2018 Small Business Planning Guide

The countdown is on. As the days tick down to 2018, it’s time to start your small business planning to get a jump start on the new year.

Consider our three-step approach to prepare yourself for 2018 planning followed by three unexpected best practices that can help you take your business to the next level.

Your Top Three 2018 Planning Strategies

1. Look back

You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. Pull out last year’s plans and goals to assess what went well and what didn’t: Did your benchmarks or the market landscape change? When you bid on business, what was your success ratio and contributing factors? If you didn’t get the business, figure out if it was “a people thing, a pricing thing, a geography thing or a competition thing,” suggests Louis Mosca, CEO of small business consulting firm American Management Services.

By identifying your wins and missteps, you can better plan where you need to pivot or double down for the upcoming year.

2. Look around

Your strategy can’t be made in a vacuum. It’s vital to assess market conditions to see what factors might affect you, both positively and negatively. Is there new competition in your space? Are there new opportunities available because of new technologies? What economic factors might help or hinder your business?

If signs are looking iffy – maybe there’s new legislation that can affect your payroll, or the tight labor market is making it harder to hire, then figure out what you can do to stave off the destructive effects, whether it’s raise prices to cover salary increases or offer more benefits to impact retention. Gather the data you need to ascertain what financial effects these changes might have on your customer base and/or bottom lines so you’re not surprised.

3. Look ahead

Sometimes a way to figure out how to get somewhere is to begin with the end in mind and then work backward to determine the weekly or monthly steps it will take to get there.

Your Top Three 2018 Success Strategies

1. Implement SMART goals

A lofty goal with a 12-month timeline may be too nebulous: Consider using the “SMART” formula, which allows you to create business strategies and tactics that can be easy to track. “SMART” stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based, which helps you to tighten broad goals into ones that keep you on target.

2. Review your vendors

The effect your partners have on your efficiency and bottom line may often get overlooked. By periodically analyzing your supplier relationships and considering any potential economies of scale that might come from consolidation, you can determine if you are getting the value and service you deserve.

3. Commit to networking

Networking is frequently thought of as a priority for job hunters, but a robust network can often be the No. 1 secret to success for small businesses as well. Building your network offers a number of benefits, from helping you forge relationships with new customers to finding talent through trusted connections, getting recommendations for service providers and seeking counsel from other experts.

As part of your 2018 business planning, consider scheduling networking opportunities through professional association meetings, conferences and regular coffee or lunch get-togethers with both new and existing contacts.

About the Author 

Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer covering business and consumer topics. She creates branded content for Fortune 500 companies, and her work has appeared in LearnVest, Costco Magazine, Forbes, and IDEA Fitness. Follow her @cathieericson.


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