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The biggest trap of business planning? Failing to write and share your plan

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You know you should have a written plan for your benefits agency. While it’s something you intend to do, you don’t know exactly what to include, so it sits unfinished. And then there’s the follow-through issue of spending time on the plan and never using it again.

It’s easy to fall into these traps around business planning. Here’s an outline to help you through the process and create a plan for your agency that includes just what you need to make it a successful year.

A review of where you are today: What’s working well and what needs improvement. Write it out.

A review of your book of business: How healthy is your book of business? Break it out by size of account and get clear on how many accounts make up the top and bottom percentages of revenue.

A description of your vision: Not a vision statement, but a description of what you want your organization to look like a few years out. Three years is a good timeframe — it’s got some distance to it, but still very tangible.

A description of your ideal clients: Which companies benefit most from the work your agency does? Maybe it’s the size of employer, a niche market or the attitude of the owners. Assess your current clients — Who do you like best? Who would you like to fire? Use those commonalities to write a description of what you want and don’t want in your new clients.

How much revenue you need for growth: How much new revenue and what size accounts do you need to achieve your company vision? Think about the conversion and closing ratios you’ll need for new accounts, and how much business you’ll realistically be able to retain.

Review company financials: Are you overstaffed? Understaffed? Are you running a profitable and sustainable agency? Make note of what changes the company needs, as well as which behaviors should continue as is to achieve your vision.

Define key objectives: Reflect on each part of your business and get specific about needed improvements, why the improvements are necessary and key action items to drive the improvements. Write a single description to summarize what you’ll do in each area, for example:

  • Net growth goal
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Service
  • Leadership

I have a plan. Now what?
Write up your plan and share it with your team. This may be the leadership team or the whole agency, depending on the size of your organization. Then, get their input on key objectives. You may make adjustments on how to best accomplish them. Decide who is going to take responsibility for leading each of the action items and ensure those action items are incorporated into each person’s professional development plan. Then, meet quarterly as a team to review progress on the key objectives.

A word of caution
Some of the biggest challenges with planning are not doing it at all, making the plan and never revisiting it, or creating way too many objectives and action items.

Combat these challenges by working as a team to create the initial plan so you have some built-in accountability. Schedule out your quarterly reviews with the team for the entire year to keep it on everyone’s calendar and in your sights. Revisit your objectives often to stay on track and not get distracted by irrelevant activities.

If you do this type of planning and review each year, you’ll find consistent success in each core area of your business and make your progress inevitable.

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