Person working on Bobcat machine
How you can analyze your results & hone in your goals for the coming year

Annual planning is just that — something you need to do every year. That said, the annual planning process doesn’t have to be intimidating or overly time consuming. The most difficult part of planning is simply getting clear on what you want for your business, for your employees and for yourself as a leader. 

If you don’t plan where you want your business to go, you won’t know when you’re off track. And you could be missing obvious opportunities. Follow these steps to create a plan to keep your equipment busy and your business focused.


1. Dedicate time.

The best way to get into the annual planning headspace is to dedicate time to do it. Whether that’s initially on your own to think through the broader vision for your company, or in a more formal approach with your key employees, there is no wrong way to approach the process. The first step is to make time for it and determine how you want to work through your planning.


2. Define your goals.

Setting goals and defining them may seem obvious, but it’s important to approach this process from the right mindset. Think about what you want for your business in the coming year — and that includes thinking through all areas of your business.

Key considerations include:

  • What is your growth plan? Are there market or new customer opportunities to capitalize on? What about new locations or a broader geographic footprint?
  • How about new products — do you need to add new machines to your fleet? If so, what equipment? Have you talked to your equipment dealer about their recommendations?
  • How are you providing learning and development opportunities for your team members? What about ongoing training?
  • What does your succession plan look like (either for you, or other key employees getting closer to retirement)?


Once you get specific and realistic about what you can accomplish, it will be easier to develop project plans, timelines and smaller goals that lead to your larger strategy. 


3. Look ahead by looking back.

Look through your previous year’s financials to get a picture of revenue and look for trends. How did revenue change and why? Do you have slow months? When and why? Did you meet your goals from last year? Why or why not?

Next, think about your customers and identify the ones who were the best fit and why. Why did they hire your company? When? How did you work with them? Did you have the right equipment for the work they needed done? Also consider customers who aren’t a good fit. Write a description of your ideal target customer and use it throughout the year. This will help you target the right customers and find the right opportunities to grow your business. 

Most importantly, talk about how to keep your best customers happy. What did they like or dislike about your work on their jobsite? Do they need better communication from you and your team? Remember, it’s easier to grow the business you have than it is to find new customers.



4. Conduct a SWOT and prioritization analysis.

This is the time to examine your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (also known as SWOT). Be completely honest and write them down. What does your business do well, and where do you have room to improve: training, marketing, hiring, equipment or attachments? Your SWOT analysis should focus on your business while opportunities and threats are focused on external factors. Are there opportunities to take on side projects to keep your crew and equipment busy year-round? Who are your leading competitors and why?

Ask for and give thoughtful consideration to customer feedback, and pay attention to what your competitors are doing. Prioritize the SWOT results and use them to create short- and long-term strategies. Engaging customers for their honest feedback will also build goodwill and strengthen existing relationships. By creating an avenue for these conversations, you can be more in tune with their wants, needs and priorities when it comes to equipment and service.

Once you have completed your SWOT analysis, the next step is to look through the work itself. At this point, you and perhaps members of your team can identify and prioritize what is most important and urgent, and set aside the considerations that don’t align with your broader strategy. Then you can determine how and who can support all that work. 


5. Create a simple plan and follow it.


Now that you have some key goals, create a simple plan with financial projections that will be your road map for the coming year. Start with your overall goals, and spell out the specific strategies for reaching those goals. If you have a team, assign responsibility — it doesn’t all have to go on your plate. List specific activities that need to happen, set deadlines and be sure to measure your progress.

Remember, it’s a plan — and plans can change. Be flexible, review what’s working and what’s not, and keep your eyes open for new opportunities as the year progresses.

Don’t be intimidated by annual planning. It’s your time to look back and celebrate what you accomplished and identify new opportunities to reach your goals in the coming year. Creating an annual plan is a best practice for construction or landscaping businesses to keep you on course for continued success.   

Bonus: Explore New Technology

Technology can be your best tool in your ongoing pursuit to increase efficiencies, improve your jobsite results and take your projects to new heights. With technology constantly advancing, construction firms can evolve by producing higher-quality results in less time.

Here are some key questions about technology to ask yourself as part of your annual planning process:

  • Are you maximizing your telematics information? How are you acting on the machine data you collect? Or more importantly, are you using telematics at all?
  • Consider new display systems and radar sensing technologies if you haven’t. These should be particular considerations, especially if you have newer and less experienced operators, as these tools can help with onboarding and training. 
  • As mentioned above, talk to your dealer about their recommendations and insights into ways technology can bolster your business. There may be several ways your current fleet can incorporate new technologies that add to your bottom line. 

You won’t regret setting aside time to complete annual planning. Having records and summaries about your business’s past performance and your plans for the future will be helpful in determining what the next steps are to grow and maintain a strong business. The benefits of annual planning start within your company’s walls but will also impact the valued customers you serve daily. 

Happy planning!