7 ways to make business planning easier and more effective

by Meg White

It’s time to start thinking about your goals for 2020. Here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you set your course for the next year.

So if you’re ready to take the plunge and set some audacious goals for 2020, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

  • Schedule regular check-ups before next year even begins

One major flaw in business planning is the idea that it only happens once a year. It’s important to take time once a year to reflect on your business and set goals, but it may be even more important to set aside time throughout the year to check in on your progress.

At a recent Coldwell Banker Wealth Builder event, Adrian Scurtu, a CPA and tax strategist with Manning Silverman & Company, asked brokers, “How much more productive do we think we could be … if we took one day a month and worked on your business instead of in it?”

While once a month might be more often than possible during busy times, Scurtu implored the audience to at least undertake a quarterly profit-and-loss analysis. He also shared a way to use a tax deduction under IRS Section 280a to pay yourself back for thinking ahead. Read more about that here. 

  • Check in, but don’t obsess

 While it’s important to look at your progress every couple of months, it’s also good to keep the big picture in mind. Revisit your plan regularly instead. If what you wanted in 2019 didn’t happen, then set your sights on 2020.

  • Measure what matters

Before you can set goals, it’s important to know what you want from your career and personal life over the next year. It may seem natural to constantly be scaling up transaction volume or moving up in the ranks of your office, but if that’s not reflective of your true desires, it should definitely not be the basis for your business plan.

  • Breaking out of the same old evaluation techniques

Often real estate professionals ask themselves the same questions about their business year after year, which means the process can become stale and less thoughtful than it would be if it were the first time you were looking at them. If this is your fourth year conducting a SWOT analysis — looking at your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats — for example, maybe it’s time to try something else.

New York-based business consultant Mike Cardus proposed businesses focus on NOISE (Needs, Opportunities, Improvements, Strengths and Exceptions) as an alternative to SWOT, which he finds “lacks focus on improvements an organization can make.”

And though the theory was published some four decades ago, economist Michael E. Porter’s “five competitive forces” remains a potent force in strategic planning. He suggested companies examine competition, customers, suppliers, potential entrants and substitute products for their particular industries.

“We’ve got to start with industry analysis,” he said in a video with Harvard Business Review. “It helps you avoid getting trapped or tricked by the latest trend or technological sensation.”

  • Seek help to get started

 It can be hard to know where to begin, especially if you’re new to the business. Experts recommend finding an accountability partner at your office to help you stay focused and figure out where to set your next goals. Managing brokers can be a good source of guidance and support in goal setting, too.

Those looking for a more self-guided approach might consider following a template. AgentEDU, an educational platform created by Agent Publishing, has a customizable worksheet agents and brokers can use to evaluate their business and set goals for the coming year. The business plan template is available for free download here.

  • Get one step ahead in your marketing

If you want your marketing materials to fall in line with where your potential clients are in any given season, you need to have your assets together well before that season begins. For example, summer is too late to start marketing to buyers looking to move before the school year. Map out the highs and lows of the previous year, as well as any holidays that might make for helpful touchpoints, and use those to help you compose your marketing plan for the next year so you can always be ahead of trends and the desires of your clients.

It’s not just the calendar that you need to think of, however. The economic and housing cycles are important — if less predictable — touchstones that will impact your marketing approach.

As we shift toward a buyer’s market, for example, you’ll want to have materials on negotiation and price adjustments ready for sellers. Conversely, if the situation is one that favors sellers,  you’ll need to prepare market reports to homeowners in your sphere to help them understand and showcase the value of their home.

Your clients likely look to you to keep them knowledgeable about economic conditions, and many would appreciate regular check-ins to ensure they’re aware of market trends. One helpful way to manage these campaigns is by segmenting your CRM into “buyer” and “seller” buckets, so that you can send targeted messages to each group.

  • Let goals guide your mindset

 Having an attitude of positivity impacts more than just your business plan. An optimistic mindset affects the mood in your office and your overall energy. Challenge the old narratives you might have and remember that you are the messenger of your industry. It’s all about training yourself how to think.