Think Business — Preparing for a Winning Season By Mark Richardson

Have you and your team prepared a winning game plan for this year?

We have a tradition in our society to make the passage from one year to the next as an event. It may come in the form of a big New Year’s party or just some personal transitions with our friends or family. Some also look at it as an opportunity to take inventory of the previous year and make resolutions (or dust off old ones) for the New Year. Many have pretty strong feelings about even believing in New Year’s resolutions or not.

In business, the third and fourth quarter of the previous year can/should be a time for serious planning. This planning involves looking at financial results of that year and beginning to make and test new forecasts and budgets for the upcoming year.

While many businesses may look and feel similar (in terms of product, processes and people) the methodology they go through in planning, preparing and launching the New Year greatly differs.

Timing is Everything

There are many analogies and metaphors that could be used to better learn in this process (since most growers do not go to “Planning School”). We could use baseball’s draft as the planning process, baseball’s spring training season as the preparation process and opening day as the kick off to the New Year.

We could also look at planning a big birthday party, which would include thinking about a party theme and party date or time of year, then determining the right compatible guests followed up by the invitations for the details and plan for the party. Then the party itself is the launch. What we know from these experiences are a few simple things … 1) Having a vision/direction matters 2) Preparing properly pays off 3) On game day make it successful.

As you have launched your year, how have you felt about this process? Have you invested time and energy planning for 2017 properly? Have you put a plan in writing (like a blueprint for an expansion project)? Have you gotten alignment and buy-in on the 2017 plan and budget from all the key team members? Did you acknowledge and celebrate 2016 before kicking off 2017 properly?

The businesses that achieve consistent sustainable results over the years (that most owners strive for) have “Yes” for these answers. They also have begun working on this process early and invested the right amount of time discussing and thinking through the New Year.

While levels of risk or aggressiveness to each business plan for the New Year may vary, they have included risk, opportunities and threats into the planning process. They also have a fresh but consistent way they look and present these ideas to the team so everyone is excited and aligned on “Opening Day.”

Give Your Plan a Checkup

The following is a simple checklist and some questions to ask yourself to see how you did in this planning process (and what might still be required).

  1. Did you take a deep inventory of 2016 (good/ bad/ugly) drilling into both objective metrics and subjective perspectives?
  2. Were your 2016 predictions versus actual accurate (within 5 to 10 percent)?
  3. Did you involve all the key team members and influencers in the planning process?
  4. Did you look at outside key economic indicators (labor situation, housing market, interest rates, stock market, etc.) in making your plan for 2017?
  5. Is your plan “aggressive but realistic” (or how would everyone on the team articulate it?)?
  6. Are all of your key team players aligned with (and do they understand) the vision and direction?
  7. Is your plan in writing (a few pages)?
  8. Have you shared this plan and vision with strategic alliances and other professional relationships for reaction and feedback?
  9. Do you have a monitoring process in place to review and adjust the plan throughout the New Year?
  10. Did you kick off the year by celebrating 2016 and communicating and motivating everyone for 2017?

If you answered “yes” to all of these, then you are in the top 5 percent of businesses. If there are very few yes answers, then you are approaching your business like going to Las Vegas and rolling the dice and praying for a positive result.

If you are missing a yes or two, then you can always go back and fill and work on these (just like a coach calling time out and getting the team to regroup and realign).

There is very little downside to having a planning process or a game plan as you improve and grow your business — and it’s never too late to start planning for the future.

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson is an author, columnist and business growth strategist. He authored the best- selling book, “How Fit is Your Business,” as well as his latest book, “Fit to Grow.” Both books are available at

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