5 Steps for a Great 2018

Have you ever wondered why some businesses seem to consistently outperform others within the same industry?

There’s a good chance that the better performers employ a strong planning process – one that results in a plan that is well understood by the board, leadership, managers and employees and is actionable. Starting the 2018 calendar year with a well-designed annual plan will better maximize potential business profits and deliver for the owners and employees what they need to have a great year.

Involving your key managers and leaders in the process tends to produce better outcomes, because these individuals have a stake and ownership in helping you build and execute the plan.
Here are 5 key steps ThistleSea recommends for your planning in 2018. They are:

  1. Identify your as-is state.
  2. Draft your plan for 2018.
  3. Present your plan to the stakeholders and adjust.
  4. Budget for impact, cash flow and profit.
  5. Deploy your plan, track progress and adjust.

By taking these steps, you can improve your business and increase your success.

1.      Identify your as-is state.

Assuming a business works on a calendar year (i.e. January 1 – December 31), we suggest you start by preparing your as-is overview, assessing where you are today. Have your managers responsible for each area of the company write a brief document describing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats covering the scope of their department and area of responsibility, including any key metrics tracked. This should be a realistic evaluation and include industry trends, recent experiences and expert evaluation.

2.      Draft your plans for 2018.

While managers are drafting their as-is assessments, they should simultaneously prepare their suggested plans for the next year 2018. Why should these be done at the same time?

As managers are gathering and recording information for the as-is state, they should be thinking:

  • “This is my current revenue, and this is my current number of staff members.” (Record in as-is document.)
  • “Next year, revenue will increase by 10%, and we will require one additional staff member.” (Record in 2018 document.)

This includes the anticipated changes in personnel, capital equipment and any other expenses that will be required, as well as the overall impact their plans will have in revenue growth, expenses and profitability.

 (Don’t let managers forget to consider the key factor is the impact on your primary customers.)

3.      Present the plans to the stakeholders and adjust.

We suggest that both the as-is review and plan for 2018 be presented by the authors (i.e. managers) to the management team members first. The purpose is to share each plan, discuss the impact on the company against its mission, vision and values, ensure congruency, and avoid any duplication. Top leadership should direct managers to refine their plans based upon feedback and prepare to present final plans.

Depending on the organization’s size, scope of operations, complexity and governance, there may be several internal presentations and refinements to prepare the plans for final plan approval.

From a timing standpoint, we recommend planning begin in August and conclude with approvals by the end of September to begin the budgeting process.

4.      Budget for impact, cash flow and profit.

With the as-is review and the 2018 plans approved, you should be in a great position to engage your company in the budgeting process. This process should begin with your bookkeeper providing each manager who has Profit & Loss responsibility with worksheets to prepare a projected actual budget for the current year, through the year’s end, for their scope of operations.

That budget becomes a tool for preparing a 2018 budget for leadership approval, to be incorporated into the overall company budget. With each budget prepared, the leadership will have an opportunity to review each department’s impact on the customers, market and how money spent will generate the anticipated revenue for the new year.

You’ve heard the saying, “Cash is king”? Well, it’s true. Preparing your budget should include looking at your cash flow to include every dollar that goes into and comes out of your checking account.

Finally, look at the bottom-line. Profit is just a result of all the activities of the business. Look at making the final adjustments with feedback from your management team to include timing of initiatives, expenditures and hiring, etc.

5.      Deploy your plan, track progress and adjust

While the planning process provides the roadmap for the destination and success you envision, it’s just a plan. Without taking action even the best plan is worthless.

So, what does taking action entail? The answer: Your leadership. It involves clearly articulating your vision of success to those on whom you rely to help you achieve results you desire. It involves communication, both speaking and actively listening to those stakeholders to track progress and make needed adjustments.

But there is even more.

Your plan calls for certain work do be done. Is the environment for that work conducive to getting it done? Have barriers for success been eliminated? Are the business systems designed to consistently deliver the results you expect? Are the systems transferrable and easily understood by all employees as the company grows?

Leadership is critically important to your company to make any plan work in the business and for the stakeholders.


Through assessing your current situation, involving your managers, preparing a plan for the new year, communicating to inspire the stakeholders to adopt your vision of success, budgeting for financial success, listening and adjusting your plan, and taking actions in the environment you create to serve your customers, you can ensure the highest probability that your business will deliver for you.

Prepare and approve your 2018 plans and final budget before the Thanksgiving holiday and you will cruise through the holidays knowing you and your company are prepared to execute your 2018 plans with less stress and more impact and focus.

About ThistleSea Business Development, LLC

We believe that your business or career should deliver what you need to have a great life.

ThistleSea Business Development was founded in 2005 and is a business and executive coaching, strategy development, training and business services company. We offer business owners and executives custom one-on-one, face-to-face and group business coaching in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia and phone coaching across the United States. Our coaching practice is supported by resources from a network of over 150 affiliated business coaches located across the United States and Canada.

We work together with successful business owners and executives in improving the value of their business, company, department and quality of life.

Our team of ThistleSea Business Development licensed professional business coaches includes:

  • John D. Laslavic, LPBC President – Cranberry Township, PA Office
  • Wendy O. Lydon, LPBC, Sr. Vice President - Cranberry Township, PA Office
  • Jayne Huston, LPBC, Vice President – Harrisburg, PA Office
  • Terri Hammond, ASQ SSYB – Vice President / Business Systems - Cranberry Township, PA Office

Contact us if you would like to learn more about us and our services at thistlesea.com.

"To tie my foot problems directly to employee hiring was funny."

Or "How my bunions led me to hire a business coach."

I decided to write this post after reflecting on my time as a client at ThistleSea (I'm the only one in our office who can do this). This may give you an idea of why someone might hire a business coach.

I came to business coaching when the business was almost exactly 18 months old. I spent the first 13 months working between 70 and 80 hours weekly, and my 34-year-old body had begun to inform my brain that this was not a sustainable plan. What were my clues?

There are no pictures that accurately represent how unpleasant marriage was at the time.

There are no pictures that accurately represent how unpleasant marriage was at the time.

  • I was missing important family events regularly.
  • I had very few relationships outside of the business.
  • My feet had developed problems that weren't healing. (This after many years of tap dancing and running without issue.)
  • My marriage was pretty unpleasant.
  • I arrived each day at work prepared to fight fires.
  • If I wasn't putting out my own business fires, I was covering so that employees could put out their fires.

Looking back now, it's not hard to categorize my challenges. But under pressure, I couldn't see them:

  • Work/life balance was poor
  • Systems were not in place (in my case, HR systems were weak)

 (I don't know if ThistleSea's Wexford office was literally at a cooler temperature than my business, but when I would arrive at a coaching session, there was a clear feeling of "Ahhhh...." I could breathe. I could think and plan, ask questions, propose solutions, write, be still... I had no fires to fight.) Getting to the root cause of anything is difficult under pressure, so it was important that pressure could be relieved.

Let's use one of my examples.

PROBLEM: "My feet had developed problems that weren't healing."

WHY? (1)
I was on my feet for 8-10 hours, 6 days per week.

WHY? (2) 
I had to help the staff get the work done.

WHY? (3) 
There wasn't enough staff capable of meeting the company's requirements for the amount/quality of the work.

WHY? (4)
Staff didn't stay very long.

WHY? (5) 
We didn't clearly explain what was required when we hired new people. So we hired some people who didn't understand the work or weren't capable of doing it.

Yeah, I wore this. Yeah, it was as ridiculous as it looks.

Yeah, I wore this. Yeah, it was as ridiculous as it looks.

To tie my foot problems directly to employee hiring (1) was funny, (2) did not happen overnight and (3) did require making intermediate adjustments. That is, I didn't go straight to having an amazing system for hiring and then magically experience foot healing.

I'll talk a bit more about what happened in my next post. 

TAKEAWAY: When you're having a problem in your business, write it down. Ask "why" 5 times. You'll get very close to the root cause, and that's where you need to be.

"I've heard I should be networking."

"But what does it mean, and why should I bother?"

Let's start with "why." Networking:

  • Creates a vehicle for you to help others
  • Puts opportunities in front of you
  • Allows you to make choices about who, when, where, why and how you meet others

What does networking look like?

  • Regularly scheduled meetings
  • Social events
  • Non-profit or charity events
  • Educational seminars or classes
  • Award presentations
  • One-on-one meetings

You'll notice that one item missing from "Why" is "To get more business." Yes, it's absolutely possible that building your network will add revenue to your company. However, if you begin networking with the sole question, "What's in it for me?" you're going to be discouraged. Instead of focusing on your own dollars, concentrate instead on connecting people to each other and helping them meet their goals.

If you haven't put effort into building your network before, that's okay. But start now! An easy way to make networking a habit is to join a group that holds regular events (many are low-cost or no-cost) and then (THIS IS IMPORTANT) put the scheduled events on your calendar.

It's okay not to have perfect attendance, but remember, people can only know, like and trust you if you show up. 

John, Wendy, Jayne and I believe so strongly in the importance of building networks that we happily invite you to attend a networking event as our guest. Check out our Events page for some ideas or email us.

It's a little scary to do something new, especially when everyone else seems so practiced. Just remember the words of "Eat That Frog" author Brian Tracy, "You can only grow if you're willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new."

Is it time to re-evaluate?

A note from John

Can you remember back to January? You most likely had a vision of success for your business in 2016. Whether formal or informal, you were putting plans, strategies and tactics into action to result in a profitable 2016 for your business and family.

Now that we have just passed the halfway point of 2016, it’s time to evaluate where we are, compared to our plans. Are we on track? Here are 5 questions you should ask:

  1. Is our leadership and our vision of success communicated well and motivating to others?
  2. Are the people that we work with helping us move toward achieving our vision?
  3. Are we focused on improving the systems that would support our vision?
  4. Are our financial goals and budget forecast realistic and on track?
  5. Are our actions coordinated and resulting in profitable outcomes?

In preparing for the next half of 2016, the answers to these questions will help you to re-evaluate your action plans in order to achieve the success you desire.

If you have any difficulty answering these questions, ThistleSea’s staff can help you understand and evaluate the current situation and shed light on those areas to help you achieve success.

Contact us. Our team at ThistleSea just might be a good for for you and your team to identify and implement a best practices action plan for improved organizational performance,