5 New Year’s Resolutions for More Impactful Business Planning

Written by Carol Coughlin. Posted in Business Leadership

How do you ensure that the extensive time and other resources that you put towards your annual end-of-year planning actually make a positive difference for your company? After all, countless annual plans end up sitting on a shelf gathering dust rather than driving the business.


Why does that happen? And, more importantly, what do CEOs need to do to make sure it doesn’t?


The following 5 planning-related New Year’s resolutions will help you reconsider how you conduct end-of-year planning and, quite possibly, inspire a few critical decisions that will impact your company’s success well into the future.


Planning Resolution #1: Resolve to Make Planning an Evolutionary Process – and your Plan a Living, Breathing Document

The worst mistake a CEO can make is to consider an annual plan to be a “finished” document. In reality, it should always be evolving and you can ensure that it does by revisiting it monthly and making adjustments as needed. It helps to think of end-of-year planning as the start of a yearlong process. Adopting this mindset will prevent you and your team from spending too much time perfecting minute details and instead allow you to put that energy toward making the plan actionable, as well as accessible to everyone responsible for carrying it out. TIP: Include a list of assumptions in your annual plan because changing assumptions are a great indicator that it’s time to change the plan itself.


Planning Resolution #2: Resolve to Make Key Players Key

Inviting key people into the process early not only fosters a deeper commitment to executing the plan, but also will help you develop better metrics and accountability for achieving those metrics. No team leader or department head looks forward to being held to generating certain results when they weren’t involved in setting the bar. Not to mention the fact that your company stands to lose valuable insight when you conduct planning absent the wisdom and experience of those in the trenches. TIP: Look at the planning process as an opportunity for greater collaboration between key people and more alignment in steering your company down the roadmap you’ve created as a team.


Planning Resolution #3: Resolve to Fully Understand the Numbers in Your Plan

Finance can be a challenging area especially for leaders who do not have financial experience deep enough to be truly fluent in his/her company’s numbers. Often, they are called to learn the basics of business finance to avoid planning mistakes like confusing projections with cash flow, choosing the wrong sales projection method for their situation or overlooking a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that calls for re-thinking an assumption in your plan. TIP: Make 2016 the year you take a deeper dive into your company’s financials in service of understanding them fully by the end of the year. Growth Advisors like myself who’ve spent time in the CFO hot seat coach CEOs not only on what their company’s numbers are saying, but also how to improve them. 


Planning Resolution #4: Resolve to Keep Your Plan Simple

No company can accomplish everything at once, so it’s important to drill down. Focus on the top five initiatives that will result in your company achieving the major objectives set forth in the plan. This will allow you to accomplish the most important goals in the coming year. TIP: Make sure to allocate sufficient resources for successfully implementing your five major initiatives, and track the progress throughout the year to see that these initiatives stay on track. 


Planning Resolution #5: Resolve to Select a Growth Strategy

There are many ways to grow a company and too many business owners neglect to make a concrete decision about what will drive growth. Understanding your growth options and making a conscious and careful choice that’s right for your type of business, its size or stage in the business lifecycle, the current environment, the amount of resources you’re willing to invest – and also your personal vision for your company and your exit plan as its CEO ­– is essential for leading your company forward successfully. TIP: Growing a company without a plan is like setting a ship out to sea with no destination. Often you just end up going in circles.



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Carol Coughlin

Carol Coughlin founded BottomLine Growth Strategies, Inc., in 2006 as a way for small and medium-sized businesses to access the same high-level financial and operational expertise that gives large companies a distinct advantage. Using her own extensive corporate experience and willingness to sit in the hot seat as a catalyst, Carol helps BottomLine Growth clients climb to the summit of their success.
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