape not only their own businesses, but the businesses of their clients. And while they generously share ideas, they also teach us how to make it a reality.”

Culture – What does it feel like to be a part of your organization? And, if your current culture isn’t ideal, what do you want it to feel like?

Serious, curious, and fun.

Values – Take time to identify what you believe and value as organization. Your values will drive clear, consistent, and intentional decisions within the company.

Be intentional. Be curious. Be courageous. Be collaborative.

Theme – We cannot begin to tell you how effective and focusing it is to create an annual theme around which your team can rally.

Save this discussion for last. Look back over your answers to all of the previous topics. What do you most need to do this year? More importantly, why do you need to do it? What are the behaviors and mindsets needed to get you to your goals?

There are always things we need to change with our comfortable routines in order to create something new. What is that something for your team?

The theme doesn’t have to be an obvious or literal connection. If it resonates emotionally and provides motivation, then it’s the right theme for you and your team.

As excited as we are to roll out our new 2019 theme, we’re not going to – because it’s not yet 2019! Patience, Grasshopper. 😊However, we are more than happy to share some of our recent themes to get you thinking: New normal, Simplify, Relevance, Intentional.

Get tactical

1) What we need to do

You’ve spent a lot of time thinking strategically about your organization, and now it’s time to identify how you’re going to get there. As you start to outline the tactical plan for the next 12 months, fight the temptation to identify EVERYTHING you could be doing. Instead, focus on the 1 – 3 priority items you MUST be doing in the following operational areas. Less is more.

Review each of these operational areas:

  • Agency processes
  • Client experience
  • Net growth goal
  • Pipeline management
  • Marketing
  • Sales process

For each area, document the following:

  1. Define the area and what it means in your agency and what overall improvements need to take place.
  2. State very clearly WHY the improvement is important (it’s okay to just state the obvious).
  3. Explain the key ACTION ITEMS needed that will drive the improvement.

2) What we need to stop doing

This is another critical part of the conversation. As important as it is to identify what you need to start doing, you have to make room for the new. What is it you are doing individually and organizationally that you need to stop doing?

Review this for each operational area. Document what you will stop doing and what the transition plan will be, if any, to eliminate these tasks or behaviors. 

If you want to grow, planning isn’t optional

We get you are crazy busy. But if you want 2019 to be less crazy, you have to plan for some level of sanity. It’s a responsibility you have to your team.

And, guess what?! Not only is taking time to work ON your business as a team a necessity, it’s a lotta fun!

Yes, the discussions we had about our business were important. And, no doubt, the clarity we have for what needs to happen is empowering. However, the most important thing about our planning retreat was extended time with people I consider friends/family/team in an environment where we all openly shared our thoughts, ideas, and were able to simply enjoy one another.

To get started on your own planning, follow the ideas above and/or download our Agency Annual Planning Guide.

Photo by  Jason Winter.

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