Building an annual plan is an important catalyst to reaching your business goals. One of the biggest mistakes in businesses is not creating an annual plan. While most companies have sales targets, and may have a marketing calendar, your annual plan should be a complete view of your company objectives, goals and activity plans. It shows your team where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there. It aligns your employees with your vision and excites them about the year to come.

Regardless of the size of your business, an annual plan is a powerful tool for your success. The planning process doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are seven steps for a great annual plan.

  1. How’d We Do? Take a hard look at how you’ve done over the past two years. Of course sales are important, but this is just the starting point. Your performance analysis should include an evaluation of your product or service offering, competitive landscape, customer feedback, marketing effectiveness, company culture, costs, and overall profitability vs. your plan. Your company may also have other critical success factors that you’ll evaluate.
  2. What’s In A Plan? Annual plans come in many, many forms. As a starting point, it’s useful to think about your plan in terms of your broad objectives. You may have objectives that fall under a few buckets. The most common are Financial, Customer, and People/Culture. What are the commitments you want to make to each of these areas?

Next, dive deeper into each of these areas. Under each area create a specific goal with related activities and measurements.

  1. Collaborative Plan Building. The best plans are a collaborative effort that includes everyone in your organization. Whether you have three employees, or thousands, it’s important that everyone feels like they’re part of the annual plan process. This accomplishes two powerful outcomes. First, everyone will feel like they’ve been heard. When employees have input into the plan they’re more committed to achieving the goals. Without involvement, you risk people feeling like it’s been forced on them, and this can be demotivating. Second, people in your company probably have brilliant ideas. The planning process can be a chance for them to bring their ideas to the table.
  2. Smaller is Better. Billion dollar companies may have plans that run hundreds of pages. Does that make them better? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The best companies actually have annual plans that fit onto just one page. Yes, companies as large as McDonald’s, Coors, and Quiznos have plans that fit on just one sheet of paper. There are three great benefits of putting it all on one page. First, it’s easier for people to stay focused on the few things that matter. Second, it’s easy for everyone to see how their efforts fit into the plan. Finally, it’s easy to share, discuss and distribute. The annual plan becomes a tool for decision making that everyone can use.
  3. Communicate the Plan. Your plan doesn’t do you any good if it stays on your desk or gets put on a shelf. Engage everyone in your company through group meetings with questions and answers. This is where the one-page format becomes really valuable. It’s an opportunity to invigorate everyone to accomplish the plans they’ve created.
  4. Work the Plan. Great plans are only as good as your follow through and execution. Schedule periodic check-ins to track your progress against the plan and your success measures. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work required in any business. Great businesses take the time to break from the work to be sure they’re on track.
  5. Adjust. Be flexible. Business conditions are constantly changing. Adjust as you go based on what happens in your business and what you learn throughout the year. However, as you make changes to the plan, be sure to keep everyone in the organization informed about the new priorities.

Gerry O'Brion - Keynote Marketing & Branding Speaker


Gerry spent his career growing big brands such as Procter & Gamble, Coors Light, Quiznos, and Red Robin. Now, he translates strategies from billion dollar brands into techniques that any company can use, regardless of their budget.

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