A contractor started his company in the mid-2000s. Business was up, down, and profitability was nowhere to be found. The only consistent thing in his organization was inconsistency. Slugging it out in the summers, getting by in the fall and winter, and holding his breath from January to June, he was hanging on by a string.

When asked if he did any annual planning, he said, “You bet I did! I sat down toward year’s end and looked at my financials. I plan and hope to do better next year!”

When asked how that was working out, he said, “As soon as I got busy, my plan, which was really just a wish, it all went out the door. I then proceeded to do exactly what I did the year before. And I got the same results. I didn’t make any money this year either.”

That contractor was me. Then in 2012, I attended my first Service Nation Alliance annual success planning training led by serial entrepreneur and seasoned planner Ben Stark. At first, I was intimidated and overwhelmed at such a huge undertaking. But I found that with an open mind and proper guidance along with a systemized approach, I could do it.

How well did that work out for me? In 2012, I went from being a low-profit business to one with double-digit profitability in that year and each consecutive year since.

Planning doesn’t have to be complicated or boring. In fact, if done right, this will be one of the most energizing events you can do with your leadership team.

Who should attend and where? All the key leaders in the company should be involved. It will help with the buy-in and making sure it's the team's plan, not just the owner’s plan. Make this a fun event at an offsite location. If done correctly, this can be one of the best team building events you will do.

These are the seven elements that make up the proven strategic planning process:


Step 1: Analyze Your Situation.

This step takes a hard look at your past performance. Everything from profitability, gross margins, average tickets, call counts, closing percentages, and memberships to team members, marketing results, and geographic areas served. What are you really good at and where are you needing improvement? Taking time to reflect and really defining reality is a great way to benchmark where you are and start the process of seeing where you can go.


Step 2: Set Your Goals.

Set your sales and profitability goals for one, three, and five years out. Also include any other key things that will help you move toward the goals — things like club memberships, five-star reviews, adding additional trades or locations.


Step 3: Strategic Plan — Create Action Plans.

Goals without action are just dreams. One of the core values of Go Time Success Group is “Take Massive Action.” I’d encourage you to do the same. To do this, you need a good action plan that:

  • Identifies the goal
  • Defines the action steps
  • Assigns responsibility
  • Assigns a timeline for completion
  • Identifies resources needed


Step 4: Prioritize Goals and Plans.

In order to accomplish your goals, we need to make it easy for the team to know what the first step is. Break it down to what’s most important to focus on. The best practice is to set three to five quarterly goals and rank in order of importance. Every member in your company should know what their goals are and how they impact the company goals.


Step 5: Implement Improvements and Changes.

Now that we know what has to happen and who is in charge of driving this outcome, it’s time to implement the improvements and changes needed to make this a reality. This takes buy-in from the team. Start by getting the key influencers onboard with the changes by showing what’s in it for them. Use a training calendar and schedule time to implement and train on these improvements.


Step 6: Measure and Evaluate.

What gets measured and recognized gets repeated and improved. Set up daily, weekly, and monthly automated reports to keep all your key people in the know of ongoing performance. A lot of successful contractors have monitors in their office to display the KPIs for departments and technicians.


Step 7: Revise and Improve.

Use the data to help coach team members to improve. More importantly, recognize what they are doing well. If something is not working as intended, seek input from the front line about what could be done to make it better. Document and train on the new process.

I love the wisdom of famous baseball player Yogi Bera. He said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” How true is that?! Once you start this culture of planning and taking massive action, you will find out what I know and what so many other successful contractors know: that annual planning is the most impactful couple of days that you can invest in your business. It’s go time!