How Can You Grow Your Business with Yearly and Quarterly Planning

There is no doubt that annual and quarterly planning is essential. But, sometimes, we get so caught up in the business that we lose sight of the why behind the planning.

I’ve been working with remote teams since 2009. During this time I discovered that setting goals and KPIs can bring predictability to your business.This means you’ll know ahead of time what your estimated revenue and profit for the year will be, as well as other important numbers for your business. Isn’t that a dream come true?

In this article, I’ll explain how I start my planning with yearly themes and then move on to goals and KPIs.

Planning is essential because it gives the direction for your focus. With this in place you will know where to focus your efforts and what to prioritize. Furthermore, a lack of focus means nothing will grow, and there will be no consistent progress.

Your goals could be anything. From increasing revenue and profit, or simply making your current business more cost-efficient. All these must be planned for them to happen. More specifically, your goals must be subjected to a dependable system for tracking and monitoring progress.

I believe in the power of example, so I won’t be shy about admitting that I made most of the mistakes I’m about to discuss.  I wrote about all these together with the lessons I learned from failing at goal setting.

When it comes to goal setting and planning, I’ve noticed a few recurring mistakes:

  • There are no goals and no planning. The only thing keeping the company afloat is luck. Fortunately, I don’t see this very often; most leaders have at least some idea of what they want to achieve.
  • The company’s leaders set goals but do not plan for them to be met. Goals are based on wishful thinking and are not achieved through deliberate action.
  • Goals and planning get the attention they need, but minor tweaks can still be made to increase success rate.
  • There are no structures in place for working on goals and tracking progress on a regular basis. This is where you take consistent action throughout the year, and this is where the magic happens. I will not go into details on this one; however, you can read my article dedicated to this topic.

You must decide if your business strategy is based on planning or luck. 

To support you in making this decision, I’ve written this article about what works for me when it comes to yearly planning. There are a few must-have elements I always include in business planning for me and my clients:

  • Deciding on yearly themes
  • Setting relevant yearly and quarterly goals 
  • Finding the right KPIs for your business

Deciding on yearly themes

Yearly themes are something I started using for my business. After experimenting with them for a few years, I realized they are extremely useful in connecting my long-term vision to next year’s goals.

What are they? The themes are big-picture directions I need to follow over the next 12 months. Yearly themes can include things like investments I can make in my business or marketing strategies for business growth.

The starting point for me to come up with the yearly themes is the vision and how I want my business to look like in the next 3-5 years. If you have not done this exercise yet download here my free resource. 

Then I take a look at where my company is right now. What steps must be taken to get from here to there? What is missing, and what should be done next?

Based on the answers to these questions, I limit myself to no more than 2-3 themes per year. This allows me to focus on all of them, keep them top of my mind, and prioritize related actions.

If you are anything like me, you value growth and development. And this is what yearly themes do: they establish the context for growth areas.

Let’s return to the previous example of investments in my business. If this becomes my yearly theme, I will research and commit to learning paths that are in line with making investments. I will also prioritize reading more books on this topic. Maybe even getting into communities where investment-related discussions take place.   

Setting SMART yearly and quarterly goals 

What is the SMART framework, and how does it help

Before setting goals, please know that they must be SMART. This is the first step to having relevant goals. 


  • Specific goals are easily understood by anyone in the organization. They are clearly defined and leave no room for interpretation. 
  • Measurable goals can be tracked. Their progress is monitored and assessed regularly, and it is based on an objective system that takes deadlines into account. 
  • Achievable goals are those where required resources are available. Also the context needs to be favorable for suceeding.
  • Relevant goals are in line with the vision and the yearly themes. They are the most important things that need to happen in the business during the time period. 
  • Time-bound goals have a deadline to be achieved. It could be the end of the year, quarter, or any other set time period.  

Now that you know what SMART goals are let’s practice the framework on both yearly and quarterly goals.

  1. Yearly goals

When setting your goals, think in terms of the themes you selected. What needs to happen by the end of the year?

Once you have your answer:

  • Start with the yearly goals and select the most relevant 3 to 5.
    Do not fall into the trap of setting more goals. It’s tempting, especially if you need to get a lot of things done at once. I’ve done the same thing.
    In my experience, having more goals may result in none of them being met. Your focus will be diluted, not to mention that unexpected events may consume more of your time than you anticipate.
  • Use the SMART framework to define your goals.

2. Quarterly goals

After you’ve established your yearly goals, it’s time to consider your quarterly ones. If it makes sense, they can be set as milestones of the yearly goals. Another option is to set quarterly goals that will help you achieve your yearly goals.

Whichever path you choose, make sure quarterly goals are relevant in the context of yearly themes and goals.

Also, keep in mind that:

  • Quarterly goals must be adapted to a shorter time period available for working on them. Consider the effort required to achieve yearly vs. quarterly goals, and be realistic about what is possible. 
  • Since a quarter flies by quite fast, I recommend you limit the quarterly goals to maximum 3. This will help you stay laser-focused on your priorities. 
  • One of the most common mistakes in setting quarterly goals is forgetting what you set out to accomplish in the annual planning session. It’s easy to get excited about new projects that have nothing to do with your goals. Even more so if you’re the visionary type. Keep your yearly themes and goals in mind when working on quarterly planning.
  • The same as for the yearly goals, make sure to formulate them using the SMART framework. 

Finding the right KPIs for your business

When it comes to KPIs, it is very important to understand what is truly relevant to your business. Revenue and profit are most likely important to 99% of businesses. Other numbers, however, may need to be added to your KPI list and monitored on a regular basis.

Here is a list of key performance indicators (KPIs) that companies monitor. They may or may not be suitable for you; the decision is entirely yours:

  • Conversion rate
  • Customer satisfaction rating 
  • Website traffic
  • Click-through rate
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Average Dollar Value for New Contracts
  • Customer retention rate 
  • Employee turnover rate 

How to estimate predictable targets

Choose 3 to 5 KPIs and set targets for each. The best place to begin is by reviewing and understanding current year figures. This provides context for next year’s goals.

If you are not sure where to look for these numbers, it’s a sign that you might not have the right reporting structures in place. Learn how to set them up by reading my article on this topic.

Targets should be set with existing systems and structures in mind and the estimated numbers they will produce. For example, let’s look at revenue for a service-based business: 

  • Examine ongoing contracts that are most likely to continue into the new year. Estimate the revenue they will generate. 
  • Estimate new revenue based on your sales pipeline value, average conversion rates, and conversion time.
  • Examine the average outputs of your marketing system. How do they translate into sales opportunities, and how much revenue they are expected to generate in the next 12 months.
  • When you add all of these together, you get the revenue target for the coming year.
  • If you intend to invest in improving any of the systems that impact revenue generation, feel free to do so. Add an additional 10-40% on top of the previous result.

Setting targets for business KPIs should be a predictable process. Targets aren’t just numbers; they represent what can happen when we go the extra mile.

What is next after themes, goals, and KPIs?

“Cristiana, what comes next after setting goals and KPIs?” you may be wondering.

You’ve probably heard me say it before: you can’t expect results unless you take consistent action.

So next we’ll talk about taking consistent action throughout the year. This is the actual planning and implementation. We will touch upon milestones, discrete actions, and weekly and daily priorities. Regular reviews of goals and progress are part of this as well.

I wrote this article to describe my process for building and maintaining momentum for achieving goals. It is all about developing and maintaining habits, so be prepared to incorporate discipline into your work ethic.

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