In order to reach goals, you first need to HAVE goals. Start by dreaming big, then prioritize your efforts in some key areas in this straightforward exercise. There are a lot of other factors that need to go into planning - detailed budgets, staffing plans, cash flow, etc. - take a step back from the details for a moment and look at your overall strategy.
Step 1 - What are the top 3 things you want to accomplish in 2013 for each of these areas?
Don't limit yourself here - think big, but once you brainstorm ideas pick your top three for each category. Are there other categories you need to add for your particular company? Go ahead and add them, just limit them to major categories to make the exercise reasonable.
* Strategic goals
* Client prospects you want to work with
* Marketing methods/venues
* Existing client support and growth
* Internal operational improvements
Step 2 - What are the top 3 tactical steps you can do for each?
Take the items you listed above and break it down to three tactical steps for each. If one of your goals is to expand your marketing by speaking at events, list three people or groups you can connect with to make that happen. If your goal is to reach $10 million in revenue, list three things you can do to grow your revenue with your existing product/service mix or by introducing a new revenue stream. If you need to grow your operational staff to support your planned growth this year, list three key positions you need to make your team balanced and able to scale with your growth.
Step 3 - Prioritize your tasks and build your plan.
You now have a pretty long list of actionable items you can take - which ones are the most important to your overall business? Launching a new product? Improving an internal process?
This is where you start to build in a bit of reality and prioritize your efforts. Be sure you have a mix of client-focused and internally-focused tasks in your plan. You can't have a company without clients, and you can't support your clients without strong internal operations - be sure you pay attention to both.
You can group your actions by calendar quarter to further refine your priorities, and to make sure you aren't trying to do too many things at once. Your plan may shift throughout the year, but getting yourself focused and putting things on paper now will help you stay in control in 2013.
Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions - a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments and executive project leadership.