Over the past 28 years, we have worked strategically with hundreds of businesses across a wide variety of industries to help companies develop and implement their strategic plan. This unique opportunity has allowed us to experience first-hand the differences between companies who are average and those who are super successful. In this article we are going to share these observations and insights to help you head into this new year ready to achieve a greater level of business success.
Making Excuses Is Expensive
One of the biggest differences between those companies achieving average business success and those businesses who are continuously super successful is that the top performing businesses have established a routine or rhythm of doing the things necessary to drive their growth. The businesses who seem to struggle are more apt to simply make excuses.
Some of the excuses we hear from average performing company leaders include:
- They do not have time to create a plan for success.
- They do not know exactly what to include in their success plan.
- They do not know how to make their plan actionable.
This may seem somewhat blunt, but when we hear excuses like these for not creating an actionable plan for success in the new year, we know immediately that the organization is going to continue to struggle. If you do not create an organized plan, the odds of you achieving anything greater than average decreases dramatically.
Your Annual Planning Roadmap
In our recent blog post, “Annual Planning Roadmap – Your Guide to Greater Success“, we detailed our steps for successful annual planning. If you are not sure how to do annual planning or if you want to conduct more successful annual strategic planning, be sure to review this article.
Here is a summary of the key annual planning elements detailed in our previous article:
- Marketplace Insights & Clarity – Do you understand your market as well as any changes or shifts occurring within it?
- Clarity of Your Positioning – How do you compare to your competitors, and are you creating and communicating your true differentiation factors to your audience?
- Core Strengths Identification – What are you able to do that is truly better than others in your market, and are you effectively leveraging these strengths to achieve a competitive advantage?
- Strategic Decluttering – Do you have clarity on your specific goals and the strategies necessary to achieve them?
- Team Alignment – Is your team connected to, excited by, and engaged in your vision? Do your team’s individual success metrics align with your goals?
- Executable Key Success Measures – Do you know precisely what you need to measure to achieve your goals, and have you implemented the right performance intelligence systems to track your success?
The Results You Will Enjoy
Those companies who follow these steps enjoy many advantages and even a vast competitive advantage over those companies who do not. Some of these many benefits include:
- The ability to complete more impactful strategic projects which move the company forward.
- The ability to say no to new initiatives which may clutter their focus and take them off track.
- The ability to create a more aligned and connected team that performs at a far higher level.
- The ability to grow sales faster and enjoy a higher profit margin.
Preparing & Implementing for Success in 2023
Let’s take a step back and take a look at the characteristics and the routines followed by those companies who achieve amazing results.
They Establish a Success Discipline and Rhythm
Preparing and implementing for your annual business success is not something that just happens. You must dedicate time specifically for this by scheduling strategic time spaces. These spaces must allow enough time for understanding the available information, asking critical questions, introspective thinking, stakeholder collaboration, and truly fresh thinking.
Many companies scheduled these spaces at the beginning of each year to ensure that nothing can get in the way of them taking this time. They are not optional and cannot be cancelled. This attention to rhythm and discipline assures that this critical strategic preparation and implementation are given the full attention that they deserve.
A sample annual strategic rhythm may look something like this:
- Monthly exec team meetings to review performance and plan
- A half or full day each month
- Quarterly exec team offsite meetings to take a deeper dive
- One or two full days each quarter
- Fall annual planning offsite with research, evaluation & planning
- 2 full days each year
Companies who do not have a plan often make the excuse that a rhythm like this would take way too much time. But highly successful companies who implement this type of rhythm and discipline and would all agree that without this time, there is no possible way to excel and achieve their lofty goals.
They Collect the Data Needed for Intelligent Insights
Highly successful companies do not rely on their feelings or individual bias for the development of their plan. They collect the necessary information for objective review and to determine the facts more accurately. As a matter of fact, it is far more beneficial to hope that you are surprised by the data than to assume that you already know everything. Each surprise you encounter teaches you something that you did not know. This makes you and your plan better and more competitive.
Some data that you may want to gather as part of your annual planning process could include:
- Team Insights
- Your team member happiness, engagement, and dedication score.
- Areas in which your team feels you excel.
- Areas in which your team feels you need to improve.
- Your team’s perception of your marketplace unique selling proposition.
- Client Insights
- Your clients’ overall satisfaction score.
- Areas in which your clients feel you excel.
- Areas in which your clients feel you need to improve.
- Your clients’ perception of your marketplace positioning.
- Organizational Insights
- What are your sales closing rates by marketing channel?
- What is your marketing ROI by marketing channel?
- What products or services generate your best and worst profit margin?
- What factors may impact your sales or margins in the coming year?
- Competitive Insights
- How does your website rank on search engines compared to competitors?
- How does your messaging compare to your competitors?
- How do your offerings and pricing models compare to your competitors?
- Market Insights
- Which of your products or services are growing in demand and which are declining?
- What words is the market using to search for your products and services?
- To what upcoming trends do you need to pay attention?
Every company is different with regard to what data might provide the critical insights for them to reach a greater level of success. As you practice your planning, you will continue to improve your knowledge of what critical data you need and the insights this approach will provide.
They Develop Their Plan
The first element of an effective success plan is setting specific goals. There is no right or wrong answer for how many years into the future that you should look when doing this. However, the fewest number of years forward that we have seen, as effective, is three years. Then, for each of the next three years, you should outline your key success measures. Some of these success measures might include:
- Annual Sales
- Profit Margin
- Client Retention Rates
- Sales By Product / Service Type
- Number of Team Members / Future Org Chart
The more specific and detailed your plan, the more successful you will be.
By using and understanding the right data and insights through an open-minded and curious review, you can create a plan with greater clarity and intention. When we work with our clients to help them develop their plan, we define the following key elements:
- Critical Areas of Focus
- These are the overarching areas to which we must pay attention over the next two to three years if we are going to succeed in achieving our business goals. We list these and then prioritize them in order of importance.
- Mission Strategies
- These are the consolidated areas of focus to which we must allocate attention and resources over the next two to three years that are most important to our business success.
- Annual Priorities
- These are the specific areas of focus beneath our defined mission strategies for which we must create initiatives in order to ensure our most critical areas of focus are being addressed.
- These are the specific projects or initiatives we are going to complete on a quarter by quarter basis that ensure we are successfully moving our company forward to meet our long-term business goals. Every SMART must contain its own unique and quantifiable success measure(s).
They Establish the Right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
When you have developed a plan using the approach outlined above, you should have the knowledge necessary to identify the key performance measures which you need to ensure your success.
This list of possible KPIs can get overwhelming quickly. You can drown yourself in a sea of data. Our advice is to go ahead and make a complete list of all the data that you would like to track. Then, take a step back and start to prioritize your list by what will move your success meter the most. A good goal is to have an initial list of 10 or fewer (less is better) key business indicators that you need to track, based on your defined business goals.
Let’s look at an example. If your #1 annual priority is new client acquisition, the most important KPIs for you to track would include:
- # of new qualified leads per month
- Your new qualified lead closing rate
It is just that simple. If you are achieving your monthly goals for these two KPIs, you will achieve your new client acquisition goal for the year. So, if these KPIs are on track, you do not need to measure anything else for this initiative. Keep it simple.
They Implement the Necessary Tracking Systems
One of the biggest challenges we see with our clients is that they do not have the systems in place to accurately measure their most critical KPIs. Here is a little secret. NO business has the systems in place to accurately measure their most critical KPIs until they clearly define these KPIs and set up necessary systems to measure them.
This makes perfect sense, right? How would a company possibly have the system to accurately measure KPIs without first defining what these are? The first step is defining the KPIs, then identifying and creating the right systems to create accurate measurement. It is important to avoid getting distracted by what your current systems can measure. These may or may not be your most important KPIs. You cannot improve what you don’t measure.
Let’s go back to our example above. If you need to measure your # of new qualified leads per month, here is what you need to accurately measure this:
- A clear definition of what a “qualified lead” means to your organization
- A CRM system that allows you to mark new leads as “qualified” when these criteria are met
- Team training to ensure that all qualified leads are marked properly in your system
- A way to accurately pull a report (often or maybe in real time) of the number of qualified leads for a given month
For each of your identified KPIs, you must create this type of system. Once in place, you can focus on achieving the results needed.
They Engage & Align Their Team
The most successful companies engage their entire team in their plan. They outline the specific goals and the most critical KPIs. They tie everyone’s role responsibilities and the company projects/initiatives to these goals. Everyone understands how what they do each and every day fits into the overall plan. Everyone understands the value they create, why this is important to the overall team’s success and the impact that this creates for themselves, their team and their clients.
Some companies will even tie profit sharing and other goal-based perks to an individual team member’s performance and the overall company’s success.
If your team understands the vision of the company and that their specific role is critical, the performance of the entire organization elevates.
They Measure, Review & Adjust Often
Let’s say that I had a personal goal to lose 10 pounds this year. At what frequency of weighing myself on the scale would you say that I would have greatest chance of success?
- 1X – once at the end of the year
- 4X – one time each quarter
- 12X – one time each month
- 365X – once a day
Of course, the more frequently something is measured, the greater the odds of success.
The most successful companies have the systems to measure their most critical KPIs often. These measures may even generate reports in real time. This information needs to be readily available and viewable by everyone who is able to contribute to your results. If you need X qualified leads in a month to be successful, the number of new qualified leads should be reviewed on a daily basis. If not, your odds of achieving your goal diminish greatly.
The quote “What gets measured gets managed” rings true. Once you have created an effective rhythm for measuring and reviewing your most critical KPIs, that next step is to manage these outcomes to achieve your defined goals.
Let’s go back to our lead generation example. If you set a goal of 19 new qualified leads per month and you conduct business Monday–Friday, there are about 23 business days in a month. This means that to achieve your goal, you need to generate .83 new qualified leads per day. If you are 4 days into the new month, you should already have 3+ new qualified leads. If not, this situation needs managed.
Some examples of ways to manage these results to improve your KPIs could be to:
- Spend more money on advertising
- Get your current marketing to convert at a higher level
- Create a more compelling sales offer
As you measure, review and adjust to achieve your defined KPIs, you will excel as an organization.
FAQs – Preparing & Implementing for Greater Business Success in 2023
How can I prepare for greater business success in 2023?
The most important first step is to carve out the time necessary to establish a cohesive, actionable business plan that identifies the strategic initiatives you believe will lead to your desired growth goals. If you don’t already build time for annual planning into your success rhythm, start by setting up a series of meetings with your exec team to work through the items we discussed above.
What are the 4 basic elements of business success?
There are four essential elements that must exist for your business to become – and remain – successful:
- Strategic focus – Your management team must put in the time necessary for establishing business goals, planning the initiatives necessary to achieve these goals, and analyzing the data that will let you know whether your efforts are achieving their desired outcome.
- People – Your team is one of your most critical components to your success. Your staff must not only possess the skillset necessary to deliver high quality work, but they must also be aligned with your company culture and values, and be invested in the long term success of your business.
- Operations – You must establish and document the processes necessary for your team to be successful in their role.
- Marketing – In order to grow your business, you need a steady influx of qualified leads for your sales team to close. Therefore, your marketing efforts are critical to the success of your business.
What are the 3 ways to prepare for the future of business?
The only thing we know for sure about the future of business is that it won’t look like the present. The only constant in the business world is change. Therefore, the best way to prepare for the future of business is to place your company in the best possible position to capitalize on this change. The following three steps will help ensure you’re prepared:
- Recognize the value of adaptability – Failure to adapt to changing trends in your industry will make it virtually impossible to remain a market leader. A culture of adaptability is critical to your ongoing success as your industry evolves.
- Identify potential disruptors – Work with your team to generate a list of potential changes that may disrupt your industry in the next few years. Identify which of these will have the greatest impact on your business and then monitor these disruptors carefully so that you can become one of the first businesses to address them as they occur.
- Prepare a change plan – Make sure your team is prepared for how to handle the disruptions that change your industry. To do this, you must first understand how this change is impacting your business and your industry. Then, you must provide your team with the tools necessary to address these disruptions head on.
How do you run an annual planning process?
As we discussed earlier, we outlined this in detail in our recent blog post on annual planning. We recommend that you review it for additional insight on how to get this process rolling. For tips on how to develop an annual marketing plan that will drive more qualified leads, read the companion post on our blog.
Start Preparing & Implementing Today
Believe it or not, you are probably spending more time spinning your wheels and dedicating your resources to things that are not going to move you forward than the time you will spend putting the elements of this approach into practice. Change can be hard. But, once you start and get into this rhythm, you will begin to gain clarity into what is important. You will begin to focus on the activities, KPIs, and actions that will allow you to grow your company faster, smarter and easier.
The more you do this work, the better you will become at it. You will begin to create systems. You will gain a clearer understanding of what creates the most impact. You will develop reports and structures that make this easier and easier. As you implement these systems, your knowledge and understanding of them will grow along with your company. The key is to start! If all you do is set some goals, do some competitive research, develop your KPIs and start tracking, reviewing and managing against these on a daily basis, you will see amazing results.
Webolutions is a full-spectrum management consulting and strategic growth implementation company. We help businesses across the country identify and effectively bring their unique stories to life, empowering them to scale faster, smarter, and easier.
Areas of expertise:
- Differentiating Brand Development
- Marketing & Communications Strategies
- Customer Journey Mapping & Execution
- Enterprise Website & Application Development
- Cross-Platform Data Systems Integration
- Organizational Development Strategies
- Team Alignment, Culture, & Performance Solutions
- Business Performance Intelligence Systems
A Special Offer
To speak with one of our experts about how you can implement these strategies for your company of at least $5 million in annual sales, call us at 303-300-2640 and request your Free 2023 Success Planning Consultation. During this 60-minute introduction, we’ll help you start creating a plan for success. You can also email any questions to [email protected].