Benchmark Business Group

The Best Time to Plant a Tree

February 1, 2011

According to a Chinese Proverb, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The second best is now.”  How often have you found yourself wishing you had started something much earlier than you did; that you had given yourself more time to do a better job or to get a better result?  “With an earlier start and more time”, you reflect with regret, “I would have had so many more options and wouldn’t be scrambling so much as my deadline approaches.”  And yet, this is not the first time you’ve found yourself in a last-minute rush to get something done…you’ve been here before.  Haven’t you?

So, wouldn’t this be a good time to ask, “When is the best time to establish year-end goals and begin to meet them?”  In the last quarter, or the first?  When there is only a month or two left, or eleven? 

Many of the business owners we have talked with in the last few weeks are still heavily involved in year-end planning—for last year.  They haven’t even begun to think about what this year is going to look like, or what they would like it to be!  They spent the last quarter of last year trying desperately to meet goals, and the first month of this year assessing and adjusting as though the year hadn’t ended yet.

If you haven’t done it already, this is the perfect time to design your 2011…yes, I said “design”.  Begin by creating a Strategic Objective for 2011:  What will you do to ramp up or improve your lead generation and lead conversion strategies this year?  What will be your volume of sales and gross revenues this year?  What will be the net profits? Do you have new products or services to introduce?  How will you fine tune your client fulfillment systems to ensure your clients/customers are not only satisfied, but absolutely elated?  Will you be hiring more employees, and for what positions?  What will you be creating to further reinforce your competitive advantage, or to gain one in the first place?  How would you like to describe your business as it will be on January 1, 2012?

Then break the financial goals down by quarter, by month, and even by week.  Be realistic, but make it a bit of a stretch.  Identify what your sales volume has to be to achieve the revenue goals, and specifically what lead generation and lead conversion volumes will be required.  Do you have the capacity for generating that activity now, or do you need to create more channels of activity?  Remember, new processes and new channels of activity take time to bear fruit, so give yourself a reality check as you make your projections.

Based on your history of expenses, and anticipated reductions or increases in expenses brought about by changes you will be making in 2011, create a month by month Budget through the end of the year.  Stay somewhat conservative on the revenue side, and more generous on the expense side.  If your design does not show you are making a profit, don’t simply inflate revenue or reduce expenses beyond what is reasonable. You may need to examine your pricing or your overall business model to see if it makes sense and, if not, to make adjustments in the design of that model.

Then create a Controlling Calendar for 2011, on which you will calendar the key events and benchmarks that lead to the ultimate goals for the year.  Given your breakdown of financial activity, identify when you will need to:

  • add new staff,
  • introduce a new product or service,
  • engage in new lead generation activities,
  • engage in further sales initiatives,
  • inaugurate new client care programs,

Identify what benchmarks for leads, sales, and client care activities you need to achieve for each period (day, week, or month) in order to reach your designed destination?

Your new Budget, which includes your revenue and expense projections, along with your Controlling Calendar, which describes key activities and benchmarks, constitute a Roadmap.  Check your progress against it at least weekly, if not more often.  As you test it against your business’ “real world”, tweak it as necessary.  It is not a static Roadmap, but a dynamic one that might move with the changes and opportunities your business experiences throughout the year. 

It has been said “we make real that to which we pay attention.”  Your persistent focus on your Roadmap and the activities and benchmarks it describes will be instrumental in bringing about the actual results.

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