As of the date I’m writing this post we’re less than three weeks away from 2015. So, how are you doing? Do you have a plan in place? Is it a great plan? An average plan? A repetition of last year’s plan? Or something else?
It’s amazing how fast twelve months/four quarters can go by. However, that’s all irrelevant now. You’re now on the precipice of a new year. What you accomplished over the past twelve-months (good or bad) is behind you. Everything zeros out on January 1st and you’re about to start a new race. So, do you have a great plan in place to make sure 2015 is a killer year?
If not, go here right now >>
On the other hand, if you do have a plan and you’re wondering, “How do I know if I have a great plan or not?” here are a few questions you can ask yourself to check your plan.
Q1. Is Your Plan Truly Strategic?
If you’ve read my posts for any length of time you know that I believe that most “strategic plans” are anything but strategic. They’re usually a repetition of last year’s plan, just a little bit better (i.e. they’re designed to do the same things as last year, just a little bit better for maybe a minimal increase of 5-10% growth).
However, that’s not strategy.. Strategy isn’t based on the past and what you’ve done. Strategy is based on the future and what you want to be—which may be something completely different than what you’ve been.
Strategic work involves making big turns. For example, for a tech company it might mean cutting out a retail operation to focus more on a white-label licensing arrangement for large multi-national companies. For a local restaurant it might mean expanding its footprint in a new region. Or for a $10M reseller it might mean starting to drive growth through an acquisitions strategy. Those are all big right turns and they’re not repetitions of last year’s plan.
So, based on that, is your plan truly strategic?
Q2. Does Your Plan Push You To Stretch?
I’m not a fan of outrageous plans (unless you’re in a field where you can scale exceedingly fast, like a SaaS company) because no one believes the plan. If you’ve grown by 5% for the past five years, coming up with a plan that says you’re going to grow by 200% is ridiculous (unless you have some proof that it’s possible. For example, you’re a $7M firm and you just signed a $7M contract for January and are already negotiating a $3.5M engagement for March).
On the other hand, you also don’t want a plan that doesn’t cause you and your team to sweat a little. That’s why in the SMART goals acronym, I prefer to use A for Achievable and R for Reaching. In other words, you want to be caught in that in between land where you believe your goal is doable but you’re also going to be forced to dig down deeper than you have to achieve it.
Why? Because it’s in the striving that we all end up doing our best work. Reaching for something beyond what we can easily do forces something out of us that wouldn’t come out if we didn’t have that stretch goal.
By nature, we all do what’s comfortable and easy. However, a stretch goal that pushes you and your team to dig down deeper and reach is exactly what’ll produce the best in you. You won’t do it alone. You need a stretch goal to make it there.
So, does your plan push you to stretch?
Q3. Will Your Plan Actually Produce the Results You’re Looking For?
A few years ago I wrote a blog post on this subject because I’m forever surprised by the number of business owners and entrepreneurs who will create a plan and never ask the question. “If we fully execute this plan as its stated, will it deliver the results we want?”
In other words, if you have three to five growth accelerators (strategic initiatives) will those growth accelerators drive the growth you want. For example, if you want to grow by 40% this year, will those five growth accelerators deliver a 40% increase (or will they deliver a portion of the 40% with the other portion coming from optimizing your current efforts)?”
You have to do the math on this. You can’t just hope it’ll all work out. Your plan actually ought to produce the growth numbers you’re looking for. If not, you’ll want to go back and rework your plan until you believe that your strategic plan can actually deliver the results you’re looking for.
So, will your plan actually deliver the results you want?
Q4. Does Your Plan Have Clear Metrics and Accountabilities?
It’s not unusual for a business to create a “strategic plan” with initiatives like, “Increase customer retention” or “Improve efficiencies” or “Hire additional staff,” without anything more to go on—which is a tragedy because those businesses will never know if they’ve succeeded or not.
Technically, if you retain one more customer than you did last year you’ve “increased customer retention.” But that’s probably not what you meant. For example, if you currently retain 60% of your customers from year to year, your real goal isn’t to increase retention by one more customer/client. It’s probably something more like, “Increase customer retention to 75%,” which would be easy for you to measure and know if you hit it or not.
Likewise, if you create an initiative but no one on your team has responsibility for ensuring it becomes a reality, I can virtual guarantee it won’t be achieved. However, if at least one person is responsible, there’s a chance it might happen. Even better, if you make every member of your top team accountable so that everyone has some “skin in the game” for each of your top-level strategic initiatives, you’ll have an even better chance of successfully executing your plan.
So, does your plan have clear metrics and accountabilities?
If you want to drive greater growth next year, you must have a killer plan. So make sure you can answer “Yes” to each of the following four questions,
1. Is our plan truly strategic?
2. Does it push us to stretch?
3. Will It actually produce the results we want?
4. Does it include clear metrics and accountabilities?
If you can answer “Yes” to all four of those questions, chances are you’re probably on your way to a great 2015.
To your accelerated success!
P.S. If you want to build a better plan for 2015 (or you don’t have one yet) make sure you check out my course entitled, Double It 2.0: How to Create a Killer Growth Plan to Double Your Business in the Next 12, 24 or 36 Months