How to Set the Company Course for Next Year

By Jeffrey Barnhart

It’s the end of the calendar year, a time to look back and see where your company has been and where it is headed in the future.

Well, sort of. I suggest that business executives plan for the next year before conducting a post-mortem on the current year. I say that because it’s important to keep the momentum of your business going forward, rather than get mired down in the details of what may not have panned out as you expected.

Here’s how I recommend wrapping up one calendar year and moving into the next:

Create a company game plan. My department managers create a budget and a year-long strategic plan before the new year begins. The plan includes the strategic imperatives for each department, along with the name of the person responsible for each project. Each person responsible will then create a detailed outline of tasks, available resources and deadlines. Once everything is compiled, we put it into a binder for each employee and call it our CMA Game Plan. This way, our vision for the company is in black and white and there’s transparency at all levels of the organization as to where we plan to go next year.

Raise the bar. If you achieved your plans this year, then you will just repeat that game plan for next year, right? No. You have probably heard this before, but it is important to improve each and every year. Do not allow yourself to get complacent, that’s how companies fail. Set goals that you think you can achieve, but make them stretch goals. Always look to improve. Encourage employees to up their game and improve their skills. Always assume your team will remain the same over the next year, even though there will undoubtedly be turnover. If and when employees do leave, replace them with employees with more experience to minimize downtime and keep on track to achieve company goals. 

Motivate employees. The company game plan lists employee names and assigns responsibilities within its pages and so it shows employees how they fit into the company’s goals. They feel like part of the team, with goals and objectives. The company game plan is a motivational tool. I find that employees who do not understand their role in the company can become discouraged and that can lead to company turnover. When employees do not see their names within the pages of the game plan, it often inspires productive discussions about where it makes sense for them to support the company’s strategic imperatives.

Determine company profit and reinvestment. There is always a fine line between what company owners want to earn and how much of the profit will be reinvested into the company. Money can be reinvested in the business’ building and grounds, employee raises, offsetting a portion of healthcare premiums, technology upgrades or a myriad of other things. It’s a delicate balance to determine the costs and benefits of each potential project. For example, will the $2,000 new laptop upgrade produce a workload efficiency equal or greater to the cost?

Review the past 12 months. If your company followed a proper budget process, there really should not be any surprises in the numbers. Your department heads not only should have compiled a numerical budget, but also a written narrative outlining the department’s roadmap, assumptions about revenue and expenses and plans to achieve those goals. No budget will hold for a full year, that’s why businesses should use a rolling budget forecast to show your assumptions, but then adjust the forecast as reality changes those numbers. The great thing about running a small company is that your organization can be flexible. Should circumstances change within the economy or within your industry, smaller organizations have the ability to pivot strategies and execute more easily than a large corporation.

Make it happen. I find when everyone has the opportunity to contribute and work together toward a common goal, it makes for better interaction and a better product. What do you think?

Jeffrey Barnhart is founder and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, a full-service strategic marketing and integrated communications firm that delivers award-winning campaigns, recommendations and return-on-investment (ROI). He can be reached at

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