A lot of people think that this is the time of the year when stuff starts to slow down in their businesses. I get it. Lot’s of decorating, holiday traffic messes and shopping to be experienced. I think the exact opposite though. Well, not about the fun holiday stuff but about what the end of the year means for your business. When it comes to what you’re doing in your business and planning for it’s definitely go-time.
Getting your team or even just your thoughts together for an annual planning process is an awesome thing to do this time of year. It helps flush out new ideas, figure out what works, and gets your business to the starting position for 2017. I know it might feel like extra work but you’re already tidying up your business for year end so, you might as well sneak in a post-mortem while the environment is right.
Speaking from personal experience, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows to go through a process like this but it is worth it. It’s an opportunity to shine a bright light on the things that worked (and maybe didn’t work) so you’re 2017 doesn’t look like this again:
I hope I didn't lose you after that clip!
Below you will find a few pitfalls to avoid and some helpful tips on making your planning and review process as effective as possible.
1. Avoid only planning for big benchmarks and outcomes.
Planning for big moments to hit in your business is more bad than good. It’s great because it gives you something to aspire too. It’s awful because you will probably do nothing until a week before the deadline and then spend a crazy amount of time and energy in underachieving and successfully burning yourself out. Instead focus on behavior, actions, or even the development of systems that will continue to push your business forward. Outcomes are great to keep in mind or even to plan to get to - but the point is that you have small chunks of actions in almost 2 week increments to help guide you to get to your big outcomes. It’s OK if you don’t make it too - make this year the year of adaptation and the art of the pivot!
2. Not everything needs a revamp.
All too often I see businesses chalk up last year as a loss and to decide to take a fresh look on EVERYTHING. Stop it! When evaluating the previous year make sure you try to find and focus on things that worked. Think about the time and energy it will take to change everything, not to mention that it will be a totally untested set of processes. It’s ok to want to do better and to try to adjust to make up for lost time, money or opportunity. Just make sure if you are revamping anything you are setting up some way to measure those changes. Another crazy idea, do more of the things that worked great! Make sure you are rewarding team members, customers, and even well-wishing-supporters along the way.
3. Don’t just ask people for their opinions.
If you are part of a team that’s bigger than you it’s important to get feedback. Critical and objective feedback. The kind of feedback that takes time to prepare in advance. Just shotgunning a meeting and asking people on the spot about their experiences creates awkward social interactions, non-honesty, and feedback that’s not filtered as clearly as it could be. Give your people a heads up and give them specific items to bring to the table - play to your team's strengths! Everyone that’s sitting at your meeting table is a rockstar and will add value to the coming year’s plan if you create an environment for them to be successful. If you are a solopreneur you should set separate chunks of time to tackle specific issues. Trying to do it all in one sitting is a recipe for missed opportunity and will leave you mired in “should haves” and “could haves.”
4. Your annual plan should have things that people not only can do but will continue to do in the following weeks.
Annual plans are like New Year’s Resolutions in that if you don’t make them well you won’t follow them after the 10th or so of January. Focus on changing behavior and worry about the attitude or mindset later. So piggybacking off of an earlier point create actions that your team or you can work into your schedule every day that is not just extra work! Extra work gets left behind for what people perceive is more important and no one wants to try to operate by a plan that they aren’t connected to on some level.
We are still in the pre-2017 window. If you’re still batting around the idea of an annual plan make your way through these steps and get all your stakeholders on board. It will make for a more meaningful plan and one that you get to review in its entirety come 2017.