How to have a strong year-end and prepare for a huge success next year.

 Each October, most of you are in the final quarter of your fiscal year. You have less than 90 days to achieve the goals you set, and that’s with a few holiday and seasonal distractions. Like any great leader, you want to start the New Year with you plans and teams in place, and everyone fired up, and ready to go. The business planning sessions you conduct now will only strengthen the opportunities for success.

How Proactive Companies Ensure They Achieve Business Goals

Every year around this time, proactive companies are planning for next year. They might conduct a business diagnostic, uncovering new potential and/or ways to refresh the tried and true. Each are likely holding strategy sessions to incorporate the latest thinking to address challenges in their market and serve their customers, while defining the focus for their future company.

Once these exercises are complete, leaders are defining goals for the year, strategic initiatives that will set them on the right path, and come up with specific metrics, targets, and action plans. Finally, they lock in their budget for next year to give some structure to their management processes. 

The year-end push to achieve business goals you set for this year might include increasing your marketing to create quick sales,, improving operations, removing that pesky stumbling block, digging deeply into budget lines to manage spending, and keeping close eyes on revenue outlooks and cost management to ensure your profit and loss statement meets your expectations.


Schedule Your Annual Business Planning Sessions on Your Calendar

Look, business planning is critical, so please make the time for it. You’ve heard the axiom: Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail.  Schedule these exercises into your calendar now so you don’t wake up in January without the refreshed direction to guide you… not to mention, a world of stress and headaches.

Here are elements of this annual business process you want to consider.

  • Conduct a Business Diagnostic 
  • Define Your Business Goals
  • Plan Strategy Sessions 
  • Align Metrics and Targets with Goals and Strategies
  • Commit to Each Budget Line

Let’s review each briefly.

Conduct a Business Diagnostic 

During a structured discovery exercise, you will look closely at your operational processes and look for opportunities to streamline or even transform them to provide better customer service and delivery at higher quality and lower cost.  When you then predict the financial impact of changing from the current to future state potential, you may be shocked at how much value is at stake.  This discovery process provides the inputs for your operational goals and financial targets.

Define Your Business Goals

With the results of your business diagnostic to inspire and guide you, it’s time to decide how much of what you think is possible to achieve to expect during this next year. When you think about goal setting versus budgeting, it’s important to recognize a few key differences. You want your goals to stretch your team and be beyond what you know how to capture. Your budget, on the other hand, should be conservative and based on actions you have confidence in achieving.

Plan Strategy Sessions 

Now that you know from your diagnostic what is possible, and from your goals what you aspire to achieve, you now begin the process of defining the actions and initiatives that will make your dreams a reality. The thing with business strategies is that you can only handle a few at a time, so you may need to select the highest value initiatives that will help you create the future you want. Or, recognize those initiatives that are foundational and need to be in place for you to achieve your strategic goals.

Align Metrics and Targets with Goals and Strategies

Once you have your strategies defined, you can plan your success by using metrics and targets. Consider how to measure success of business initiatives and create one or multiple metrics that are easy to monitor throughout the year. Each metric can then have monthly targets, either by calculating what it will take to reach your goal by the end of the year, or by creating a detailed action plan that has dates and impact expected for each step in the plan. Either way, you now have a way to track your progress.

Commit to Each Budget Line

Remember the difference between business goals and budgets, and set a conservative representation of what you expect to achieve this year for each budget line.  Understand your revenue goals and potential, and dial it back just a bit to be conservative.  Look at your costs and estimate what you need them to be for you to hit that budgeted revenue and your profit targets.  Now, manage your budget through the year.

Now, Execute and Schedule Your Review Meetings

All these business planning sessions are for naught if you don’t now implement your plans! How do you know if your results are on track? You set up regular progress review meetings.  These progress reviews are often monthly or you could review your operational performance weekly. Start with your budget and make sure you are not falling short there. At Danaher, we considered the budget to be “the floor,” meaning results had to at least be better than that. Then, review the actual results versus your targets for each metric, as this will give you a sense of how you’re progressing toward achieving your strategic goals. 

A Case Study: Diagnostic Finds Millions in Value

This was a mature business with solid Lean and Six Sigma processes in place.  The finance team wanted to learn how much financial opportunity was available in this particular manufacturing plant and asked us to conduct a diagnostic of their operations.

In our early interactions, we discovered that the company had years of continuous improvement training, and every team member had a command of the lean and six sigma processes and necessary language. We were happily surprised by the evidence of their past efforts, which included:

  • visual metric boards and multiple tiers of daily meetings.
  • tracked target versus actual on each line. 
  • visual standards posted at the job locations. 
  • monitors posted at multiple locations across the facility with the status of problems that have been reported.

Before we arrived, we were not sure what level of opportunity would be available because on the surface, they seemed to have their act together.   As always, we trusted our process to engage the team on site and dig in to see what we could find. 

Here’s the result: With the involvement of the site leadership team, we found an extraordinary value.

Here’s How We Uncovered Over $2million of Opportunity in Their Business

The site team was with us each day to help conduct various analyses, make observations alongside us, and ran the math. Keeping the site team deeply involved was critical as we could help them calibrate real time and “see what we see.” With their involvement, there was a strong sense of responsibility and ownership of the numbers.

We shared new perspectives and principles to guide the team, and together studied the operations through this new lens. Each day we collected our observations and discoveries and combined the new ideas that we could implement. 

We created their roadmap: an itemized list of projects and initiatives, which focused on the anticipated operational and financial improvements from our work together. At the end of two weeks, when we tallied up the value of all the opportunity, everyone was pleasantly surprised that the total was over $2 Million. That was rewarding, as was the excitement we observed by the team.


Using the Diagnostic Results as Input to Set Goals to Determine the Budget

While the diagnostic revealed significant savings, the operations leadership team did not expect the team to implement all the actions right away. Rather, they interactively discussed and decided which actions would lead to results they could count on with certainty, and added those to the budget expectations. 

They then decided which initiatives expected results with a little focus and coordinated effort by team members, or after investment in equipment or training. They decided to staff teams on these initiatives and monitor their progress as stretch goals, which would take longer to implement and were therefore not in this year’s budget.

We Follow this Process Too

Yes! Even we do this exercise. Diagnostic, then goals, then strategies, then budget.

Diagnostic. We just had an expert conduct diagnostic of some of our marketing operations and have uncovered some areas we need to address to fully optimize our marketing reach and impact more people. 

Strategy Sessions. We invested a few days of time for our leadership team to decide the focus areas for 2022, including the banter to challenge our thinking of what is possible. We came up with some outstanding new ideas of how to serve you even better – we will unveil these shortly.

Action Plans and Ownership of Metrics and Targets. Now we are drafting specific plans, and including who owns which strategy and each specific action. 

The Budget. Lastly, our CFO is building the budget from our input so we have some guide posts in place for revenue expectations and cost management.

Your Turn: Implement these Business Processes and Plan Your Budget for Next Year

Now you know what to do and have a case study to inspire you. In order for you to enjoy to the extraordinary results that are possible for you, you have to follow the methodology we described here for you. Make your business planning a priority now so that you can launch into next year with focus and excitement.

Here’s a few specific actions for you.

  1. Conduct a diagnostic of your business, at least the areas of your business that need the most help (if you’re not sure how or what specifically to do, call us and we’ll help you)
  2. Set some goals – at a stretch level that would be a game-changer for you when you achieve them
  3. Decide the strategic initiatives that will enable you to achieve your goals
  4. Determine who owns each initiative, and how you’ll measure success
  5. Set your budgets with the input from your diagnostic and the goals you aspire to reach


Best luck to you!

Pete Winiarski – Founder and CEO


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