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Your Annual Plan: Simple Steps to Crush Your Goals in 2019

I can’t force you to do it. However, I can assure you that of the 200+ companies that I’ve worked with, the ones who do nearly always get great results. I’m talking about documented annual planning.

It’s really not that hard. If you want to break it down into a sentence, it’s just a roadmap – your vision and mission, your values, the critical focus areas, the major initiatives or projects and the key performance indicators – for achieving your goals in the year ahead.

Easy, right? You could do it in five minutes and fit it all on one page. At the time of this writing, we at Spiral Marketing are approaching our 2018 objective of doubling in size, both in terms of revenue and number of team members. Candidly, if we were better at involving the team with quarterly accountability, we would have crushed our goal. It’s just one document. You can do it.

Ask yourself the following: “What was your goal last year?” “Did you hit your target?” “How close did you get?” Write down your answers.

OK, now what is your goal for this upcoming year? If you don’t know, then it might help to compare where you were last year and how rapidly you want to grow. This is usually revenue-based, but it doesn’t have to be. A lot of writers and inspirational speakers like to tout 10x growth. That’s great, but venture capitalists would consider that unicorn-level expansion.

If you started as a $100,000 company, that kind of growth would give you $1 billion in revenue within five years. Maybe you are the next Instagram, but you can’t count on that trajectory. Even 2x-3x growth is considered a pretty rapid clip. On the other end of the spectrum, 10% growth is seen as somewhat anemic for most startups. So you might be somewhere in between, depending on your level of risk tolerance and strategic vision. Did you write that down yet? I hope so, because it’s a good segue.

Now, to the “guts” of your annual plan – that is, who you are as an organization. I like to start with defining your vision. If you run a business, then you have one, whether you think so or not. It’s literally how you want to improve the world with what you’re building. It’s the basis for how your customers and employees, partners and audience members feel about about you, so it’s absolutely critical. It’s also worth noting that you can always adjust it and improve your direction; this is a big part of being a leader. Again, document it.

The next is your mission. A lot of times people think this is the same thing as vision, but the two are actually distinct. Whereas your vision is how your business will improve the world, the mission is how you will serve it. Consider, how will you serve your customers in a way that is unique to your own brand and company culture.

Now it’s time to articulate your values. I’ll admit it, I’ve skipped the writing of this section in some years. I wish I hadn’t. It sets the tone for your organization and helps guide the work that you and your team perform. Your values are truly the soul of your enterprise.

Also write down your critical focus areas. These are the categories that you know you’ll need to focus on in order to achieve your goals. For me, these often look like departments – whether it be management, creative production, leadership, sales, etc. – that you see as vital to your growth going forward. Your focus areas might end up looking different after you finish the other sections, and that’s fine.

The major initiatives are the big projects that you’ll have to accomplish in order to successfully meet your goals. A few common ones that I see: a new website, a re-organized department, better process documentation, a blog, a podcast, new software or new service. You get the picture. These are the projects that drive efficiency or help you capture market share. I find that highlighting between four and six examples is enough to make a big impact, without becoming unwieldy.

Lastly, identify the key performance indicators that will help you measure the success – or lack thereof – of your big undertakings. For example, if your critical focus area is sales and your key initiative is hiring more sales reps, you might expect ten more sales per week. Without a tangible way to gauge your progress, you’ll never know if you’re making any.

If all this sounds simple, it is. And yet, the mere act of reaffirming your identity and what you want to accomplish in the year ahead can be incredibly powerful. Instead of making decisions in the moment, you’ll be able to synchronize your actions across the organization and work toward a common goal. Not a bad way to start 2019. Cheers!

p.s. want to get our template and even more free help in writing your strategic plan? Great, find that here.

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