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2018 is in full swing, and it’s the perfect time to review your business and develop your plan for the year. Planning ahead doesn’t just offer peace of mind, it helps you repeat successes, eliminate wasted effort, and avoid the operational pitfalls of the previous year.

Each business is unique in its strategy, so in this post, we’ll share a few business planning tips that apply to any brand.

1. Review the past year

One of the best ways to plan for your business’s future is by understanding its performance in the past.

Take a few hours to look at all the work your business produced in the past year. Start with key metrics that apply to your product or service, whether they’re sign-ups or sales. How did your business perform? Make note of the events, conditions, and decisions that lead to successful months.

Next, analyze your processes. This could include client onboarding, project management, internship programs, even your marketing efforts. Separate the elements that work well and improve on any bottlenecks or inefficiencies.

After seeing your results in the past year, you can begin to set goals to improve on them.


2. Implement SMART goals

Setting a goal isn’t enough, which is why the SMART mnemonic was created. SMART stands for:

Specific – Steer clear of general goals that are too vague, like increase revenue. The more specific, the more you can focus on that goal.

Measurable – how can you know if you’re close to your goal if you can’t measure it? Don’t just say “increase client satisfaction”, how will you measure a client’s happiness? Positive reviews are one example of something you can measure.

Achievable – All business owners would like to triple their profit or win a prestigious award, but it’s often best to focus on the smaller more attainable wins. 100% growth sounds great, but 20% is just as good and actually seems possible.

Realistic – Similarly, make sure your expectations are grounded in reality. There are a lot of things that can influence a business strategy, from national politics to financial considerations. Don’t forget all the external factors that your business has no control over.

Time-based – When you set a deadline or an end date for a project, everyone has an understanding of when to have something completed by. This makes everything far more efficient and reviewable. Make sure all tasks have deadlines, and all projects have a final due date.


3. Ask for input from your team and your customers

You don’t have to figure all this out on your own. In fact, it’s best to get some feedback from your team and from the end users of your business. Team members can provide insight from the ground level into operational or management concerns, while your customers can give you important information on consumer behavior.

When you give team members the opportunity to speak their mind, not only can you improve the process, but you’ll notice greater motivation, task ownership, and responsibility. Involving your customers helps you understand how you can better


4. Keep your social media profiles up to date

Look through your business profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other relevant channels. It’s easy to take these for granted, but these profiles are usually the first thing that customers check.

Make sure they’re not just set up, but that they’re active and speak to your brand’s personality. Although a post a week might be enough to remind your audience that you exist, a post a day yields the best engagement. You may just sway a customer on the fence about buying your next product.


5. Revisit your finances

The number one thing on business owners’ minds: the bottom line. Take time to review your company’s balance sheet. Are your clients paying you on time? Are you spending on unnecessary tools, services, or initiatives? Does your business’s pricing model need to be updated? Perhaps you need to sit down to sort out your business’s taxes with an accountant.

Not everyone enjoys it, but resolving your financial concerns and setting goals for the year will lift a huge weight off your shoulder, and give you a better understanding of how to manage your business more effectively.


Your Business Plan for 2018

These are just a few tips to get you started, but your business will likely have more specific considerations. But the most important thing you can do as a business owner is to plan ahead of time. Now is the best opportunity to review your past performance, and take the necessary steps to repeat your successes and avoid bottlenecks this year.

What’s the difference between a business model and a business plan? Find out in our blog post here.

Follow the Novel Blog throughout the year to receive more advice on business leadership and entrepreneurship.