While we’re several months away from the deluge of articles and general business obsession over 2017 goals, plans and strategy, now is the ideal time to determine your first quarter goals and plans.
I always cringe when an entrepreneur begins asking about a product launch for January in January, or thinks about running a big webinar this week because the best executed business strategies take time to develop, workshop, adapt and implement. Here are some easy ways to begin your 2017 strategy planning right now.
1. Set Aside Time
Most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t take time to plan ahead because they’re caught up in the day-to-day work of business from serving clients and marketing to handling refunds and paying invoices. Carve out some time, from an afternoon to a full weekend, to consider where you business needs to go over the 12 months of next year. It’s essential that you get out of your office for this planning time so emails, customers and inventory don’t distract from your goal.
System suggestion: Make it fun by taking a notebook to the coffee shop for a brainstorming session or booking a hotel for a short “staycation” away from daily chores and obligations.
2. Engage Your Team
Talk to team members about what they would like to see change, grow or evolve next year and you might be surprised what you learn. This is a great time to ask where employees see themselves growing in the future. Allocate their time and your resources accordingly and be open and ready to hear honest feedback about strengths and weaknesses. After all, you don’t want to embark on that new, big project blind to the problems simmering just out of view.
System suggestion: Strengthen your foundation before building the next level of the business, including your team. Be sure you know who you’ll have on your team and their skills before embarking and take the time to retrain, hire or fire before making big moves.
3. Consult the Calendar
Too many business owners fall into predictable habits of doing the same thing year after year so if you’re going to take on 2017 stronger and wiser than before, consider what you should do differently. Simply flipping through the calendar can help you recall the holiday promotions you should have prepared for earlier, the conferences you might want to book as an attendee or sponsor, the holiday parties you want to host (or skip next year) plus so many more opportunities and ideas.
For example, a client of mine was obsessed with the idea of launching a new podcast but would get hung up on the details of intro music, graphics and distribution. As a result, the project stagnated and each time a topic in the business realm hit national news media there was frustration with the reminder that this important project had not moved forward.
Systems suggestion: In the beginning of your planning don’t throw out any ideas that seem too far fetched due to budget, resources or time. Keeping these possibilities on the table will allow you to consider how to make something work if it’s important enough.
4. Consider What’s Feasible
Most entrepreneurs have too many ideas and too little time for implementation. After brainstorming what you want to do in 2017, reconsider the list with your budget, team and priorities in mind before developing a plan.
This is the hardest part of planning for any business, agency, charity or government entity so there are a few things to remember as you prioritize all the projects and ideas you want to bring to life. First, utilize the whole 12 months of 2017; not every project needs to begin in January and not every goal will take the full year to complete. If it helps, think in terms of quarterly projects.
Second, you might need to sacrifice quantity for quality. Instead of running a monthly promotion with a paltry budget, it may be more worthwhile to host a huge “Christmas in July” sale and save up your advertising budget for six months. Instead of hiring three part-time employees for the expanded services you want to offer, it may be better to bring on one, full time and completely awesome employee who charges more per hour but gives a great customer experience.
No matter what goals end up on your 2017 list after you’ve made your plan for the coming year, give it a few weeks to settle in and allow yourself to make edits as needed. Then, share the plan with your team and take on the New Year strong!