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How to develop a plan of action to make your business successful

Posted: Wednesday February 23, 2022 by effinlazy

It’s no secret that for your business to succeed, you need to plan for this success. 

While success will look very different for every business owner, I’ve got a tried and true method of getting you there. 

What I’m talking about here is the critical connection between your business goals and your business strategies and tactics. Whether you are a one-person startup or multinational corporation, your business goals are an effective tool that you can use to position your company for growth. 

I’ve often said that you can’t sell without knowing your customer. A deep understanding of your customer is vital to position your sales and marketing efforts for maximum impact. My philosophy for business growth is similar. By creating a roadmap to your goals incorporating supporting strategies and actionable tactics, you will have the information you need to make your business successful. 

Start with your business goals 

In my approach to business success, it all starts with your business goals. But first, what is a business goal? 

This is a predetermined target that businesses plan to achieve in a set period of time. They can be short or long-term goals. They are broad objectives, not specific actions. They are the whats, not hows, of what your business wants to achieve. 

For example, “Hiring a new marketing director” is not a goal. This is an actionable tactic (which we will get to later). 

So, what do you want? Do you want to become the world’s largest producer of electric vehicles? Do you want to beat out Amazon and become the top eCommerce platform? Do you want to expand your business into the EU, starting with France and Germany? 

When I asked this question, I’m sure something popped into your head, so write that down and keep thinking. I actually want you to come up with three overarching, big business goals. 

These are the scary dreams. The ones that you may have been told are impossible. No dream is too big (or too small!). Don’t let your fear of failing stop you from shooting for what you actually want, otherwise you’ll end up wasting time on strategies and actions that don’t take your business in the direction you want it to go. By holding back because you don’t want to say your crazy dream out loud, you could actually be harming your business. 

Once you’ve got your three goals in mind, the next step is connecting these big goals to your business strategies. 

How to connect your goals with your business strategies 

No matter what it is, every business needs to start with a goal (or three). This will guide your strategies: what your company needs to do to reach its goals. 

Your strategies will in turn determine the relevant actions and tactics (for example, decision-making processes for hiring, resource allocation, and more) that you need to carry out to achieve your business goals.

To sum up, there are three key steps here: 

  1. Set three, big goals
  2. Use your goals to define your strategy and objectives 
  3. Set actions and tactics to support your strategies 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to take a lot of hard work but achieving these goals is possible. Read on to learn how exactly you can accomplish this for your business. 

The need for effective business goals 

Now, while I’ve said that no goal is too big, some business goals will help you achieve your results in a more effective way than others. 

It is important to have clearly defined objectives for your business. If you don’t you risk losing focus and direction in what you are doing to make your business successful annually, quarterly, monthly, or even daily! Your team can fall short of achieving its objectives if there is a lack of agreement around what success looks like. 

Let’s be honest! As we entered 2022, did you take a look back at your business and feel like you haven’t made as much progress in the last 12 months as you would have liked? You aren’t alone! Read on to understand how having goals, supported by strategies and objectives and actionable tactics, can help you get to where you want to be. 

By having a crystal clear picture of where you want your business to be in a week from now, a year from now, and even 10 years from now, you can ensure you are always making the right decisions to keep you on track. 

Plus, with so much advice out there (not all of it good)  and emerging technologies going live all the time, it can be easy to get distracted by these shiny, new objects, so your actions and tactics may veer off course. 

With clearly defined objectives and strategies, your actions can stay aligned with what your business is trying to achieve despite these distractions! You’ll always be ready to sit down with the right people at the right time to explore which tactics will be able to support your strategies. You’ll be ready to exploit opportunities as they arise because you know how they fit into your goals. 

Your business goals are also important to maintain accountability, from your leadership team down to individual team members. If you have broken your business goals down to the individual level, you can make your team members responsible for their individual goals. 

The difference between long and short-term business goals 

Before you get started on setting goals for your business, let’s take a look at the difference between long and short-term goals. 

Your long-term goals are what we were talking about a moment ago: the big, scary ones. 

Although they should have a timeframe, your long-term business goals are typically future-focused and are often compared to a brand’s vision or mission statement (although these are very different things!). 

Often long-term goals include five and 10-year time frames. Let’s take Nike’s goal “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” It’s not something this brand will achieve overnight. 

Common long term business goals can usually be broken down into these four categories

  1. Economic. Most businesses set financial goals, for example, to increase their profits, increase their growth, or (for startups) to survive until the next year. 
  2. Human. This includes being able to pay competitive salaries, offer great employee benefits such as unlimited vacation time, provide a safe or healthy working environment, or provide education or professional development opportunities. 
  3. Organic. These goals cover all aspects of the business, for example improving brand and reputation or driving innovation. 
  4. Social. These goals are all about giving back to society in some way and can include producing higher quality products, ensuring a fair price for consumers, upholding fair trade practices, protecting the environment, or ensuring fair employment practices. 

On the other hand, short-term goals should typically be bound by a time period of a few hours up until a year. They should also form the building blocks of your long-term goals. 

Examples of short-term business goals include: “Hire 12 new customer support staff by the end of the year” or “Increase employee satisfaction by 10%.”

How to set goals for your business 

Now you may be wondering, how can I set effective goals for my business? 

Firstly, you should take a step back and look at where your business is right now. You should consider the big picture. Ask yourself: why did I start my business? Where do I want it to be in 10, 15 years? 

To set effective business goals, you also need to look at where you’ve been as well as where you want to take your business. For example, if you want to increase your profits by a certain percentage, it can be helpful to consider how you’ve performed in past years to avoid setting an unrealistic goal. If you barely cracked £1 million in sales last year, aiming for £5 million next year may not be the best goal to set! 

Another great way to evaluate where your business is at right now is with a SWOT analysis: a strategic planning technique used by businesses around the world to support decision-making. 

SWOT stands for: 

  • Strengths: Areas of your business that are working well. 
  • Weaknesses: Areas of improvement for your business. 
  • Opportunities: Areas where your business has the potential to grow, such as new markets, processes, or other factors. 
  • Threats: Challenges facing your business such as your competitors or evolving consumer expectations. 

With this analysis in hand, you can set goals with your business’ opportunities and challenges in mind. You’ll already have an idea of what you are doing well (and should do a lot more of) and how your business can be improved. 

Next, no matter whether you are setting a business goal or a personal one (hello New Year’s resolutions), your goals need to be SMART. They need to be: 

  • Specific: A specific goal should outline what needs to be done, who is responsible for it, and what steps need to be taken in order to achieve it. 
  • Measurable: A measurable goal needs to be quantifiable so you can track your progress and know when you’ve achieved your objective. 
  • Achievable: While you shouldn’t be afraid to dream big, your goals need to be an objective your team can reasonably achieve. Your goals should be ambitious, but achievable. 
  • Relevant: Your goal needs to fit into the big picture and answer the question: why are you setting this goal? 
  • Time-bound: Finally, to effectively measure success your team needs to set a timeframe for when you need to achieve your goals. 

With SMART goals, you’ve taken the guesswork out of what to do next! You’ve created a goal that tells you what you need to do, when you need to do it by, who is involved, how accomplishing the goal will benefit your business and more. 

This will make your goals easy to explain to your staff, which is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to leveraging your business goals to position your organisation for success. After all, they are the people who will be carrying out the actions required to achieve these goals. 

Speaking of your team, setting goals should be a team activity. And this goes beyond your leadership team: the best business goals will come from including all employees in your business. Not only will you gain a range of insights from team members in roles from CEO to customer service (an important part of setting goals that are realistically achievable), but this will give your employees a sense of ownership over your organisation’s goals, and drive them to help you achieve them. 

Using your goals to build out your business strategy 

Once you’ve set your three big business goals, the next step is to let these goals drive your business strategy. Here’s where the difference between a business goal and a business objective or strategy becomes really important. 

A business goal is your broad primary outcome. On the other hand, your business objectives are more specific steps you and your team need to take to achieve that goal. These steps should guide your business objectives. 

Your strategy is the how of achieving your goals. It could include outlining which team members will be helping you achieve your objectives, allocating specific tasks to specific people, setting deadlines for both individuals and team to achieve their objectives, and allocating resources and securing the tools required for your team to achieve your objectives. 

So, in comparison to your business objectives or strategies, your goal is pretty vague. For example, if your goal is to increase your profits, your strategy could be to reduce your workforce or minimise your expenses. 

But here is where a lot of companies go wrong! Your strategies need to support your goals so you don’t end up focused on tasks that aren’t actually going to help you achieve your goals. 

A good strategy should:  

  • Be tied back to your goals. You need to be able to easily explain how this strategy helps you to achieve your goals. You should consider several strategies and pick the strongest one. You also need to consider what specific actions or tactics you could assign to support your strategy. 
  • Be measurable. Think dates, pounds, or qualitative measures. If you can’t measure your strategy, you will end up off track because you’ll have no idea of knowing if you’ve made progress. 
  • Be long-term. While not as broad as your business goals, your strategy needs to be the middle ground between your business goals and your everyday tactics and actions. 
  • Use your data. This comes back to making your plan realistic and measurable. If you achieved a certain growth percentage last year, you can use this to guide your strategy (and later on, your tactics and actions). 
  • Consider your resources. Here’s where your budget and other resources come into play. You need to consider if you have what you need to support this strategy. If you don’t, you may need to rework your plan to make it realistic and achievable. 

Defining actions and tactics that can help you achieve your business goal 

Once you’ve decided on your business strategies, you need to define key actions and tactics to support those strategies (and in turn, help you to achieve your business goals). 

First, let’s consider the difference between your strategy and your tactics. While both are techniques that can help you achieve your goals, they are not the same thing. 

As we just talked about, your strategy (or objectives) are the plan you create to achieve your business goals. Your goal leads to your strategy which leads to your tactics: the individual steps that need to be taken to execute a strategy. There is no set number of tactics or actions needed to support a strategy. It could be one or dozens, it simply depends on your strategy and what resources you have available to support it. 

For example, let’s say your goal is to boost website traffic to your website by 100,000 people. To achieve this, your strategy may be to increase users to your website by 30% with the use of search engine optimisation or social media ads. 

This is where tactics come in. To support your search engine optimisation strategy, your action could be to write 10 new search engine optimised blog articles for your website or optimise existing content on your website. To support your social media strategy, you could invest more resources into your ad spend or start leveraging ads on a new platform, such as starting to use paid ads on TikTok. 

Let’s take another example. If your goal is to grow your sales, you can support this with the strategy of hiring new sales and marketing staff long before the peak sales season for your business. The tactics or actions you could deploy to support this include posting your job openings across a range of job boards, engaging a recruiter to seek out top talent, or introducing an employee referral program. 

So, what makes a good tactic? It should: 

  • Be tied back to your strategy. The same way your strategy should be directly supporting your business goals, your tactics and actions need to support your strategy. Otherwise you are investing time, effort, and other resources into activities that aren’t really helping your business! If you can’t explain easily how an action or tactic is supporting your strategy, you should rethink this tactic and come up with a new one. 
  • Be actionable. Here’s a neat trick. You can test if your tactic is actionable by starting each one with a verb. For example, add, use, perform, execute, invest, write, improve, or create. Your tactics should be all about doing! 
  • Be short-term. Just for a minute, forget everything I told you above about those big goals. When you are setting tactics, they should be a short-term action. You should also be careful not to set tactics that take longer than your strategy. 
  • Consider your budget. When setting tactics and actions, you need to keep your available resources, such as your budget or available talent, in mind. If you can’t afford a tactic, you need to think of something else that is feasible for your current financial situation. 
  • Have a deadline. By setting a deadline, your tactics will stay on track which will have a flow-on effect for your strategies and goals. Hint: I suggest always budgeting a bit of extra time to carry out your tactics or actions in case of any delays. This way your overall goals won’t end up off track! 

Now that we’ve gone over goals, strategies and objectives, and tactics and actions, let’s think of it all in reverse. You’ve hired 30 new sales staff, supporting your strategy to increase your sales team, which in turn is helping you to achieve your goal of growing your business’ sales by 30% this year. Easy, right! 

The final step: adapting your business goals as required 

If you’ve followed my advice and are on track to achieving your business goals, you may be thinking, I’m done! Well, not quite. 

Setting and achieving business goals is not a goal in itself: it’s a process. You should periodically re-evaluate your business goals (and in turn your strategies and objectives, and tactics and actions) to account for the ever-evolving nature of today’s business environment. Technology and consumer expectations are moving fast, and you should be ready to adapt your goals as needed to reflect this. 

Develop a strategic plan of action for your business with Effinlazy 
If your business isn’t where you need it to be and you want to develop a strategic plan of action to make it a success, I can help. Get in touch to see how Effinlazy can help you get to where you want to go here. Spoiler: you will walk away from our partnership with a bespoke roadmap designed to help you build the business of your dreams.