Our Small Business Goals
About a month ago I wrote about the Importance of Winning by setting, tracking, and celebrating accomplishments in your small business. Then earlier this month, my article dealt with a very important (and hopefully fun!) seasonal obligation for small business owners – a Holiday To-Do List. At PPM, our nationwide As-Built surveying company, we just had our Christmas party last Friday, and all Christmas cards and client gifts will be going out this week. So with that part of December taken care of, we are shifting back into planning mode for the rest of this month, and setting some goals for 2017.
We started this annual process in 2008, our 6th year as a business. Prior to that, we just kept working right through the new year, without giving any thought to what improvements we should make as a company, what opportunities we might be missing, or what specific goals or plans we have going forward. I just figured that as long as we did a good job on our As-Built projects and kept our clients happy, the business would just keep on growing forever.
I was wrong. Very wrong. The recession hit us hard in 2008. I was caught totally off guard, and had no plans in place to right the ship, or even any clue how to. hat it really did was expose our weaknesses as a business. Had there been no recession, we would have run into the same problems eventually – probably soon. In hindsight I think the recession was a blessing for PPM, as it forced us to take a hard look at ourselves and admit that the way we were operating the business was not a sustainable model for growth.
We got help. We signed up for small business consulting from a company called The E-Myth. Our coach worked with us as a team, and me as the Leader, to put systems in place to finally help us define what we wanted to be as a Company, and what steps it would take to get there. Our Annual Strategy Planning process was born. We have refined it almost every year since, but there is no denying the results: PPM’s revenues are now over 10 times bigger than they were in 2008, with average annual growth of 47% since 2010. Earlier this year we were honored to be named as an Inc. 5000 company in 2016.
Here’s a few of the basic parts of our annual strategy planning process:
- It all starts here. You have to paint a picture for yourself and your employees that shows what your company is all about, and where you want to go. This creates the CLARITY that is needed to align everyone behind the same goal.
- Specifically, Vision includes foundational statements such as your Purpose, Mission, and Core Values
- These don’t need to be updated every year, just reviewed and updated as needed.
- We usually need about 4-5 weeks for our Annual Planning, including the entire process. We want to be done by mid-January so we start in early December.
- We also do a smaller Quarterly Planning process every 3 months. For those we take about 2-3 weeks at the very end of the quarter.
- In some way or another, we want to get everyone involved with our strategy planning. Great ideas and feedback can come from anywhere, so the more you involve your team the more likely you are to get not only the best result, but also a plan that everyone is committed to follow.
- This gets a little tougher the more employees you have. With our 20 people, we have a process to allow information to flow up and down the organization and keep everyone in the loop.
There is quite a bit to this now and I would be happy to share more with anyone that contacts me directly, but here are the basic steps that we follow:
- TEAM INPUT: We ask each department/team to provide their input on PPM’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, etc…
- LEADERSHIP OFFSITE: Our leadership team (which currently consists of 4 members) spends 2 days away from the office meeting for the sole purpose of discussing and planning the direction of PPM. This includes things like:
- What are the Strategic Issues facing the company right now?
- What strengths can we leverage to capitalize on our opportunities?
- What are our specific priorities and goals over the course of the next year?
- OPERATING PLAN: We break down our goals into specific tasks/benchmarks that need to be completed in order to achieve that goal. There is a deadline and an owner for each task.
- COMPANY MEETING: We hold a company-wide meeting each quarter to discuss the plan and get fired up as a team about what we are trying to accomplish.
Strategy Planning like this is definitely a lot of work, and takes discipline to devote your time to with everything else you have going on. But it is absolutely necessary if you have aspirations to grow your business into something great – which we do at PPM. And once it is done, you can feel a lot better knowing that the plan is in place and all you have to now is the easy part – EXECUTE!