September is always an interesting time of the year. Summer is basically past and the end of the year looms not that far away, which causes a wide variety of emotional responses for most of us who are business owners and/or entrepreneurs.
Now, while there are some of us who really don’t care about what day it is on the calendar, most of us do. And when two-thirds of the year is past and we’re closing in on three-quarters, it’s easy to begin to feel like this year is a foregone conclusion. If we’re behind, it’s easy to begin to feel defeated and want to throw in the towel and hope that next year will be better.
If we’re basically flat-lined, it’s easy to begin to feel resigned that this year is a lost cause for growth (i.e. it’s going to be similar to last year) and to see the next few months as grind it out time while waiting for a new year to begin.
And, even for those of us who are ahead, we often begin to wonder, “Can we keep this up?” or “Will we make it to the finish line ahead of plan (or not)?”
In other words, while we still have close to a third of the year left, there’s an awful lot of resignation, fear and defeatedness in the air. So, how do you go about changing that?
Answer: You create a 100-Day Plan.
You choose to realize that you still have close to a third of the year left. In fact, as of the day I’m writing this post, there are 112 days left in this year. 112 days, that’s a lot of time. That’s over three and a half months left for you to generate leads, close deals and put money in the bank.
So, how should you create your 100-Day Plan? Here are five steps to finishing well.
1. Be Clear on Your Starting and End Points
Since none of us can change the past, be honest with where you are and where you can actually finish this year. If you’re 40% behind where you’re supposed to be at this point in the year (not including where you should be at 12 months), chances are you need to ditch your original goals. They’ll continually defeat you everyday for the rest of the year.
For example, if you planned on doing $5M in revenue this year and you’re at $2M nine months in, you’re probably not going to do $3M in the next 100 days. Own it and adjust to a more reasonable goal. Keep it a stretch, but a reasonable stretch, not an unreasonable one. In this case, instead of still trying to shoot for $3M in Q4 (when you’ve only been doing an average of $667K in each of the three previous quarters), you might shoot for $800K or $1M.
I don’t know why so many business leaders have a problem with adjusting numerical targets. Targets are simply educated guesses. If you’re ahead of goal, why sit back and not push yourself? If you’re already at $4.5M after three-quarters, why not adjust the $5M goal to $6M (or higher) rather than being content with $5M (and not finishing the year as well as you could)? Or if you’re at $2M, why not adjust it down to something more reasonable, like $3M for the whole year, so that you and your team are energized and can capture a win by year’s end?
In light of that, what are the right targets for you to hit by year’s end?
Note: Don’t limit your targets/metrics to just revenue. Pick three to five metrics for you and your team and your 100-day plan.
2. Go For The Low-Hanging Fruit First
Every business has both short-term and long-term marketing tactics. For example, if you have a legal practice you could use a blogging strategy to generate more inbound leads or you could use a referral strategy to generate more leads. Both are good strategies. However, blogging is a long-term strategy. Referrals are a short-term strategy.
Continuing our attorney illustration, when you only have 100 days left to generate leads, woo prospects, close deals, do the work, bill the work and collect the A/R, you don’t have time for long-term strategies to work (note: you don’t avoid doing them because next year is just around the corner, you just don’t do them first).
Also, the low-hanging fruit for most businesses isn’t in new customers, it’s in old/current customers. The wooing time is shortened considerably because they already know, like and trust you. So, as you construct your 100-day plan, you’ll want to go back through your customer database and think of new and different things you could do/offer for each of your old and/or current customers.
In light of that, how can you generate more business between now and the end of the year by getting more business from old/current customers? And then secondly, by going after new customers using your most effective short-term marketing strategies?
3. Double the Speed
When you’re in the final leg of a sporting event, it’s frequently time to speed up. For example, in football, it’s the 2:00 minute warning and the introduction of the no-huddle offense. Or in running/racing, it’s the last lap. It’s knowing that to win, you have to push harder at the end rather than thinking you need to slow down because most of the game/race is over.
In your case, this means taking whatever you’re doing, and doing more of it. So if your team makes five calls per day, challenge them to double it and make 10 (or if you don’t want to double it, use double it to encourage more, let’s say seven or eight calls per day). If you do one trade show per month, do two. If you do one webinar a week, do two webinars per week. If you ask three people a week for referrals, ask six people. If you go to two networking events per month, go to four. If you speak once a month, speak twice a month. Whatever you do to get more business, double it (or increase it by a significant percentage).
If you want to increase output, you have to speed up the input. As you know, you can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing and expect a different result. You’ve got to change something. And making a speed change for a 100 days is a doable time frame for making a bigger impact.
So, how can you double the speed for you and your team over the next 100 days so your team finishes this year well?
4. Set Yourself Up for Success for Next Year
One of the mistakes a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs make when creating a plan like this is that they focus almost exclusively on short-term revenue generating tactics. Note: It’s not bad to focus on them (see point two above). The problem is in the word, “exclusively.”
For example, when a business becomes focused exclusively on closing business by 12/31, they wake up the next day on 1/1 and they’re often behind the eight ball from day one. All the projects that they should have been working on to make sure the next year starts out well were put on the back burner and didn’t get completed. So, rather than starting off with a bang, they often start off with a whimper.
To avoid that you’ll want to think through,
“What are the key projects we need to complete in Q4 that will set us up for success next year?”
It might be a new marketing campaign or a new product. It might be a technology issue or capability. It might be a new CRM or project management system. It might be hiring or training some new talent. It might be researching a new market or redesigning a new website with new capabilities. Etc.
The idea is that you can’t get everything done between now and year’s end. So, narrow your options down to those that can either generate revenue this year or can set you up for success next year.
If you want to hit 1/1 running (or 1/2 since most of us take New Years Day off), make sure your 100-Day plan includes those projects that will make allow you to have a great start to next year (vs. waking up on 1/2 and having to start from scratch).
5. Calendarize Your Tactics
The last step in creating a 100-day plan is to take your ideas and tactics and to actually put them on a calendar (or personally, I like to put them on a single sheet of paper). In fact, here’s a 100-Day Plan Template that I use.
At a project management level, getting the granular tactics right is a great idea. However, for most of us at a senior level, we simply need one sheet to keep us on track. Pick the one major tactic or strategy for each month (other sheets can hold all the details) and put it on your one sheet. For example, if you want to hold a big sale in November, you might write
- September – Decide on a new big November sale
- October – Line up and get JV partners the marketing materials they need
- November – Run 14-day sale for XYZ, with affiliates
- December – Run a 2-day sale for those who missed the November sale
The general rule is, “If a tactic doesn’t have a date attached to it, it won’t get done.” So, don’t let that happen. If you need to generate X amount of activity per month (let’s say, 100 referral leads per month), put that on each month. If you need to generate Y amount of revenue each month, put that on your plan. If you need to have 50 conversations with customers between now and the end of the year, do those all need to be done this month, over two months or over the entire 100 days? Write it in your plan.
Whatever you decide to do for your 100-day plan, make sure don’t forget to do this step. Take your ideas and calendarize them. What needs to get done by the end of September? By the end of October? By the end of November? And, finally, by the end of December?
So, there you go, five steps to creating a 100-Day Plan
- Be clear on your starting and end points
- Go for the low-hanging fruit first
- Double your speed
- Set yourself up for success next year
- Calendarize your tactics
You now have everything you need. The clock is ticking. You’re now on the 20 yard line. The 2:00 minute warning has sounded. You have roughly 100 days between now and the end of the year. So, what are you going to do to make sure this year ends as well as possible?
To your accelerated success,
Key Question: What are some other ideas you’ve used to make sure that you and your team finish well by year’s end? (Note: If you’re reading this by RSS or email, you can add your comments by clicking here >>)
Flickr photo from Nomadic Lass