The first and most important of these is the objectives. Every plan should specify specific, concrete objectives. These are your goals. Every objective listed should be concrete and measurable. Objectives should specify results and activities that can be easily tracked, such as increasing monthly sales or profits to some specific number or by a specific percentage, decreasing costs or operating expenses to a specific number or percent, or maintaining cash flow, paying off a loan, finding a specific amount of new funding.
Objectives don´t have to come from financial results exclusively. You can set many different objectives for performance, customer satisfaction, other key elements of success, just as long as you define measurement criteria. For example, if your business wants to serve the best coffee on the block as a plan objective, then add that it will be determined by a random survey of customers or whatever. If you want to track outside sales performance, set objectives for numbers of presentations and percent of closes. If you want to increase customer satisfaction, then the plan should define how and when the survey will be done and what are the main questions. You can set objectives for average length of toll free calls and then measure it on your phone bill. You can set dates for product release and then track whether or not they happen on time. You can set attendance goals for your seminars. Just make sure that the objective comes with some measurement you can track later.
To test your objectives, list them and ask yourself, for each one, how you´ll know later whether or not you´ve achieved it. That will eliminate a lot of vague and useless objectives. “Being the best” is great, but it isn´t a business objective without definition and measurement.
The second most important is the mission statement. I look to a mission statement to define the long-term fear-reaching goals of a company in three specific ways:
- First, what does this company do for its customers? What business are you in? Think broadly about the benefits you offer because that helps you look at the longer term and grow the business. Starbucks for example offers a lot more than coffee, and I don´t mean other products, I mean a certain environment, an affordable luxury, a meeting place, etc.
- Second, what does this company do for its employees? Don´t you want your employees to stay with you? Doesn´t that mean providing decent work, useful feedback, training, benefits, etc.? Isn´t that one of the deeper goals of a good company? Put that in your mission statement.
- Third, what do the owners want? Your mission is probably to grow and produce profits, and the mission statement should say so. Profits and growth are very important goals. The mission statement should be more permanent than a topic in a business plan. It needs consistent application over a long time to become valid. It should be something that has real meaning when managers refer to it. It should serve as a reminder of what the main point is.
Avoid fuzzy vague missions. One good trick is to review your mission statement useless comparisons, particularly regarding what business you´re in and what you do for your customers. Do your competitors do the same thing? Are your missions identical? Think about how your company is different, and use that to influence your long-term mission.