2018 Is Here: Tackling Your Company’s Annual Plan

It’s the end of January, and if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to organize yourself for the year ahead!

Putting your company’s annual plan in place early is key to getting set up for a successful year. The best marketing and sales strategy is developed in direct support of the annual plan – ensuring that everyone is working in concert to reach those key strategic goals you’ve set for your business.

Ready to get started? We’ve outlined a simple yet effective process for preparing an annual plan – one that we’ve participated in as marketing executives for many of our clients through over the years.

We advise any business, no matter how large or small, to dedicate time to developing your strategic plan. Why? It sets your company up with a clear path for the new year and provides actionable objectives and steps to help you get there. Let’s walk through the process.

Dig Deep: Identify The 3-5 Most Important Things To Do for Your Business

CEOs – this first step is all on your shoulders. Jim Heaton, executive coach and Vistage Chair, says: “As a CEO, it’s important to carve out the time to reflect on your past year in business and those areas that are priorities for growth or change in the coming year. Having worked with many CEOs over the years, the most successful leaders I’ve seen are those that remain tuned in to the opportunities and challenges in their organizations at any given time—and are able to guide the C-Suite in taking advantage of both to the ultimate benefit of the company. Annual planning is the time to set the tone for a productive and successful year, organization-wide.”

With that in mind, Jim recommends asking yourself this question as the company leader:

What are the 3-5 most important things (MITs) I need to do this year so that my business will be more valuable in December than it was on January 1st?

This will take some thought, and likely a look at the current achievements and unfulfilled KPIs to help identify your most important goals. The 3-5 MITs that you identify should be larger ideas that you’ll then share with the rest of the C-Suite for more brainstorming before arriving at a consensus about your priorities for the year.

Do you need to expand sales into a new market or territory? Is your goal to introduce a new product to the market? Do you need to improve operations in a specific area? Reduce costs or increase prices to keep margins healthy? Do you have the right expertise in each critical business area?

Answering the MIT question is the first step in identifying the 3-5 strategic goals for the new year to help grow the business.

C-Suite Pow-Wow: Hold a Kickoff Session to Develop Your Annual Plan

Once you have some preliminary ideas in mind to share with your team, pull the C-Suite together for a working half-day or full-day session to kick off your annual business planning process and fine tune your top MITs for the year.Group of business people standing around a whiteboard reviewing tactics for their annual plan.

Keep in mind that this won’t be the only planning meeting, it’s just the first in a series of discussions and check-ins involved in developing a detailed annual plan that will take you through the entire year.

We recently worked with one of our clients through this annual business planning process. Let’s dig into the logistics of what this working meeting looked like (and might look like for your company).

With this particular client, we participated in a half-day session led by the CEO coach, with the CEO and company executives from operations, sales, and marketing. They also pulled in one of the CEO’s trusted business advisors to serve as an acting board member in providing more objective feedback.

A Year in Review: 2017 Metrics

1. 2017 MITs: As with most things in business, we can’t understand where we are and where we’re headed without looking backwards first. So, we started by reviewing the business objectives from 2017. This is meant to be a congratulatory moment, and for our client it certainly was: they checked off their completed objectives, patted themselves on the back, and celebrated their successes.

On top of that, we also reviewed the company’s other accomplishments over the course of the year. This included the important milestones they achieved that fell outside of their actual written goals (from clients gained to employees hired, and everything in between).

2. Past Finances: Up next, we reviewed financial data from past years. Most of the numbers we looked at can be found on a typical Annual Income Statement. In this case, we also did a 5-year review of sales revenue and growth including:

  1. Sales/revenue
  2. Sales growth
  3. Cost of goods sold (COGS)

We examined financial breakouts by market to look at performance and trends. Finally, we addressed areas of concern: Why was there a dip in growth here? What explains the increase in revenue there?

3. KPI Assessment: The last items to review are the key performance indicators (KPIs) used to measure progress toward a specific goal. These metrics from marketing, sales, and operations might include things like: customer response time, sales calls vs. sales lost and closed, and any operations KPIs from the past year. None of these metrics should come as a surprise if you’ve been holding monthly executive team meetings to review progress, and quarterly meetings reviewing the previous months. If you don’t hold monthly meetings to assess progress against the yearly strategic plan, make 2018 the year to start this best practice for your company.

Looking Ahead: Fine-Tuning Annual MITs

This is the time for the C-Suite to fine tune the top MITs for the company. While the CEO should come into the meeting with some preliminary ideas, this is a collaborative process that should be based on input from all divisions. As a group, lay out your ideas, then narrow them down and discuss and fine-tune each MIT. You might find that with team input, you eliminate one of the proposed MITs, or even add two more after suggestions from divisions like marketing and operations.

Then comes the nitty gritty: Once the MITs are finalized, each one is assigned to an owner from among the C-Suite team. Then, the CMO, COO, or other executive is responsible for making sure that particular MIT is accomplished and stays on track throughout the course of the year.

Let’s break it down with the following example:

Annual Business MIT 1: Develop a new product to grow market share in an existing market.

This MIT is assigned to the CMO, who is in charge of developing a budget and plan for bringing the goal to fruition. Ultimately, to achieve the MIT, the marketing executive will have to coordinate with:

  • Product Development to prepare the market research and launch plans.
  • Sales to train the team and make sure they’re knowledgeable about the product. The VP of Sales will need to update the commission structure to incentivize sales of the new product.
  • Operations to ensure that they can source the product, bring it in-house, perform any required value-adds, stock the items, and ship them out.
  • Customer Support to train staff so that they can adequately support the product (answer customer questions and resolve complaints).

It may sound like a lot, but much of this process gets done after the initial kickoff session—keep reading for next steps.

It’s All in the Details: Finalizing Your Annual Plan

When all is said and done, each executive should have one to two MITs for the year. It’s now up to every executive to go back and work with their team to break out the action items and assign them to their respective owners. After every item has an owner, the plan should go smoothly – as long as it’s adequately monitored and nurtured throughout the year. The annual plan will be finalized after several follow-up meetings with the C-Suite to nail down assignments, budget, and all the other details.

A well-developed annual business plan can have a profound effect on your success as a company in the next 12 months. While strategic planning is an ongoing process, if you work together effectively and make any needed adjustments as you go, you’ll be checking off successful MITs once again at year’s end!

Strategic Planning from a CEO’s Perspective

Kristin Elliot, CEO of Precision Measurement Engineering, Inc., attests to the value of strategic planning: “I'm now more effectively looking at how my decisions should promote company health and growth, and understanding at a new level how properly preparing for future events will provide the company with the highest return.” Advanced preparation can truly be the key to business growth.

Need some help getting your annual business plan in place? Your business coach can expertly guide you through the process. If you don’t have a business coach, we know some great ones! Let us know if you’d like an introduction.

Already have a strategic plan but need the senior marketing guidance to see it to fruition? Our complimentary strategy session is the perfect next step! Schedule a consultation with one of our CMOs today.