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Annual Business Planning Tips

Ready to start planning for next year? If it's 4 or fewer months until the start of the new year, you should be started by now.

Here are some ideas for ideas for getting the most out of your annual planning activities, and for getting a jump-start on the new year.

  1. Get others involved. Include your management team in the planning process. Also, consider asking your rank-and-file employees for their input. Provide an option for them to answer anonymously, because otherwise some may not participate and others may not share their true opinions. Ask questions like, "If you owned this company, what you you change?" and "What can we do to improve our marketing, sales, production, and customer service?"
  2. Salary Planning. This is a good time of year to deliver employee performance reviews and then build compensation changes into your new year's budget. Use each employee's job description as a guide for the review ... rate the performance on each assigned duty.
  3. Review your Benefits program for possible changes. When thinking about compensation-related expenses, don't forget your benefits. Thinking of making a change for the new year? Work it into your budget figures.
  4. Fixed Assets. What new property and equipment does your company need? What old assets need to be retired or sold? Again, solicit input from the employees. They probably know best what they need to properly do the job. Don't have the cash flow to buy what's needed? Consider borrowing or leasing for fixed asset purchases to conserve cash.
  5. Your Unique Selling Proposition or USP. Do your customers perceive your product or service as a commodity? Do you and your people sell as if you were offering a commodity? If so, revisit what makes your company and your products & services unique. Ask the question, "Why should a customer buy from us rather than from our competitors?" If you don't have a good answer, keep working at it.
  6. Marketing Planning. If nobody knows who you are, what you sell, or how to buy, the results will be predictable. Advertising is fine but there are lots of ways to market: networking, speaking, article writing, customer referrals, telemarketing, direct mail ... the list goes on and on. Do some homework and determine who your primary customer targets are, and the best ways to reach them. Then, tell them about your unique selling proposition. All this needs to be part of your annual plan.
  7. Learn from the past. What worked well in 2007 and in prior years? How can you build on those successes? What didn't work so well? How can you learn from and avoid those mistakes? Make a list and use it when working up your 2008 plan.
  8. Get out of town. Go on a 1-3 day "planning retreat." Take all the info you've gathered, and all your financial statements, and go somewhere away from the office to immerse yourself in the planning process. Think about the business - where you came from, where you are, and where you want to be. If appropriate, take your management team along and invest some time in this valuable work.

Bill Collier is a St. Louis-based business coach, consultant and speaker. He is the author of the book “How to Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life.” His website is, and his email is


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