Plan for Next Year to Minimize Business Uncertainty

Plan for Next Year to Minimize Business Uncertainty

We’re coming to year-end, and the last 2 years have been full of uncertainty and company stress. I know there’s plenty of growth opportunity coming next year, but I’m not sure how to attack it full steam. Where I should focus my company’s efforts to maximize opportunities? What can we do to help the company succeed so that we feel a little less uncertain next year? How do we plan for next year?

Thoughts of the Day: Things are looking up across the country. Small businesses worked hard to get through the ups and downs and uncertainties of the last two years. There are more deals, and more opportunities coming down the pipe. Make sure your sales team is the best it can be and gets the resources and training they need. Keep a careful watch on the purse strings, cash and profit are kings to ensure the company’s growth and safety next year. Be sure to invest in strong marketing, build a plan for marketing and execute it to the best of your ability. Be sure to deliver top quality to your customers and keep the good customers by your side. Take care of your good employees, and reward employee performance. Review your staff and decide who stays, who goes, and who needs the training to level them up.

Most of the business owners we talk to are cautiously optimistic about next year.

Caution continues because the last few years have been up and down. That kind of uncertainty across the board can be frustrating, but don’t assume that it is a pattern that will continue. Frustration over the economic uncertainty drove many business owners to rethink how to get their businesses back on track. Actions taken last year are starting to show fruit. The momentum is picking up, especially for those companies that have retooled and refocused their efforts.

Make sure your company isn’t left behind, there’s a lot of competition out there.

Weeding out lackluster customers should be a priority, even though it probably feels weird to get rid of customers when things still feel so uncertain. The problem with bad customers is that while the revenue coming in can look good initially, they tend to be less profitable over time. Don’t waste energy on customers that waste time, remember that time is money. Focus on adding more of the right customers in order to drive growth and profit. Pay attend to cleaning up financials in order to deliver a stronger bottom line for your company. Review your personnel and plan for any changes. Be sure to keep the best and most committed employees, and figure out how to maneuver bad employees out. Create training paths for middle-grade employees to better assess if they can be key team players. The key is actively working on productivity improvements and waste reductions.

Plan for next year by shifting into the next gear. Start with your sales force. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Are the goals clear, with everyone buying in, committed to delivering?
  • Do I have enough of the right people calling on the best targets?
  • Do customers get what they need?
  • Are my referral sources strong enough to help me get additional business?
Focus on building the strongest sales organization possible.

As you build up sales, make sure you hold onto the purse strings. Set up reports to tell you what’s going on financially. Build a budget that channels profits into getting more growth. Consider using profits to buy market share. Put money into reserves so that you can self-fund, rather than having to borrow; that way you’ll have choices.

Take a look at how well your company tells its story. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Are we innovating to serve the needs of our best customers?
  • Do our sales tools help us get deals?
  • Are we taking advantage of what we’re good at, expanding on that?
  • Where else should we be telling our story – what is our story?
  • Is the phone ringing, are leads coming in through online channels? Social Media? Are we tracking this?
This is the year of competition. Someone will meet the slowly expanding needs of buyers.

Plan for next year. Make sure your company is in line to get more than its fair share of opportunity. Any products or services that aren’t making you proud? Now is the time to finish them off. Sell them to someone else, or shut them down. Channel energy into your company’s future. Your best customers will likely be more demanding. Marry quality with great customer service to protect and build your margins. Use customer service as a vehicle to gather intel on what else customers want, so you can get a head start on creating exactly that. Look for opportunities to increase prices as competitors with less depth, focus and ability fall away.

Employees are also looking for improvements.

Use a portion of the profits to reward behaviors that are likely to help the company grow and become even more profitable. Not sure how to do that? Get help. Figure out who are your keepers, but don’t be afraid of change. As the economy turns up, employees will get other offers. Make sure jobs are documented, and build a Rolodex of candidates for key positions, just in case. Reward initiative and results by moving people up. Bring in new blood at the bottom of the pyramid. Encourage change.

By all means, have a written plan. Know where you’re going. Keep focus by working on the plan. Be patiently demanding. Measure progress and make corrections regularly as needed.

Looking for a good book? The Right-Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success by Jennifer Less, Kate Prentiss, Chris Guillebeau.