Quarterly Review of Your Strategic Plan

Quarterly reviews are an essential element in the strategic plan for your business. Not only are they helpful for performance evaluation, but they also provide your company with the opportunity to adapt to business conditions, and ultimately grow. Generally, your strategic plan is a cultivated vision of distinctive business goals and the strides you take to complete them. It is taking current knowledge of your business, including conditions, personnel, and environment, and creating expectations based on that knowledge. Your strategic plan should always be a flexible work-in-progress that is adaptable to the newest business conditions and is continuously open for necessary improvements.

A quarterly review of your strategic plan allows you to re-evaluate your strategy in accordance with new conditions and opportunities, and plan for the next steps. It should focus on four main categories: reviewing the previous quarter, company morale and performance, updated learning and education, and an action plan for the next quarter.

Reviewing the Previous Quarter

Initially, a quarterly review is just that – reviewing the quarter. This means gaining an understanding of what the company achieved in the last quarter, celebrating triumphs, and evaluating what could be improved. The main focus of this category is to evaluate how your company is performing in accordance with the plan you created. Discuss what you learned and praise your accomplishments, but also examine where you came up short and how you can recuperate.

Company Morale and Performance

Your review should measure the growth, progress, and impact of each employee and/or department. Eliminate communication barriers by distinguishing clear goals and criteria for which employees will be reviewed. Use these goals to measure performance each quarter. The certainty and guidelines for performance reviews can also help to improve company morale. Well-performing employees receive recognition and those who need improvement are offered constructive criticism. The communication and recognition provides employees with a sense of certainty, which reflects back on their vigor and drive.

Updated Learning and Education

By repeating old practices and behaviors, your company will never grow. Therefore, continuous learning and updated education should take the front seat during your reviews. This includes a wide variety of activities and examples. One way is problem solving through statistics and data. When you first create your strategic plan, it is based on assumptions. Your quarterly review should take statistical information from the previous quarter to make new assumptions. Organize and draw conclusions from what your company has learned. Another way is by analyzing new industry trends and developments. The world moves at an inconceivable pace, and industry trends change in the blink of an eye. If you do not analyze these developments and adapt, your company will be left behind. Continuous learning and education give your business the competitive edge it needs to thrive.

Action Plan

The final, and perhaps most critical aspect of your quarterly review is the creation of an action plan for the next quarter. After reviewing the previous quarter, company morale and performance, and educating employees on any new knowledge, it should result in a plan of action to redirect the company on the appropriate course. Plans can change. That does not mean the original plan was insufficient; it just means that life factors affected your original strategy and it is time to regroup – like industry changes, big events, or new opportunities. Create a list of efficient adjustments or adaptations to your strategic plan based on substantial insights from your quarterly review to set your business up for a successful next quarter.

When your business invests in a quarterly review of your strategic plan, you increase your chances of meeting your goals and succeeding in your field. Consider consulting an expert to assist you in the process. Jeff Miller is an experienced professional and can lead your company in a positive direction. For more information, contact us today!

Be Accountable: A Guide to Completing (Achievable) Business Goals

What does it mean to be accountable? According to Webster’s, “accountable” means, “required to explain actions or decisions to someone,” or “required to be responsible for something.”

In business, being accountable for the completion of tasks and goals—also known as the Accountability Factor—motivates us to succeed because the responsibility is ultimately on us. Accountability is sharing your goals with someone you know who will keep your feet to the fire.

So how can you take responsibility and make sure that you achieve your business goals this year? In a Harvard business study conducted years ago, a survey of a class showed that 70 percent of students had no goals, 27 percent had verbal goals while just 3 percent had verbal and written goals. Ten years later, when they interviewed those same folks, the 27 percent that verbalized their goals earned twice as much as the 70 percent who didn’t while the 3 percent that wrote and verbalized theirs earned ten times more than both groups combined.

The lesson to pull from this study is to write down your goals. By writing and verbalizing them, you can see them to fruition in what we call the “90-Day Plan.”

For you and your employees, take the time to write down your goals for your business to be completed in the next 90 days. A good starting point would be now because it’s the new year. Then, each week, discuss your goals, any obstacles and possible methods to achieve them. By writing down and verbalizing goals, you’re introducing the previously-mentioned Accountability Factor. That is, you’re assuming responsibility for that set of goals and understand that you will be held accountable for their completion. The Accountability Factor teaches employees about time management, responsibility and teamwork among other important traits.

This plan, though not highly complex or sophisticated, keeps businesses on target and helps them fulfill their goals.

Setting goals is a great way to measure growth and improvement. However, many business owners make the mistake of setting the wrong types of goals. For example, expecting to triple productivity in the first quarter or simply wanting to, “grow your business” are unrealistic, vague and an overall waste of time. Instead, develop SMART goals that you and your business will accomplish this year. The keywords being, “will accomplish.”

So what are SMART goals? The first known use of this mnemonic acronym occurred in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George Doran and gained popularity in the business world because of its easy-to-remember objectives. The SMART goals are as follows:

SPECIFIC: Goals should be simplistic and specific, designed exclusively for your company. If you can quantify your goals, do it because that allows you to make comparisons with the previous year’s numbers.

Vague Goal: Website should be updated every month.

Specific Goal: On the second Monday of every month, gather updates and materials from all departments to add to web pages. When new content is uploaded, edit and remove old content. Fresh content draws attention and improves overall traffic.

MEASURABLE: The best way to obtain tangible evidence for your company is to set measurable goals. “Growth” and “production” and “revenue” are important terms but useless if they can’t be measured. Within your annual goals, you should set measurable, short-term goals to use as benchmarks for success.

Immeasurable Goal: Let’s become more active on social media this year.

Measurable Goal:  Retain 100 followers/month this by improving “tweet frequency” and twitter engagement, and online brand building.

ACHIEVABLE: Setting achievable goals doesn’t mean setting easy goals. Challenge your employees by setting goals that require hard work and focus but ones that can be realized and will ultimately contribute to the overall success of your company. Remember that achieving goals motivates and energizes employees to excel.

Unachievable Goal: Increase growth by 50 percent this year.

Achievable Goal: Assess monthly growth and set targets on a weekly or monthly basis.

RESULTS-FOCUSED: Don’t worry so much about the process or the activities related to the goal as to the actual result of the goal. Sometimes to move forward, you must take a step (or two) backwards. That’s okay, just keep the end goal in mind as your company moves forward.

Abstract Goal: Assign tasks to team in order to complete project by the end of the quarter.

Results-Focused Goal: Assign a team leader to prioritize tasks to ensure they are being fulfilled in a timely manner.

TIME-BOUND: Give your goals a completion date. This creates a sense of urgency and stresses the importance of time management. Create a realistic timeline, whether it be three days or three months. Then work backwards from the completion date as a way to stay focused on your game plan. Don’t let deadlines slip by, especially on projects that are crucial to your company’s wellness.

Open-Ended Goal: Update office computer systems and software.

Time-Bound Goal: Replace office equipment by the end of the quarter. Contact software reps to schedule software training for first Tuesday of next month.

This year, instead of making unlikely resolutions that may or may not help your business, make SMART goals, attainable benchmarks that will enhance growth and development. By following the 90-Day Plan of writing down goals, you become accountable for the outcome, which should motivate you to achieve them! To help, make sure that you keep others informed of your goals so that they can hold your feet to the fire.  Let 2015 be a year of success for you.

Need help mapping your business goals this year? Let Jeff Miller Consulting Alliance assist. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you.

5 Business Tips for Young Entrepreneurs

entrepreneurIn recent years, more college grads are choosing to blaze their own career paths over competing with thousands, perhaps millions of equally qualified applicants for a handful of positions.

While starting a business sounds exciting and carries the possibility of success, it is not a guarantee. In fact, according to smallbusinessesplanned.com, about 50 percent of businesses survive the first five years and just a third survive a decade.  There are a number of reasons businesses fail (or don’t succeed, depending on your classification) but to the new generation of entrepreneurs, here are five tips that will help you start off on the right foot.

5) Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

Like the saying goes, you can’t please everyone. Finding your niche begins with a focused business plan and targeting a market in need of disruption. A common mistake is to try to reach everyone.  Don’t overextend your business just to get noticed. Hone your craft and develop a product based on a sturdy business strategy that is better than your competitors.

4) Learn From Your Mistakes

You’re going to make mistakes. Plenty of them. But making mistakes can be beneficial to the growth of your business, as long as you learn from them.  Don’t waste time sulking over a mistake; figure out where you went wrong, change course and move forward.

3) Quality Over Quantity

In the early stages of development, many young entrepreneurs make the mistake of focusing on quantity over quality. Don’t sacrifice quality to achieve “most-in-class” status. Rather, take your time in developing a “best-in class,” product you can proudly stand behind. In time, you can be sure that consumers will find their way to you.

2) Believe In Yourself

Often, we fail to distinguish between confidence and arrogance. One is of the mindset that they’re better than everyone else. The other believes that they’re as good as everyone else. Half the battle of running a successful company is believing you can do it. If you don’t, who will?

1) Take A Shot At It

You might never know what your career as an entrepreneur could have been unless you give it a go.  The path to starting a successful business is long, unpredictable and full of roadblocks but not impossible. All you have to do is figure out you’re passionate about and pursue it, not matter what anyone says.

Three ways to successfully grow your business

Costello: Well, then who’s playing first?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: I mean the fellow’s name on first base.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The fellow playin’ first base.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy on first base.
Abbott: Who is on first.
Costello: I throw the ball to first base, whoever it is grabs the ball, so the guy runs to second. Who picks up the ball and throws it to what. What throws it to I don’t know. I don’t know throws it back to tomorrow–a triple play….”

 

There may not be a more classic and beloved comedy sketch than Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First.” In the business arena, however, the sketch’s comedic outcome is not so funny. Unchecked and chaotic growth has led many an organization, large and small, into the dead end/crash-and-burn reality that without structure, there can be no sustainable growth.

With that in mind, consider the following three essentials for successful growth:

1. Developing an Organization Chart

An accurate and up-to-date Organization Chart is essential for businesses to grow in a coordinated, planned, and structurally sound fashion. It is one of the first projects we work on with new clients.

Understanding who does what, who reports to whom, and what the lines of communications are is how growth happens in a functional and progressive way. It is the true road map of understanding the path you are currently on and what the milestones along the way will be.

What’s really interesting is that for the most part, all organizations are structured the same. We all have operations, sales and marketing, accounting, office management and administrative tasks and responsibilities. The boxes in our charts are the same.  In the case of small businesses, it becomes even more critical to ask— how many times and in what boxes is his or her name? It becomes quite revealing when that visual goes up on the wall. Only when you see all the functions you are preforming and how many boxes your name is in, can the path to growth shed some of its haziness and clarity set in.

2. Developing Job Descriptions

Once the Organization Chart is complete, the next step for true growth is developing job descriptions (sometimes referred to as position contracts) for every position.  In his book, Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Pat Lencioni makes the compelling case that feelings of irrelevance, anonymity, and most importantly, a lack of accountability are what define professional unhappiness.  Job descriptions are key to addressing all three, particularly the latter.

Job descriptions clearly defines the job and who reports to whom, further reinforcing the proper lines of communication, and it also allows for the development of a performance matrix or key performance indicators. Job descriptions should also address how each position 1) makes the business money and/or improves efficiency, or 2) costs in money/efficiencies. Perhaps most critically, job descriptions address and set team expectations.

3. Implementing Hiring Assessments and Tools

At the end of the day, any company is only as strong as the team running it — from the CEO down to the last box on the organization chart. And the reality of today’s world is that hiring a mistake and having that person leave or be terminated will cost you a minimum of $25,000 in money, time and training. Implementing the right hiring assessment will help ensure that you’re developing a team that is the best fit for your organization. Here’s why:

A recent Harvard University study found that companies who use psychometric job matching assessments (such as ProfilesXT) on job candidates during the hiring process secured a 75 percent success rate. More traditional methods such as interviewing or resume checking garnered much lower success rates (10 percent and 26 percent, respectively).

Beyond the hiring process, assessments are a critical part in the arc of responsible, planned, and structurally sound growth. Jim Collin argues in From Good to Great that it is not only critical to have the “right people on the bus,” but also to make sure they are sitting in the right seat. Have you experienced having a great employee who has bought into the corporate culture and is a great team member, but is underperforming? That person is probably sitting in the wrong seat. An assessment that might allow for a strategic repositioning of that person within the company can be quite powerful. They also allow for more growth from within.

In closing, there is no safety in staying static. This point cannot be understated and is true both for individuals and for business organizations. In reality, one could argue that in business there is no static position. There is constant change, which leads either to contraction or growth. Costello’s final comment is “I don’t care” to which Abbott replies, “He’s our shortstop!”  Be sure to keep the bases on your company covered with the right team member, no matter what their names are.

Best Practices for Implementing Your Business Strategy

All organizations — be they small businesses, nonprofits or large corporations — are apt to acquire different needs as they grow and evolve. But how can we, as the leaders of these organizations, respond to those changes?

We’ve talked a lot about the three pillars that are meant to support business growth and all the needs that come along with that growth, and by now, you should be familiar with the first two: first, you assess the current state of your business or executive team to determine the specific issues or goals you’d like to address. Then, you design a comprehensive solution tailored to the variables that make your business unique.

That leads us to the third pillar: implementation. Here are four key things to make sure you do as you prepare to put your plan into action:

  1. Understand the timelines involved. Some goals are tasks are a one-time to-do,make sure you assign a realistic time frame to complete those tasks. Other goals require multiple steps (i.e. hiring a new sales person: placing an ad, conducting interviews, etc.) Make sure that the timeline assigned to those steps is realistic and reflective of the process. Designate any necessary deadlines, and stick to them.
  2. Make sure to allocate the right amount of resources. Do you have enough time, the correct people and sufficient funds to get the job done?
  3. Delegate appropriately and responsibly. Often times, you may be the biggest obstacle to implementation —  don’t be afraid to delegate assignments. The rule for delegating is to ask yourself: if I do this and it doesn’t come out the way I want it to, can I live with the results? If the answer is yes, delegate. If not, don’t.  When you delegate, you want to make sure that you’re not abdicating a task — check in with the people on your team throughout the completion of an assignment and make sure to arm them with whatever they need to be successful. But never assign a project and then completely walk away.
  4. Establish systems of accountability. If you’re not measuring the implementation of your plan as you move forward, you simply won’t be able to track the results. Make sure to set up benchmarks throughout your assess, design and implementation phases so that you’re aware of not only what you’ve accomplished, but also areas that need improvement.

The assess, design, implement methodology is a simple, proven and powerfully effective way to prepare for and welcome in your organization’s next phase of growth.