Business Planning: The Hourglass Approach

September 5th, 2017

When it comes to annual planning, businesses often spend too much time on the planning process or too little because they are busy with day-to-day operations. There’s a simple method called the “Hourglass Approach” that can help you efficiently focus on your goals and create a plan to achieve them.

Top of the glass
In the first stage, review the internal and external business environment. Force yourself to carefully consider the variables affecting your business:

  • The internal environment. Look at all aspects of your business, from personnel to financing. Review your sales and marketing as well as operations. Identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as the critical success factors for each aspect of your company.
  • The external review.Now conduct the same review of the business environment. Review your competition. Review your current marketplace. Look specifically for trends, both good and bad. Conduct a similar review of the legal and regulatory environment.

The narrowing middle
Now you should have a good handle on the current situation. Use this information to create the middle of the glass and distill it into actionable priorities.

Short lists of actionable focus. Create a short list of three to five strengths and weaknesses. Create a similar short list of your biggest problems and opportunities. These lists will be your focus as you set your goals for the next year.

Create goals. Your goals should be well defined and measurable.

  • Financial goals: sales, gross margin or net income targets.
  • Volumetric goals: number of customers, orders or other key measures.
  • Learning goals: lessons from product launches, competitive intelligence.
  • Operational goals: projects to address weaknesses or leverage strengths.

The final results
In the bottom stage, you need to create your plan with a specific road map to reach your goals, such as:

  • Create your annual financial plan
  • Identify resources you need to achieve your goals
  • Prioritize projects and create to-do lists
  • Create basic timelines

Consider trying the Hourglass Approach to create your next business plan. It could help you and your team move your business in the right direction.