How to Plan Ahead
By Richard Parkin
If you haven’t fully mapped out the future of your business, you don’t have a plan – just a rough idea about what you want to happen. Any successful entrepreneur can tell you that will practically never pay off.
While you may be able to get from A to B without consulting a map, you can’t scale a business from startup to success without a realistic, thought-out plan about where you’re heading.
That said, creating an effective future plan can be somewhat unintuitive. Most people plan their initial steps first, letting their plan unfold step by step. To create a successful plan for your business, you need to start from the opposite end. Here’s how to plan the next steps, whatever industry you’re in:
Where Do You See Your Business in Ten Years?
10 years from now, your business should look very different, whether you plan to scale dramatically, introduce new products and services, or refine your current operational capacity.
You need to explicitly lay out a ten-year goal for your business as an early step for your future planning, to later be broken down into smaller, more practical sections.
This goal should be aspirational yet realistic, a target that represents an achievement but isn’t near-impossible to achieve. By establishing a real goal, your 10-year plan can become an effective driver for your business, rather than just another piece of background information.
Once you’ve established your 10-year goal, start thinking about the specific steps you need to take in order to reach the goal. Break these down, and create a slightly closer goal – typically either a 5-year or 3-year plan for future development.
Again, this should be a realistic but achievable goal for the time period. While you shouldn’t be able to accomplish all of your 10-year goals in the shorter timeframe, you should be able to take measurable steps to approach them.
Understanding the Next 12 Months
After you’ve created your far-future goals and plans, you need to start thinking about the next 12 months. While it may be hard to be realistic about business expectations 5 years down the line, the next 12 months should be far more anticipatable.
As such, your planning should be far more detailed, focusing more on the steps you and your team need to take than on your overall targets.
What needs to be done to hit every target? If you plan to increase your revenue by a certain percentage, which parts of your operation do you need to improve? If you’re aiming to launch a new product by the end of the year, what needs to be done, and who is responsible for each step?
Detailed Quarterly Planning
When you establish your annual goals and targets, you should consider when in the year you’ll be able to achieve each goal. If certain goals require other steps to be finished first, they’ll obviously need to be scheduled for later quarters.
Set accomplishable tasks for everyone in your team, breaking the goals down into set steps for each quarter. If you run regular meetings, you should set aside time to discuss everyone’s individual goals. Don’t just set everything aside for later – ensure that you’re getting updates and can respond to any questions that your team members ask.
Giving your team members individual, clear goals that they’re responsible for doesn’t just make your overall goals more reachable. It helps your team feel more actualized, that they’re working towards real achievements, instead of just working in the dark.