Let’s face it, for business owners the last two year haven’t been easy. While some have consistently struggled to keep business going, managing through pivots and some hard choices, others have seen their business stay on course—or even boom. Regardless of the situation, business owners are wondering why and how they can plan for 2022 and beyond.

Tempting though it maybe to throw caution to the wind and commit to a ‘she’ll-be-right-let’s-see-how-it-goes-plan’, deep down we all know this is planning to fail. We might be amid a pandemic, facing inflationary pressure, global supply chain uncertainty and unforeseen economic trends, but ignoring these won’t work.

Having a roadmap to negotiate these obstacles isn’t only possible, it’s absolutely necessary to achieve business success in 2022. So, it is at this time of the year (though it could be anytime during the year), I work with clients and their management teams to reflect on the previous 12-months to identify what they need to do to achieve success in the coming year.

Where to begin?

Firstly, we revisit the plan we created 12 months earlier (e.g. for 2020 calendar year) to remind ourselves what we have (or not) achieved. Then, using a use a simple two-sided worksheet, we consider the year just ending (e.g. 2021):  

  1. What did we accomplish last year?
  2. What didn’t go well?
  3. What really made a difference and how did it happen?

These three surprisingly simple questions profoundly focus the mind on what worked (or didn’t) and why we succeeded (or didn’t). To avoid defensive arguments or rambling, responses are bullet points and everything must be considered, including role, system, product/service and financial performance (there are no scared cows).

The process is quick (no more than 60min) and questions provide a tangible opportunity for the team to close the door (and the associated emotions) on the previous year and set a clean state in which to prepare for the next year.  As noted by one client, “the end of year reflection is a full stop on the year. Even though the end of the year is always crazy, I go into Christmas feeling content about what we’ve achieved and focussed on what we must do when we get back.”

Note – While this article focuses on the end/start of the calendar year review you can adapt the process to suit any time frame that fits your business.

Looking ahead

With the previous year behind you, it now time to look ahead (e.g. 2022). This begins with clearly recording what you need to do better next year. For example, improve sales conversions, lift the gross profit margin, implement technology, specific training, being more responsive. When listing these improvements, it is often useful to consider them across your critical business systems:

  • People (including leadership)
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Accounting & Finance
  • Products / Services
  • Customer / Client success
  • Job Management & Delivery
  • Operational Systems & Processes

Again, be specific, use bullet points and canvas the team to make sure all the mission critical improvements are listed. These are usually things people must do better, so encourage honest conversations to get at the real reason for the improvement.  

The next step is to visualise the future and set your goals for the following year. Consider:

  • This time next year (12-months) we want to…?
  • Look ahead 12-months, where do you want the business to be? What have you accomplished? What don’t you want to be doing?

Separate your goals into categories for example, critical business systems or distinct projects. The categories will help you create a more balanced future. Don’t worry if you find you are setting too many goals in one given category and not giving enough attention to another one. At this stage, recording the goals is the priority – it’s easier to disregard them later than to remember what you haven’t written down.

When setting your goals, make sure they are specific, measurable and can be completed within the year (if they roll over multiple years, then split the goal into smaller time bound goals/projects so you know what needs to be completed in the coming year). These goals define the end results, use your team and management meetings to define and monitor the actions required to achieve the goals. Example 12-month goals:

  1. Diversification – 60% of revenue is generated in Canterbury with the remainder 40% split up between Wellington, Napier and Tauranga by Dec 2022.
  2. Big Jobs – successfully tended and won three contracts exceeding $50,000 and at one giant $100,000 contract.
  3. Locations – Napier (1.5FTE), Wellington (1.5FTE), Christchurch (10 FTE), mobile (1.5FTE)
  4. People – New appointments:  Admin (Feb) Operations Manager (June).
  5. Owner risk – Business Owner has 10 consecutive days on holiday and averages 12 four-day weeks (excluding public holidays).

I also recommend setting a one-word focus or theme for the year. This one word must sum up the business’ overarching intention for the year as it will serve to consolidate values and help the team focus on what they need to achieve in the coming year. As articulated by an engineering client, “2022 is the year of the client – meaning we need to go back to basics and focus on what really matters for our clients, focus on their needs (not ours), seek constructive feedback to learn how we can design and deliver solution that exceeds their expectations”.

Make a Not-a-Plan-Plan

At this stage where we deviate from the traditional 12-month planning process. The identified goals and projects are indicative of where we want to go but they generally reflect top-of-mind opportunities and jobs-to-be-done. This is important, as it requires us to prioritise what we urgently need to complete vs goals/projects that are time bound for later in the year. To do this we create what I call a Not-a-Plan-Plan.

To focus the mind on what must be done when the team come back after the Christmas break first review and prioritise the goals, then consider:

  • What do we need to achieve in the first three months to stay on track to reach a 12-month goals?
  • What can we do to start strong in the New Year? What actions MUST we complete in January?

I would expect no more than six goals/projects listed after each question. These are the mission critical activities that your team must complete at the start of the New Year. This exercise not only provides the team with jobs to be done when they return to work, but it means everybody goes on holiday with a clear understanding of what will be done when they return. For the business owner it provides piece of mind going into the holiday period.

Even in the best of times, distractions are many—and last year wasn’t easy to navigate. In my experience your only chance to get the results you want for the new year is to take stock of your business now. It’s a task of the highest priority: to reflect on 2021, document the 2022 goals you want to achieve and translate them into actions you can execute. Act today; review last year, design goals for this year and work on an action plan for each one.

If you want to receive a copy of our end-of-year review or undertake a quick business health check to get started visit our website or reach out to one of the Prime Strategies team.


David Shearer

Prime Strategies Group Partner – Canterbury

[email protected]

January 2022