Whatever time of the year it is, you have probably set a working direction for the rest of the year, including clear-cut objectives. Your first-iteration plan to reach them should be in place. This now (whatever time it is – if you are thinking about it) seems like an ideal time to rethink the whole thing, doesn’t it? In our sped-up 21st century world, plans are subject to change just as soon as – or perhaps even before – they are written.

If you haven’t already done so, now is an excellent time to review your company’s year-end results and plan for the coming year. If you’ve already created your annual plan, you may want to look at it in a new light.

A typical approach to planning suggests multiplying last year’s quantitative results by an acceptable growth factor. Industry standards vary, often from 5% to 25%. Add to that number scheduled enhancements to your product line plus solutions to key problems you’ve been meaning to address, and that’s your plan.

Those of you who’ve been following my articles know that I advocate a different approach to this process: Step 1) Learn whatever you can from last year’s results – something many of us forget to do. For example, make 1998 the year you act on the knowledge that it takes six months to train your field reps, not the six weeks you used to allocate. Step 2) Set targets that will excite you and your team and get you out of bed every morning; Step 3) Figure out how to reach the targets in Step 2.

A well-rounded strategy that will enable you to attain continuous growth should impact these critical factors:

  • Revenue and profit
  • Product development
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Quality
  • Intellectual capital
  • Productivity
  • New customer growth
  • Employee retention.

For each of the items listed above follow the three-step analysis.

Step 1. What knowledge did you gain from last year’s experience in each area?

What increased sales and should be done more frequently?

What didn’t work – what should be stopped immediately?

Also, ask what could you do more of or stop doing completely – which will make a big difference in your organization’s profitability. some things that you may need to add include: an organizational knowledge manager, periodic competitive analysis, a report of market share, an employee training plan.

Step 2. What results are you committed to producing in each area?

Remember, these results should inspire everyone responsible for making them happen to do whatever it takes to get the job done. These targets or measures should be easily mesurable. They must be achievable, however difficult that might be.

Some examples of these sales and marketing goals include: a 50 percent increase in sales; top of the list in customer consideration; specific customer return rate increases; three new products shipped by June,

Step 3. Make a plan to attain your goals

Your implementation plan has a number of components:

Some of the actions you are going to take can be assigned to s specific department, like accounts or your marketing/sales department. Those are the easy ones. Less obvious are factors like customer experience – they don’t fall under one clear domain. Nevertheless, one person has to pick up the ball. Along with their teams, whoever accepts responsibility for specific targets and goals will ensure that the plan is carried out.

What strategies will produce increase sales quickly and easily? Remember, if you’ve set ambitious goals, you probably do not yet know how to reach them.  You are inventing the answers, making them up.

The approach to some targets will be simple, others are more complex. While there are no guarantees of success, each target should have an identifiable path with a good probability of getting your company to where you want it to be. That path will define one or more initiatives to be put on a timeline. The path will also include milestones – checkpoints to measure the ongoing success of the initiative.

What structural and procedural changes will you make relative to this factor? Some examples are adding two salespeople, creating a quality czar, establishing new reporting lines, eliminating paper memos, making a large capital investment, acquiring a component vendor, or having a daily new sales quota.

If you plan on increasing sales, you should consider a sales training program. This can help you improve your selling skills and mentor your sales team.

Will you need to take on extra staff? will it require creating new job descriptions or add specific managers? Where a factor maps directly onto a department – such as revenue or customer service – what is the annual staffing plan? If there is a staffing increase, make sure the additional costs are fed back into your business plan.


Last issue: Can take care of everything at the same time?

You probably cannot due to a lack of resources. But the solution you choose can not neglect any of your critical factors – we’ve just looked at the outcome of that approach.

To reuse a well-worn phrase, if you are not making progress in each area, you are losing ground.

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