The 90-day plan

2020 seems to be moving quickly. We are two months into the year— 17% of the year is already in the rearview mirror! Two months in, the year starts to take shape. We may have a better idea of what things look like— good and bad— than we did when we looked into the crystal ball toward the end of 2019. Are you tracking to reach the goals you set for the year? Do you have those goals even set? My experience has been that many small business owners struggle with projecting out an entire year. While setting a full plan for the year can be daunting, planning your business one quarter at a time is much more manageable. Here is a seven-step plan I use with my clients for 90-day-planning:

Step One: Write out your goals

We think best on paper. Simply knowing your goals is not enough; writing them down makes them tangible, and, provided that you either post them where they are visible or continue to write them out, it will serve as a reminder of what you said you would accomplish in the quarter. I work with clients on writing out SMART Goals. Make them Specific— the more clearly defined your goal is, the more detailed a picture you can paint in your mind, the more clear the path to achievement becomes. Make them Measurable— Peter Drucker is famously quoted for saying “What gets measured gets managed.” Translation; a goal with metrics and benchmarks attached to it can be tracked. Without numbers, it is hard to determine if progress is being made. Make sure your goals are Aligned with your values— a goal that flies in the face of the values of you or your organization will be unsatisfactory if achieved at best, and may undermine those values at worst. Keep them Realistic— “shoot for the stars, because even if you miss you will land on the moon” looks great on a Successories poster, but in reality consistently setting goals that cannot be reached can lead to frustration and lack of motivation. Goals should stretch you out, but not be impossible. Make your goals Time-bound— deadlines keep us accountable and on track; urgency to achieve is a motivator.

Step Two: Set a deadline

As noted above, any good goal needs a deadline, an expiration date. Determine what it is, whether it is strictly calendar-based (end of Q2, for example), or necessary for a customer, partner or industry requirement, and set the date. From there, set sub-deadlines; if you have a goal of achieving Z by June 21st, what needs to happen by when leading up to that deadline (Y by June 1st, X by May 20th)? Think of this as a series of mini-goals that all keep you moving on a path toward achieving the primary goal.

Step Three: Identify your constraints

What will hold you back from your goal? What are the obstacles in front of you that will prevent you from achieving your goal? If identifying a goal is like the destination on a map, identifying obstacles is like finding the traffic snarls, construction and road closures on the way; the sooner you can identify what will slow you down, the sooner you can plan on how to avoid or minimize those slowdowns. A key point in this step is noting how many of the constraints are self-imposed (internal) vs. out of your control (external). Get to work on those constraints that YOU have set, as you have the most control over eliminating them.

Step Four: Identify the knowledge or skills needed

Any goal worth achieving requires a stretch, which can often mean learning something new. Adding a service or product could mean the need for additional training— for your manufacturing, sales, marketing, or customer service teams. Moving into a new market requires an understanding of a new customer base. A continuing focus on improvement equates to a continuous focus on learning. Determine what you need to know, so you can go about acquiring that knowledge.

Step Five: Identify the resources needed

Resources, in this case, have nothing to do with money, equipment, technology, or raw materials. Resources refer to people. No worthy goal can be completed on your own. You need to find the people who have a vested interest in your success— your stakeholders— and ask for their help. Leverage their respective resources, knowledge, contacts, and energy in order to move toward your goals. If you succeed, they succeed.

Step Six: Write it ALL down

Get everything down on paper. Of course, write out the goal, but then note the deadlines and sub-deadlines. List out the constraints, and why they will be an issue, noting which are internal vs. external. Write down what you need to know or learn that you do not yet know. List out your stakeholders. Make a list of all the actions that need to be taken in order to accomplish what was written in the plan. What needs to get done to reach the goal? Who needs to do it? When does it need to happen? What is the most important? What needs to happen first? Get it out of your head and onto paper so you can study it every day; make it tangible, full of items that can be checked or crossed off. All of this leads to getting to our final step. . . .

Step Seven: Take action!

We accomplish goals by putting in the work. Nothing can happen until that first action is taken, like the first step on a long journey. Human beings are biologically constructed to get things done, and our bodies and brains have developed amazing systems for rewarding hard work. Get out your list, identify what needs to get done first, and get to work doing it. Accomplishing that task gives us a shot of dopamine, which feels great and drives further action. Momentum builds momentum, and more you get done the faster you will go.

Start with a clear goal. Put a deadline on it, and hold yourself accountable to that deadline. Know what will get in your way, and what you need to learn to get better. Ask for help from those who are willing and able to provide that help. Get it all down on paper. And get to work!

I work with clients all the time on building and executing their 90-Day (and longer) Plans. If this concept makes sense, but you know that you could use some guidance on the implementation, let’s talk. Click here is set up a phone call, and let’s figure out where you want to go and how to get there.


I’d love to hear from you! If you have a question or comment please share it with me below and I will be in touch with you very shortly:

(* indicates required fields)