How to Plan Your Next Business Quarter

A strategic business plan for the short-term — like the upcoming quarter — with achievable goals can serve as an important road map for you and your team to follow.

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Are you wondering how to plan for your business’ future? Here’s how to create goals for next quarter, how to achieve them, and how to measure success

Many small businesses have an overall strategic plan in mind: work lean, increase the client base, and aim for expansion and growth. This generic plan works for almost every business model — but it isn’t tailored or defined. The concept of growth is admirable; the means to achieve it require a plan.

Small business owners often find themselves too busy in their daily pressures and responsibilities to plan for the future. That’s a mistake: you can’t get from Point A to Point B without a defined path.

Taking the time to plan — even for the short-term, like the upcoming quarter — provides a route that’s measurable and attainable. With a planned destination, it’s easier to determine what roads you need to navigate for your arrival.

Start with a baseline

Where are you today, and where do you want to go? Goals don’t always have to be purely around profit. You may have grumbled in the past that efficiencies need to be optimized but never got around to examining the why and how of making change.

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step: the road to achieving your strategic goals begins with a single step as well.

Your organization may be in need of better safety outcomes for your staff and your clients. Or expansion may be your goal. For any of the issues you want to improve in the coming year (decade actually), a plan is required.

Start with these questions:

Where are we now?

What is the issue you want to tackle in the coming year? Understanding where you are today is the starting point. Sales are $X annually; return rates are XX per week. Determine what area you want to improve and measure exactly where it was in the last quarter, or in the same quarter of the past year. The objective is to provide a realistic baseline measurement.

Where do we want to go?

What are the specific goals you want to achieve? If it’s fewer returns, what is the ideal return rate? Set goals that are measurable — fewer isn’t a goal, it’s a concept. Create goals that are achievable and reasonable considering the tools and resources you have on hand. But step one is to actually set goals.

An example would be an organization that processes 50 returns each week against sales of 500 units per week. That would mean a return rate of 10%. While your ultimate goal may be a 0% return rate, a reasonable goal might be to reduce returns by half or 25 percent. You’ll want to examine what the cause is for the high rate; once you’re armed with these data points, begin to plan.

You may want to increase sales (who doesn’t?) or grow your customer base. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Determine what your sales have been for the last or most closely aligned quarters to start your calculations. For some businesses, averaging quarterly sales numbers over more than 1 year can provide a better idea of where you are today.
  • Then, determine where you want the numbers to be. A 1,000% increase is probably unreasonable; set a goal that’s achievable with the staff and production levels you currently hold.
  • Determine what’s stopped you in the past from growing your customer base — not enough sales reps, a temperamental website, not enough product to meet demand?

With this information, you can begin strategically planning for the coming quarter and beyond.

How will you get there from here?

Now that you know where you are and where you want to be, it’s time to map out exactly how to get there. What changes can be made to reduce the potential for returned product? Do you know what’s causing the issue? Are there ways to increase accuracy in order fulfillment?

Map out the specific steps you’ll need to take to reach your goals. If you want to increase sales by 100% in the coming year, plan for a 25% increase per quarter. What will it take to achieve that goal? More staff, or more sales calls per rep? Expanding into new markets? List the specific, actionable steps you can take to achieve the goal you set. With this roadmap, you will be able to get there.

Break things down into workable steps

While an increase/decrease is a great concept, it’s only achievable by individual steps. Look for incremental actions that can be taken today with an eye on the ultimate goal.

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step: the road to achieving your strategic goals begins with a single step as well.

Schedule activity

Now that you have a plan, you’ll want to document and schedule it. If more training is needed to reduce returns, plan to execute it as soon as possible. If more sales calls are needed, start scheduling them for the first week of the new year.

Whatever the path is you’re pursuing, make sure to follow up and follow through. The best plan is useless if it sits on a shelf. Use your planners or calendar to set reminders to affect change, check on progress, and assure you’re on track to meet the goals you’ve set.

Plan to adapt

Not every plan goes to plan. You may need to adjust expectations, steps, or goals along the way. Don’t let the need to adapt deter you from the ultimate goal. While there may be a need to tweak the way you get there — getting there is the objective. Use the lessons learned from steps or plans that didn’t work well to adapt to new ways that will.

Measure success

At the end of the quarter, you’ll likely have a good idea whether your goals have been met, or the steps you’ve had to take to realign them. If you’ve achieved them, make sure to celebrate with your team. If not, work together to brainstorm why you weren’t able to hit the marks you wanted and what you can do to retool for the coming quarter.

Business plans often need to adapt, but success may not be measured only at the  bottom line. A cohesive team that’s working together for a united goal is a success, as well.

Creating a strategic business plan is the road map for you and every member of your team to follow. Focusing on a single goal, with everyone working together to arrive there, not only helps grow your business — it builds teams that are reliable, engaged, and productive.

There are more advantages to planning for the coming quarter than just increasing sales. A cohesive plan that’s articulated to everyone, with concrete goals to achieve, assures your team you’re serious about the company’s success, and theirs. Start planning for your organization’s future today.

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