We love to talk about businesses, dissect the models, think about how other ideas could relate to our own model, and see if there is anything new we need to work into our plans. We have had written plans since the start of our business, and we’d like you to have that same discipline as well. 😀 Read on for ideas + links to our annual planning guides.

Yes, planning is a necessity for your business

A goal without a plan is little more than a wish, and your company’s success demands better. If you approach your days, weeks, quarters, and years randomly, you will create random results. This is true at the company, department, and individual contributor levels.

As important as a final plan is as your overall guide, the planning process itself is arguably the most critical element. Creating a path to growth requires making time to think through what to do at each level, and discussing the best way forward with your team. The discussion creates clarity. Documenting and following the plan keeps it on track.

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Planning is a key element to growth

Planning isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Don’t let a sense of overwhelm divert you from committing to the planning process. Any plan is comprised of four straightforward pieces:

  1. An honest review of where you are right now
  2. A solid vision of where you want to go
  3. A structured path to grow from the reality of today to the vision of tomorrow
  4. A communication strategy to keep the right people in the know

When you take time to work through these phases, you’ll hopefully recognize that regular planning will make you a better organization and business leader.

  • Bringing in your team members to help plan and take ownership of the plans will increase the likelihood of the plans being followed.
  • Following through on the plans and executing them as you’ve laid them out will move your business ahead faster than you ever dreamed possible.
  • Keeping your plans simple allows you to make visible progress. As you and the team build your planning muscles, you can think about getting more sophisticated with the plans.

However simple or intricate your plans, we highly recommend taking time each year to plan for the upcoming year. It doesn’t matter how you think of your planning year: it may be January – December, March – February, or July – June. Just make sure you do it each year.

Managing your annual plans

Yes, plans. Plural. Use multi-level planning that includes a couple of separate yet interlinked plans:

  • At the organizational level
  • For each division or department, if you have a larger organization
  • For each individual on your team (sales and non-sales positions)

It’s easy to get excited about the process, pull the team together, set aggressive goals, and lay out an inspiring and detailed plan. Then, with so much hard work accomplished, it’s time to go out for dinner and drinks to celebrate the hard work and anticipated successes. And then you get pulled back into the daily grind and forget about the plan.

When you find the plan months or years later, it’s always surprising and inspiring to see how good it is. “Wow, we had great ideas! Too bad we didn’t execute on them.”

Have you ever experienced this before? You’re not alone. Make the planning a critical first step of the process, and then find a way to hold yourselves accountable to review them regularly. When you take the time to review your plans, you’ll feel something: excited about the progress you’re making, defeated at how off track you are, or recognize that something needs to be adjusted. Whatever the feelings, it keeps the plans top of mind, and you can choose how to react.

Heads up: the leader doesn’t necessarily make the best person to “own” the plans on a day-to-day basis. Hopefully, you have someone on your team who is excellent at planning, follow-through, and keeping people on track. Give the plan-tracking responsibility to them. This is a role I played at multiple organizations, regardless of my position in the company. I loved it, and someone on your team will, too.

Defining Your Business Brand 

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Consistent communication is critical. Your team wants and needs to know your plan to protect their future and ensure the company's success. Communicate your vision of the future and plan to get there, and give progress reports along the way.

After you and the team finish your planning, get everyone together for an annual kick-off meeting. Share goals and plans for the year. Take the time to explain where you are going, why it’s important, how you are getting there, and how they will be impacted and expected to contribute to the execution of the plan.

With this understanding in place, the team will be more open to any necessary changes as you introduce each new initiative because they now understand where it will fit into the bigger picture.

This is such an important step too often skipped and deemed unnecessary. This couldn’t be farther from reality, though. People need to know why change is necessary before they are willing to participate. Give them a reason to not only participate but be excited about it.

Bring the team back together each quarter to remind them of the goals and plan and update them on your progress and/or challenges. Review your KPIs, progress toward your established goals, and priorities going into the next quarter.

Let’s get started!

Your plans don’t need to be overly complicated, and they shouldn’t be. Especially when you’re getting started with planning for the first time or two, keep it simple. Get started by downloading and following our company planning, producer planning, and marketing planning guides.

Remember that going through the process itself is the most essential part. The conversations and input from the team will be invaluable to creating a stronger plan than developing ideas in a vacuum.

Following through on the planning is the next most important part. Rely on the team to help keep things on track. Select at least one designated “plan owner” to review the plans regularly, call team meetings to review the progress, and hold people accountable for their described contributions.

Defining, executing on, and communicating plans is critical for growth-centered companies. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it’s work that can create a healthy culture and a unified team that achieves goals with knock-it-out-of-the-park successes.

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Photo by serezniy