Annual Business Planning Checklist

Annual Business Planning Checklist

Annual business planning is one of the most important things that a business owner or CEO must do. It sets the strategy, the goals and determines the tactics for the following year.

Of course, there is a lot to consider in terms of where your business has been and where you are headed. It’s important to be organized and stay focused because how you plan often sets the tone for your business. Here are 7 key steps for an efficient planning process.

1. Review your Mission and Vision Statements.

Are both still applicable? Are they in sync? Are you still passionate about both? It’s a good time to review them, if you aren’t already doing so regularly. Make sure both still provide the overarching reasons that your business exists.

If either one of these has changed, consider them seriously and update as necessary (ensuring appropriate buy-in from you team). Ensure that you feel 100% about your mission and vision before you begin anything else.

2. Determine the Revenue Goal.

Your top-line revenue goal should be high-level and where you see the business going for the year. It’s also strategic. For example, consider the market, the current state of the business and your personal goals. Do you believe that you should grow your revenue by 5%, 15% or even 50%? Or do you believe that revenues will be flat given the current market conditions and/or your desire to focus on profitability over growth.

All are reasonable decisions, but each one will dictate different planning decisions. For instance, how many people do you need to hire, what infrastructure investments need to be made, and how scalable are your support systems? You can start to visualize this plan at a very high level by creating an expected and ideal business model as shown here:

Now it’s time to start to think through if the ideal business model is attainable next year or if next year should be an interim step towards this future goal.

3. Review and Update Your Organizational Chart.

First, review your current organizational chart, identifying current and future gaps and needs. Make notes of new positions needed to attain your revenue projections or other organization needs. Make any updates to the roles and responsibilities for current positions.

It’s possible to have employees with more than one role. But, consider if it would be beneficial for more than one person to cover those responsibilities. Move people and roles around as needed until you come to a structure that feels right. At this point, you should have a sense of the number of people you will need to execute on your plan (note for many businesses this will likely only be necessary to the department head level).

4. Budgeting and Financial Planning.

This is where your Excel skills (or maybe someone the Excel skills of someone you trust) come into play. The goal is to put all this information into numbers. Build in your key assumptions to generate the revenue you are planning. Add in the expenses needed to support this. Look at your current YTD numbers and go through it line-by-line.

Think about hiring and how much people are going to cost. Look at things from both a top down and bottoms up standpoint. Ask yourself if your top-line goal is reasonable based on initial calculations. See if your bottom-line is also reasonable and where adjustments need to be made. Go back and forth. Ideally, your budget guru will be able to model this through your balance sheet and cash flow forecast, in addition to the income statement, to ensure that cash needs are being considered.

5. Create a Sales Plan and Quotas.

Once you have established you plan and budget, there is typically one final check. Is the plan reasonable from a sales standpoint? Are bookings goals and quotas reasonable based on people and territory? What does your pipeline need to be? How about your close ratio? How does that compare to this year? The sales plan and quota assessment are the final pieces for most companies before you can feel that the overall plan is realistic.

6. Get Management Team Buy In.

Once your executive team has bought into your plan for the coming year (we’re assuming they have been a part of the steps above), make sure you share it with your key managers. Allow the opportunity for questions and tweaks. Generally, though, it’s not productive to allow discussions and changes on everything. Listen, assess their feedback, and tweak as necessary. Then it is time to share with all employees.

This is a chance to get everyone excited about the next year and ensure that you are all moving in the right direction. Your business should function as a team where everyone does their job to the best of their ability. With the right plan and the right team in place, you have a much greater chance of reaching the goals you’ve set for the business.

7. Create Departmental Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

It’s time to figure out what you’re going to hold each department in your business accountable for. KPIs start at the top with the executives and then are established for each department. If it makes sense for your business, your department heads can establish KPIs with those who report to them as well. Generally, there should be 3-5 KPIs per department.

These KPIs are not necessarily financial either. But they should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). For example, your Human Resources KPI might be your employee retention is greater than 85%. Most importantly, this is not a to-do list of every project for the department in the coming year. Your KPIs are the key things that you think will allow the business to succeed in the coming year.

A few other reminders specifically for calendar year end planning:

  • Think personal tax planning. Planning tactics will differ based on each individual tax situation, business entity type, state of residence, etc., but there are few general tactics to remember including: Consider funding retirement accounts, ensuring all flex spending plans have been fully utilized, making any state /local tax payments in December, ensuring federal tax payments are made by January 15th, accelerating expenses or deferring revenue.
  • If your company is funding your personal tax payments, ensure that there is cash on hand to fund these distributions and you make these with time to meet the estimated tax deadlines.
  • Consider and plan for year-end bonuses for key employees.
  • Prepare to issue 1099s in January. The filing requirement is quick so ensuring you have everything on file and compiled is important.
  • Remember to forecast and monitor cash flow closely during the few months around year end. Typically, there are some seasonal spikes and dips at this time for many companies. And often new expenses are incurred during the beginning of the year. Plan for and monitor this extra closely via a detailed 13-week cash flow forecast.
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