Bobcat T595 compact track loader powers through mud and stays productive on a busy construction site.

Annual planning is just what it says – something you need to do every single year. But don’t panic. Annual planning doesn’t have to be intimidating. The most difficult part of planning is simply taking time out from your busy landscaping or construction work to think about where you’ve been, identify what worked (or didn’t work), consider new opportunities and then set goals and agree on strategies to meet those goals. 

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 that will keep your equipment busy and your business focused.

1. Dedicate time.

Don’t try to plan while you’re busy on the job. Schedule time away from work to focus and, if you’re not a sole proprietor, include a few trusted employees. Create a quick agenda of what you want to accomplish (see more below) and get away from your jobsite, shop or office if that will help you concentrate.

2. Define your goals.

It seems obvious but it’s important. Clearly define what you want for your business – and your personal life. It’s impossible to plan if you don’t! Do you dream of world domination? Independence? A new boat or cabin? Staying small and busy? Are you making progress in your existing goals? Or have your goals changed?

3. Look ahead by looking back.

Look through your previous year’s financials to get a picture of revenue by month 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 that were the best fit and why. What did they hire you for? When? How did you work with them? Did you have the right equipment for the work they needed done? Have the same discussion about customers that 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 stop wasting time on the wrong ones. Most important, talk about how to keep your best customers happy. Do they want helpful information from you? Better communication? Remember, it’s easier to grow the business you have than it is to find new customers.

4. Conduct a SWOT analysis.

This is the time to examine your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (also known as SWOT.) Be brutally honest and write them down. Strengths (what do you do well?) and weaknesses (where do you have room to improve – training, marketing, hiring, equipment or attachments?) should be about your business. While opportunities (are there side projects you can go after to keep your crew and equipment busy year-round?) and threats (are there aggressive competitors out there?) are focused on external factors.

Think back on customer feedback (better yet – ask them for it!), and pay attention to what your competitors are doing. Prioritize the SWOT results and use them to create short- and long-term strategies. 

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 and 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.

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