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I recently started another two start-up companies, both in partnerships so having a sound partnership agreement was a prerequisite. Our lawyer recommended that we use the standard Auckland Law Society- one that is commonly used, so we did. Well, if you are familiar with this version it stipulates that creating a business plan is a required obligation for the business. But I have an issue with creating a business plan at the early start-up phase, 90-day planning is far more useful.

Guess what: a few months later we have still to create our business plan. I am not against business plans, in fact, I encourage all business to have one, but not for the purpose of compliance. A business plan needs to add value, so until a business has nailed out a broad strategy, has a clear idea of where it is heading, creating a business plan can become a futile and hypothetical exercise. What is however required from day 1, in fact, day 0, are reoccurring 90-day plans. 

A 90-day plan accomplishes two critical objectives for small business owners: 

  • It establishes a focus for the upcoming 90 days in the areas that matter most 
  • It drives the right type of activity into the right parts of the business 

Without routine check-ins on your progress, even good business plans will over time veer off the intended path: your 90-day planning is your check-in procedure.  

So are you ready to refocus your efforts? Below are the seven fundamental steps you can use when formulating your 90-day plan: 

1. Devote quality time. 

Personally, I never manage to effectively plan unless I make a date with myself. This is what I recommend: time block in your calendar a no distraction time to focus exclusively on your 90-day planning.

Planning really is the most value adding activity that you can do in your business: it directly effects the productivity of you, your team and your business, so when you are time blocking, allocate the most productive time slot available.  

2. Assess your results from the last quarter.

Audit your past quarter’s goals with the help of some coloured pens. Mark them according to green tick if they were 100% achieved, an orange question mark if not achieved 100%, and lastly a red cross if you failed to achieve much progress.  It provides great insight into what’s working and what isn’t.

Consider how you set these goals 90-days earlier: were you too ambitious or too conservative? Were the goals actually measurable? Were they really the most important goals at the time?

When you examine them now, do they seem more like they were just tasks to do, rather than stretch goals that if achieved would have made a lasting impact on your business? This last one is a common mistake.

3. Refine your approach. 

Based on your assessment of the previous quarter, let’s ensure that we learn from that experience and create an even better 90-day plan. Specifically, think along the lines of S.M.A.R.T goal setting.

Each goal should be: specific as opposed to vague; measurable as opposed to being unsure if you have actually achieved it; challenging but still achievable within the 90-day period; relevant because if not you simply won’t devote the necessary energy to them; and time-bound, in other words, have very clear time frames attached to each one.

Read my guide to setting goals:

4. Consider beyond dollars and cents 

With anything in life, creating balance is required. It is not only about the financials. Although you must keep to the “relevance rule”, ideally it should also include some of the “softer” elements within the business as well as some personal milestones that you are targeting.

As a leader in your business, you need to lead by example. Allow others to see your 90-day plans as this will encourage themselves to be open about theirs, and to create meaningful plans themselves.

5. Break your 90-day plans into OPA’s

Actioning a 90-day plan is everything. Rather than just creating a KPI or a target to aim for, you will be more successful in achieving this if you break your KPI into manageable steps: this is what OPA’s are all about: outcomes, projects and activities.  

With the outcome, how do you describe the outcome of a particular goal? For instance: 20 new clients, or 100 prospect calls, or $100,000 is sales turnover etc.  

Next is identifying the key projects in order to achieve these outcomes. For instance: Linkedin prospect list, or prospects in the Albany area, or outdoor furniture sales. For each outcome I would recommend no more than 3 projects for each. 

Lastly identify the activities that you need to initiate within each project. For instance: spend 3 hours each Monday morning examining Linkedin opportunities with the help of Dux-soup programme; or offer $100 tradein guarantee in all of our 20 Google add-words being run between x date and x date. 

6. Create accountability

It is just so easy to tick the box of: “done-it!”, but to then have no followup and therefore no positive result. Set in place accountability around your 90-day plans.

Some really good practices include: get an accountability partner onboard, one who will really hold you accountable: if you said you were going to do this then tell me how have you got on? What got in the way? How could you have managed that differently? What can we do now to get back on track?  

Set up a routine that involves you and others in your team regarding all of your 90-day plans. Don’t only have upward reporting, in fact, it is often more effective if senior managers report their progress to lower levels than the other way round (which is more traditional). But this only works if you have created a culture within your business based on openness and honesty.

When reporting is done in the traditional sense, ie. a lower level employee reports to a senior and then the senior provides feedback, what often happens is that unless the junior sees the senior actually walking the talk, they don’t change their own behaviour. When switched around, what happens is that the senior is forced to walk the talk and the junior levels recognize this act of leadership as more than lip service. They are far more likely to embrace the necessary change. 

Learn more about accountability here:

Are you ready to start planning? 

It is indeed challenging to do what’s best rather than what’s comfortable or convenient. For most business owners, and in fact employees as well, our daily work lives are taken up by the daily noise of things to do. The vast majority of this noise, although essential for the survival of the business, are immediate and pressing needs, rather than longer term, less pressing matters, which often have a far greater reward for us as well. 90-day plans are there to address this exact problem. 

And at the end of the day, your 90-day plan will only be as effective as those who are in charge of implementing it. As much as I can prompt you on how to effectively implement your plan, it will ultimately come down to the overriding culture within your business. Do you have a culture of openness, non-blame, supportive team dynamics and high performance? If not, then I would hesitantly say that my prediction for your 90-day planning success, as a company wide initative will be limited. Creating this culture is possible and certainly goes beyond this article, or in fact any singular article, but if you would like to work on that aspect of your business then please reach out to me. 

Based on my assumption that your culture is positively set then all that is left is to start today on your next 90-day plan. If you are still unsure about any aspect of your plan then you are very welcome to drop me a message and I will do my best to clarify any aspect. If you would like help in the broader sense of creating your own, or your teams 90-day plans then schedule your complimentary consultation today!