We’re getting to that time of year again! It’s October, November and December when everyone starts talking about setting up meetings and running through planning exercises for the upcoming year. Whether you’re using EOS, Gazelles or some other operating system, goal setting is almost always on the menu.
It’s not that hard to come up with 2020 goals. If you're going to finish up 2019 at $2 million in revenue, then shooting for $2.5, or $3 million sounds reasonable. Maybe you want to stretch and try to double? But that’s not what this article is about.
In this article, I thought I would share Square 2’s goals for 2019, our goals and planning for 2020 and the journey we took in 2019 to hit our 2019 goals. I think that's the real story, not what the goals are and how we set them but the journey to hit them in 2019 and how that is influencing our 2020 planning. I hope you agree.
When I started Agencies 2 Inbound, I wanted to provide full transparency into the challenges we're facing at Square 2 so the agencies I worked with and talked to would have the benefit of learning from the mistakes we made.
Obviously, this runs the risk of exposing private information in a public forum. As I share our journey over the past year, I’ll do my best to be transparent without sharing anything that should appropriately remain private.
12 Months Ago – October 2018
2018 was a good year for Square 2. We started the year focusing on differentiating the agency from all other agencies and between our new books, Smash The Funnel which introduced the The Cyclonic Buyer Journey, the software we were giving to clients MAXG, and our guaranteed service delivery program we had begun telling clients and prospects a unique story. It took all year to get these pieces up and running, but we did it.
Things were so good, we decided it was time to do another acquisition with a Toronto based HubSpot partner that was open to joining up with us. We had a long and personal relationship with the owner, so it seemed like a nice match. We had been working on the deal since July, but had to postpone the signing for 30 days, from September to October. Now we were ready to finalize the details.
By the end of the month, we were a bigger company, with more clients and more team members. Most importantly, the acquisition set us up to hit 2019 with all the resources we needed to achieve our 2019 goals. The acquisition strategically aligned with everything we said we wanted to do in 2018.
Specifically, we wanted to add more resources to our Sales Enablement Practice. We wanted to add more power to our Square 2 sales team, and we wanted additional interactive resources for our web development team. The acquisition delivered it all. It seemed like a no brainer.
Goals for 2019
As a team, we got together and set our 2019 goals. We created four simple numbers: revenue, net profit, customer satisfaction, and team member satisfaction. We created an entire theme around the idea of FOUR. We checked all the boxes in our Gazelles Goal Setting methodology, and we had our entire team in to roll out our 2019 plan, get everyone excited, aligned and clear on how each of them would contribute.
We cascaded our corporate goals down to teams, and our team leaders rolled them down to individuals. Everyone was aligned. We did everything right.
Like good business leaders, we created scorecards and dashboards to share our progress with the entire team. It was simply, four numbers: red, yellow, green and super green. Each week we shared our progress with the entire company.
But if it was that easy, every business would be successful. Jf that was all you had to do everyone would be doing it. But as you might imagine, it wasn’t going to be that easy.
9 Months Ago – February 2019
November, December, and January turned out to be way more challenging than we expected. In short, our acquisition didn’t turn out as planned, we were missing our numbers and we had to make some difficult decisions to get us back on track and give us a chance to hit our four numbers.
January and February were not great months for us, and while our clients were happy and getting an amazing service experience with us, we were not hitting our four numbers. In February, we made some organizational and financial decisions to ensure we hit our goals for the rest of the year.
These early-year decisions and early-year adjustments are critical to keeping you focused.
KEY TAKEAWAY: You can’t wait too long to make difficult decisions.
These decisions were not easy but in just 60 days, the four numbers were coming back in line. Revenue goals were achieved and net profit numbers were coming back in line. Team member satisfaction was down but client satisfaction was steady and respectable.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Businesses of our size can rebound when you make the correct course corrections.
Act quickly, act decisively and while these might be difficult decisions, they can have a dramatic impact on your agency in a very short time.
5 Months Ago – June 2019
March, April, and May saw us continue to make good progress but attaining our four numbers month over month continued to be elusive.
Did we set our goals too aggressively? Did we pick the right numbers? What else could we do to hit ALL FOUR numbers?
This is where focused goal setting and selecting a limited number of quantitative numbers have huge benefits. We continued to double down on hitting these goals and in June of 2019, we had a meeting that further changed our trajectory in 2019.
By focusing on our four numbers and staying on track, we uncovered a unique engagement type that appeared on the surface to help with all FOUR numbers. Our Accelerated Engagement, where clients get six months of work in 30 days by working with a single and focused, dedicated team. We tested this in June. It made our clients happier, our team happier, drove a lot of top-line revenue and delivered a very high net profit margin.
By July, we were all in on this innovative engagement type.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Stay aligned with your plan, keep working all year to hit your goals, discuss your goals regularly and change them if necessary but if everyone agrees you have the right goals (like we did), keep pushing to figure out how to get to those goals.
Again, we were rewarded by watching our numbers respond to our strategic decisions. Client satisfaction continued to rise, team member satisfaction was bumpy due to the organizational, delivery and planning changes associated with the new engagement type, but revenue attainment and net profit continued to improve.
We also caught a break, when clients who purchased Accelerated Engagements wanted to continue in a variety of formats. We weren’t sure how clients would want to continue (we thought they would, but we weren’t sure when and how) but the additional revenue was a nice and unexpected outcome.
A Week Ago – October 2019
At our weekly ALL HANDS Company Meeting, fondly called What’s New Square 2 (our all-hands meeting is a Kelly and Ryan Talk Show format) we have a regular segment on our progress towards goals for all Four Numbers.
For the first time this year, we announced hitting our goals for September in ALL FOUR Categories: Revenue, Net Profit, Client Satisfaction and Team Member Satisfaction.
It took 8 months, but it felt good to finally get there, which leads me to another key takeaway.
KEY TAKEAWAY: If you have the right numbers, if you monitor and report on progress regularly, and you think your goals are attainable—NEVER GIVE UP. Keep pushing, keep iterating, keep driving to your goals.
Additionally, our changes have provided another benefit. Our October and November numbers are looking amazing as well, and it’s possible we will finish September, October, and November in record range. It’s nice when a plan comes together.
Our 2020 Goals
This brings us to our own goal setting efforts for 2020. We typically bring our entire team into Philadelphia twice a year, once in the summer and once in the winter to kick off our new year. This year, we’re bringing everyone in right before Thanksgiving, which means we need to have all our planning and goal setting done earlier than usual.
We started our goal setting exercise like we do every year. This is a review of our Core Values and Cultural Imperatives. These were soundly renewed. I think it's important to look at these annually and be open to changing them if necessary as your company grows.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Review your Core Values and Cultural Imperatives annually to make sure they continue serve your long term goals, mission, vision and Big Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG).
Next, we looked at Mission, Vision, Purpose and our BHAG. These have always been challenging for us. Not in creating one, but in creating one that engaged our team. This year we decided to combine Mission, Vision and Purpose into one single statement.
For 2020, our agency’s Mission is to Love Your Agency! In short, we want anyone who works with us to love their experience.
This should be an experience that drives results and drives them quickly. This aligns perfectly with our new Accelerator Engagement and is pushing us to create additional engagements that are equally innovative.
We want clients to work with a team who is working ONLY with them and we want to get results in 30 days. No more waiting. Dedicated team and fast results.
Our BHAG, is to get 600 referenceable clients by 2025. If we can focus on getting our clients happy, our team will be happier, and our company will grow and grow in a highly profitable way.
There are still going to be KPIs that we track, but our ONE BIG NUMBER for 2020 is the number of referenceable clients. If everyone focuses on doing good work, getting clients results and delivering efficiently, we’ll drive a ton of referenceable clients and we’ll hit all our numbers.
With some of the heavy lifting behind us, we still have some work to do to get ready for our November meeting with our entire team, but the conversations we’re having about the future of the agency, the focus for the agency, our continued effort to differentiate and get clients results is creating some very interesting stories for all our stakeholders. This includes our clients, team members, partners, and our leadership team.
You should also see a tight alignment between everything that’s part of strategic planning. We have a mission, we have a BHAG, we have a KPIs and we have corporate goals that can be cascaded down to everyone on our team. This should produce the alignment and energy we need to continue our up and to the right trajectory in 2020.
KEY TAKEAWAY: This process isn’t easy. There have been several times when we wanted to stop or give up and simply ignore this in favor of daily execution. Don’t give in to the desire to quit. Keep pushing to work through these challenges and define your own mission, BHAG, and one big number.
Start Today Tip – As I said at the beginning of this article, you don’t need EOS or any operating system to take your team through this exercise but it sure helps. Don’t be concerned if you need to tweak the process to fit your style of thinking. I’ve always hated trying to fill in every blank on our ONE PAGE PLAN, just because. Be flexible when it comes to your own planning and goal setting. It might take you a few years to get good at this, so don’t give up after one or two. We’ve been doing this for almost 10 years and are still working on challenges and issues with our leadership team. Anything worth doing takes time to do it well.
Agencies 2 Inbound – Helping You Grow Your Agency Beyond Your Expectations!