Business Planning Process for an Existing Business

Charting your course plays a major role in the luck you bring to your business. This week, I conducted my company’s annual business planning process and review sessions. It took about 3-4 hours each day over 2 days. The business planning process for an existing business, one that has products and services and customers, is usually different than one for a new enterprise. Existing businesses have to take into account the needs of current customers as well as figure out how to get new ones.business planning process for existing business

Here is the business planning process we use to hammer out our plan:

  1. Discuss last year’s accomplishments and shortcomings, including “small wins”
  2. Review our mission and values that shape what we tackle going forward
  3. Review current status of and new ideas for each component of the business
    • Infrastructure
    • Products and services
    • Customer Service
    • Marketing
    • Operations
  4. Rank the large list of activities we come up with based on estimated time involved to complete and impact to our customers and business
  5. Prioritize the activities we feel will result in the biggest bang for the buck

This exercise results in a one-page action list that we review a few times a year to 1) see if we are on track and 2) see what needs to change. It has been a very useful way to crystallize our collective thoughts and get everyone rowing in the same direction – and that leads to good luck. It is not a 15-20 page document, just a list – see the screenshot below. I’ve blurred out our actual tasks, but you get the idea (D=just about done, 1-5=priority order, WL=wait listed).

business plan action list example

You can take this action list and create a goal list for each team member involved. Short action lists like this are easy to pin on your wall so you are reminded of your key points of focus throughout the year. Mine hang right next to me and are filled with short notes I scratch in as the year goes by. The best feeling is checking one of those items off the list!

How to Plan for 2012

It’s time to plan for 2012.  The slow time between Christmas and New Years often gives me an opportunity to reflect on the past year and figure out where I want to be one year from now. This goes well beyond making New Years resolutions.

Here is the process my company uses to plan 2012.  This works well for setting personal goals, too.

  1. List accomplishments and shortcomings of the past year. This provides a good baseline as we develop our 2012 plan.
  2. Review our core values.  What is important to us colors how we look at new opportunities and decide which goals to pursue. The problem never lies in having too few opportunities. It is in narrowing down the best ones. This often overlooked step causes people to pursue activities that are scattered.
  3. Create specific goals. We break this down by category like new products and features, infrastructure, marketing, sales.
  4. Prioritize goals. The outcome of this dialog is in an ordered “to do” list for next year. It is a key element of our 2012 plan.
  5. Identify who will do what and by when. You can have the best plan in the world. It only works if have accountability. Take the time to create milestones and identify everyone involved. The more detailed your 2012 plan, the better your chances of success.

No plan goes without course corrections along the way. We build in quarterly reviews into our process so we can see what is on track and what needs to be adjusted. Sometimes, we abandon activities that we were initially very excited about because we find out that they will not get us to where we want to be financially. The review process helps keep us from drifting.

Try to apply this simple 5-step process at work or in your personal life to create your plan for 2012.  The result will be a more satisfying year full of accomplishments.

For further reading, check out this free ebook: The Naked Business Plan: How to Strip Your Idea Down to the Bare Essentials