How to Nail a 90-Day Action Plan

An action plan helps you reach both short- and long-term goals while developing foresight and flexibility

Creating a 90-day action plan for your business helps set and reach clear and realistic goals. This roadmap can also narrow down your short-term objectives to prioritize focus for a set period. And an action plan will help you apply what you learn during that time to the future.

Whatever you’re using this technique to accomplish—whether increasing revenue, getting more customers, or growing your business—you’ve got to nail it. Here are a few pointers for doing just that:

Set SMART goals

An action plan requires a set of desired outcomes, driven by how you want your business to look after 90 days. But where do you start? Make sure each of your goals, including daily and weekly targets as well as your 90-day goal, are SMART.

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Let’s dive into what these terms mean when you’re prioritizing.

  • Specific. It’s not enough to say that you want to increase revenue. You need to write down a number that you want to reach by day 90.
  • Measurable. How will you track progress? If your goal can’t be measured, it’s not a SMART one.
  • Achievable. Do you have everything you need right now to make it happen? You should have all the necessary resources before beginning.
  • Realistic. Make sure your goals are possible. SMART goals can be bold but not so aggressive that the desired outcome is a giant leap from what your business has accomplished in recent history.
  • Timely. While you have 90 days for your full action plan to come alive, create time-based targets within that period. Check off small steps that lead to the big payoff.

Another tip: It’s not enough to set these business goals on your own. Make sure your team is involved in planning. Emphasize how these goals align with the company’s overall vision so that everyone is aligned.

Determine cash flow requirements

For your 90-day plan to work, you need the right balance of income and expenses. How much money will you need to bring in regularly during this period? What expenses are you certain to have? What unplanned costs could potentially arise? 

Surprises happen, and three months is plenty of time for something to go wrong, even if it’s unrelated to the present goals. Categorize your costs into fixed and variable. For example, rent or space costs will be fixed, while supplies or salaries may be inconsistent.

Be prepared with a realistic cash flow plan. List your obligations and the actual cash you know you’ll receive. 

Identify other sources of income

Once cash flow is figured out, maybe you realize that your goals require a bit more money coming in regularly. Determine other income channels. Get creative. Involve other people who can think of additional sources or provide helpful perspectives.

And don’t underestimate the power of eliminating expenses. Negotiate with a vendor or research other businesses in the area that might be more affordable. If you have high debt payments each month, consider trying to defer payments or restructure your payment plan.

If you don’t have much debt, a business loan can help in a pinch. If the only obstacle to nailing your 90-day plan is more cash, a reasonable loan is not always a bad idea.

Be firm but adaptable

A 90-day action plan requires consistency and commitment. But there are always circumstances that arise to change plans quickly. Your benchmarks and goals may need to be updated within the quarter. 

For example, many small business owners had very different goals before the pandemic. But now, what they consider success to look like and the benchmarks they set are based on post-COVID numbers.

Try to stay flexible and celebrate small wins. This is where incremental steps are helpful as you are on the path to a 90-day desired outcome. 

Need outside help?

Often, an impartial, professional set of eyes can provide the perspective to clarify efficient planning. Provident CPA & Business Advisors can help you create the right strategy, set SMART goals, and track your progress along the way. We assist in planning for successful growth by identifying your critical drivers and creating the right budget. And our cash flow analysis focuses on the now to help you create a better future.

Contact the Provident team to learn more about our business strategy services.

The Liberating Effect of Setting Time-Based Targets

The word deadline can cause stress and panic. But when a business masters the time-based target, teams unleash their potential to improve productivity and performance.

Many entrepreneurs know that they must create SMART goals: those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Details must be clearly defined and attainable so that a goal is anything but vague. Otherwise, teams won’t be aligned and desired outcomes simply won’t be realized.

Making sure that goals are measurable and timely means that your team is setting a realistic deadline for each task or milestone, as well as the project as a whole. Even though deadlines can sometimes feel overwhelming, they actually free your mind and hone your focus to hit your targets. Here’s how.

Improve productivity

Without deadlines, projects can feel more overwhelming, impacting motivation. If there’s no end date, how much should be completed each day? What’s driving workers toward staying on task instead of procrastinating? A deadline can also be viewed as a challenge for a team member, which can inspire creativity and innovation.

Clearly defined deadlines and milestones help you better plan out what needs to be done and when. Otherwise, there will be too much freedom. It also helps to include deadlines for small steps within the timeline to keep momentum along the way.

Monitor progress

Milestones help you and the team monitor progress, which is especially crucial for long-term projects or initiatives. For example, hold a weekly check-in meeting to track and discuss where the project is currently and what’s left to be done. Just like checklists help us manage our thoughts and to-dos each day, milestones keep us focused on where we are and where we need to go.

Even top talent needs feedback and encouragement, and regular check-ins will provide that. These meetings also give the team deadlines to work toward throughout the week—they’ll want to be able to show something they’ve accomplished.

Hold the team accountable

Deadlines enable you to hold individuals accountable. When targets aren’t being met, it’s crucial to find out why and address the problem. If there are no end dates to projects—or milestones within them—it’s challenging even to identify the problem, much less nail down the cause.

With more information about where teams fall short, you can learn where you need to put your attention. You may discover the need to work closely with one particular employee who needs some extra guidance to stay on track.

While actual penalties aren’t always necessary or effective ways to motivate employees, it’s worth noting that you can still acknowledge how something could have gone better when a deadline isn’t met. And, of course, consistently missed deadlines call for a more serious conversation.

Generate better data

When you set measurable goals for your business, you’re giving yourself the ability to collect better data. This information can be used to make better business decisions based on facts and results. Milestones support consistency, which is another requirement for continually meeting goals.

For example, one measurable goal may be to grow your customer base by a certain number every month. Teams can check in to see which months have met this goal and which haven’t. What changed in the marketing strategy that could have made an impact? Was a new campaign launched that increased customer engagement?

Compare this measurable outcome to a vague goal where a company “wants to increase customer loyalty.” Without having clear milestones in the timeline, it’s just not possible to gather data that will lead to the results you want.

Be strategic and prioritize

Keep in mind that it’s not enough to start setting deadlines for each project without assessing what’s realistic for each milestone or goal. You have to be strategic in setting target dates.

Start by prioritizing tasks. When you sit down to create deadlines, you’re forced to think about what has to be done first so that the rest of the project can continue. Focus on only the most essential milestones here—don’t get too detailed in priorities; otherwise, you’ll have too many deadlines in your timeline.

Acknowledge accomplishments

Tracking deadlines for each milestone means that you and the team can celebrate when a task is completed on target. Make sure to acknowledge wins, not just failures. Reward workers for staying on track and working hard to meet a goal. Share positive changes in business data with the team and keep them involved in the continued planning and strategizing process.

The professionals at Provident CPA & Business Advisors work with a range of business owners to improve productivity and sustain long-term growth. We help implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS) model, which helps entrepreneurs learn how to build the foundation of a successful business. Get in touch with Provident to learn more.