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The Common-Sense Business Planning Checklist to Jump-Start Planning

Dec 22, 2020 by Bill Collier 1 Comment

Business planning checklist

Are you ready to start business planning for next year? Here’s a checklist for jump-starting the process.

Start with a Vision

Think about the business - where you came from, where you are, and where you want to be. Pick an appropriate time-frame, maybe 3-5 years out and think, "How will the business look?" Think of revenues, people, locations and lines of business.

Learn from the Past

Make the following lists and use them when working up next year’s plan: 

  • What worked well this year and in prior years?
  • How can you build on those successes?
  • What didn't work so well?
  •  How can you learn from and avoid those mistakes?

Create a Budget

Start at the top line on the income statement – sales – and work down from there.
Where will your sales finish this year? Where do you think they can be next year?

Compensation Planning

This is a good time of year to deliver employee performance reviews and then build compensation changes into your new year's budget. Use each employee's job description as a guide for the review. Rate the performance on each assigned duty.

When thinking about compensation-related expenses, don't forget your benefits. Thinking of making a change for the new year? Is insurance going up? Work it into your budget figures.

Fixed Assets

What new property and equipment does your company need? What old assets need to be retired or sold? Again, get input from the employees. They probably know best what they need to properly do the job.  If you don't have the cash flow to buy what's needed, consider borrowing or leasing for fixed asset purchases to conserve cash.

Marketing Planning

If nobody knows who you are, what you sell, or how to buy, your results will suffer. There are lots of ways to market: networking, speaking, customer referrals, telemarketing, direct mail ... the list goes on and on.

What is your unique selling proposition? Do your customers perceive your product or service as a commodity? Do you and your people sell as if you were offering a commodity? If so, revisit what makes your company, your products and your services unique. Ask the question, "Why should a customer buy from us rather than from our competitors?" If you don't have a good answer, keep working at it.

Determine your primary customer targets, and the best ways to reach them so you can tell them about your unique selling proposition.

Tip- If possible, go on a 1-3 day "planning retreat." Take all the info you've gathered, and all your financial statements, and go somewhere away from the office to immerse yourself in this unique business planning process. This quiet time is perfect for working on your vision and reflecting on past lessons learned. If appropriate, take your management team along and invest some time in this valuable work.

Commit to making next year your best ever.


Build Your Game Plan



Topics: Planning

Bill Collier
Written by Bill Collier

Bill Collier is the author of “How to Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life”. He helps businesses improve their financial results by teaching employees to think and act like owners.

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Our approach to running a company was developed to help close one of the biggest gaps in business: the gap between managers and employees. We call our open-book approach The Great Game of Business. What lies at the heart of The Game is a very simple proposition: The best, most efficient, most profitable way to operate a business is to give everybody in the company a voice in saying how the company is run and a stake in the outcome. Let us teach you how to develop a culture of ownership, where employees think, act and feel like owners.