Planning to fail or failing to plan? Set yourself up for success in 2018.


A new year means a new beginning for your business. No matter what happened in 2017, you have the opportunity to start fresh in 2018. Your path to success begins now; if you fail to plan, you might be planning to fail. Keep the following essentials in mind as you prepare for a remarkable year.  

What is your theme for 2018?

Begin the planning process with one or two overarching themes to guide your company's progress in the New Year. Your chief goal will provide much-needed motivation and direction as you take advantage of the New Year's clean slate. Your new theme will also ensure that, despite varying departmental goals, your business moves forward as a cohesive unit.

Each business unit should have goals that tie to the overarching goal of the company. Those goals likely include big projects as well as product launches. Your product or service selection, and customer satisfaction will need to be examined together in order to develop the most strategic plan for the business.

Struggling to get started? Examine big projects expected in the next couple of months, or already in the works. Ensure that those projects have clear goals that support the core of a larger goal. For example, if you're currently working on launching a business Facebook page, you can set a goal of achieving a certain number of followers or conversions in the New Year. If you've already identified a promising prospective client, consider establishing a goal related to developing that relationship further.

As you determine an annual theme and what projects are needed to support that theme, draw on the wisdom of those in your inner circle. Discuss big ideas with your team, your accountant, customers, clients, and anyone else who can offer targeted feedback.

Bravo! What worked well in 2017?

Whether 2017 proved to be an overall success or one with challenges, you can take solace in knowing that you've achieved numerous victories. No matter how small these accomplishments seem, they're worth acknowledging — and building on as you look ahead to next year.

You have likely been tracking the measurement of your goals all year but be sure to understand where you net out in your final calculations. Understanding which goals you exceeded versus where you came up short will be a starting point for setting new numbers.

Learn where departments, promotional efforts, and other day-to-day affairs proved successful. Examine budgets, procedures or improvements around each. These are not inclusive but give you some ideas on where to start.

  • Your newest and most promising hires — and how you successfully recruited them
  • Training initiatives that inspired exceptional performance from your employees
  • Your most successful marketing campaigns. Where can you repeat success?
  • New products or services that received extensive praise from customers
  • Customer service — how did daily interactions with customers build confidence in your brand?

Tearing off the bandage: What can you drop completely in 2018?

Now that you have examined your successes, shift your focus to where you can learn and improve. You likely know which initiatives didn’t go to plan but understanding why is imperative to improving effectiveness next time around. The answer may be clear or it may require more testing to fully understand.

If faced with a similar situation in 2018, how could a different response take you closer to your stated goals? Don't be afraid to shake up your approach and reorganize your team if current efforts fail to elicit the results you seek. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board altogether.

Parking lot: Which goals can wait?

No business can tackle every goal all at the same time. Prioritizing is essential, especially if you're dealing with limited resources. Postponement doesn't automatically equal failure; consider pushing back deadline as an opportunity to focus on more pressing concerns. Other goals may not require postponement, but tempering based on your current resources.

Developing a mid-year performance review period will help keep your business on track. It’s likely a very busy time but neglecting to perform these reviews can derail certain goals. Conduct check-ins with your leads to get a pulse check against those goals. This will give you enough time to pivot if necessary.

Budget review

Year after year, a limited budget stands in the way of your most ambitious goals. With careful strategizing, however, it's possible to make the most of limited funding and achieve great things. Begin by reviewing your 2017 budget. How did you spend allocated funds? What would you have accomplished if you could spend more money? Which projects could have been dropped in the interest of achieving your prioritized goals?

Now, look at 2018. Assess cash flow and expected sources of income. Next, focus on fixed costs and how they might shift. Don't forget variable expenses and upcoming one-time spend necessities. Your budgeting needs may vary drastically between 2017 and 2018, but select patterns will likely remain in place. Don't commit to major investments unless you feel confident that your company can handle the expense while still remaining equipped to weather unexpected costs.

A little advance planning can make a huge difference as your business tackles challenges in the New Year. Draw on lessons learned from past successes and disappointments as you plan for a groundbreaking 2018.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


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