Good business planning can be what determines whether a business will be a success. Business owners develop plans to help guide them towards reaching their overall goals.
The most effective business plans tend to divide the planning process into three key phases to allow businesses to track immediate improvements while also monitoring and evaluating progress towards meeting long-term goals.
The different time frames within the planning process focus on time-sensitive aspects of the company’s structure. But while short-, medium- and long-term planning addresses different time frames, they should be closely aligned to enable you to effectively make plans that sync your immediate objectives with your ultimate vision.
Effective goal setting
Goal setting helps businesses assess employee and organization performance, assess resources, and provide effective management direction. Effective business goals typically follow the S.M.A.R.T. model. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, and timely. Companies need to know exactly what they want to achieve and how they will measure that achievement. The company, its management team, and its employees must create attainable targets that relate to the business. Companies must also set precise dates by which to achieve the set targets.
To help you achieve your goals, write down all your business and personal aspirations for the next decade, regardless of how impossible and far-fetched they may seem. At this stage, you don’t need to know how you will achieve them.
When you have your list, you can then start to refine some of the ideas. If you have a management team, then it’s a good idea to bring them in. There are different brainstorming and planning techniques, such as:
- Mind mapping: Write your end goal on a piece of paper and surrounding it with a bubble. You can then note down anything that comes to mind when you think about the original idea. This can take the form of pictures or words.
- List-making: Take one goal to focus on and create lists of what is required to achieve it. You can break it down into smaller goals and steps to make it easier.
- Brain dump: This technique is like mind mapping but not quite so structured. Write down everything that comes to mind.
Short-term goals are generally those intended to be achieved within three to six months. However, this very much depends on what is planned. Short-term goals are typically geared towards a business’ short-term needs, whether that is launching a new product, getting more customer reviews, or improving cash flow. Whatever you choose for your short-term goals, they must serve your longer-term goals. For example, if you are planning a new product launch, this should be consistent with your overall brand and the product range you are gradually building. If your goal is to improve cash flow, your strategy should bring in additional revenues in ways that don’t distract from your overall mission. Whatever your short-term goals, they must be realistic.
Medium-term goals are designed to take anywhere between several months and five years to reach completion. It’s common for medium-term planning to be overlooked when it comes to discussing strategic objectives. However, it is important to clarify the shorter-term objectives with the depth of long-term planning. While short-term goals are based on immediate need and long-term goals are often so broad, it isn’t easy to create measurable milestones. Medium-term goals, however, are close enough for you to set a specific outcome while also being far enough away to be meaningful for your long-term vision.
Medium-term planning may include plans to enter a new market, launch a new product or open a new store. It gives you long enough of a period to see if you are achieving real results but short enough time for you to change direction should you need to.
Long-term goals are those that will take several years to complete, usually between five and 10 years. This can prove difficult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set such longer-term goals for your business; you’ll just have to be prepared to adjust your plan to take into account changing situations and markets. Even specific long-term goals are usually just concrete ways of expressing a larger vision.
You should always take long-term planning seriously but know that you will have to regularly adjust it over time as the medium-term unfolds. You can achieve your long-term goals by using your short-term and medium-term goals as steppingstones that will take you to the endpoint. When you break down your long-term objectives into smaller, more achievable steps, you are more likely to ensure your success.
Whatever aspirations you have for your business, effective short, medium, and long-term planning will be key to helping you achieve your business goals and taking your business in the right direction.