Five Steps to Building Your 2011 Financial Projections

Gene finally got it.  His IT consulting business has been constantly pulling his attention from what he has known he needed to do:  develop his financial picture, both historic and forecasted.

Until September, he never gave developing his forecasts time, since last-minute crisis or unexpected challenges were constantly coming up.  Instead, each week we spoke we were working on putting out fires or managing just-in opportunities.

The funny thing is once he dug into the numbers and started to really understand how they worked in his business, it was like shining a flashlight in a previously dark room.  He could now make solid strategic decisions, as well as keep track of his progress.

Around the same time, Gene’s company, Point Consultants, started growing aggressively.  And 2010 became his best year yet.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  Most likely not.

Now that Gene has the financial system tight, he is constantly working his numbers and comparing them to what he forecasted and is adjusting plans and strategies a more timely way.

He is planning out his marketing and sales strategies, team building and new services to add to the business for 2011… all based on his numbers he already has a handle on.  And 2011 is already stronger than he expected.

Cool stuff, no doubt.  But it wasn’t easy for Gene to get going on this.  And he is by far not the only entrepreneur that struggles with getting their financials and forecasted projections together.

In fact, at least 50% of all entrepreneurs I’ve worked with rather do almost anything else than deal with planning their numbers.

And while an entrepreneur can have a great run without doing their numbers, that run will ultimately be short-lived if left unattended

Here are the five steps to plan your 2011 financial picture for the business:

  1. What you wantstart with the end in mind.  By the end of 2011, what specific and measurable financial goal do you want?  Make it UnReasonable.  Keep in mind there is a difference between being unreasonable and being unrealistic.  For example, “I want to land three major contracts with mid-sized corporations, totaling $250,000.
  2. Work it backwards—take your 2011 goal and where do you need to be by the end of 3rd quarter?  2nd Quarter?  1st Quarter?   In our example:  Q3:  $125K, Q2: $25K, Q1:  3 contracts in final negotiations
  3. Break Q1 into months—March you already have (Q1’s goal).  Add February and January.  Just for the 1st quarter.  Then when you are ready to start Q2, do the same, and so on.  In our example, Mar. 31st:  3 contracts in final negotiations, Feb. 28th: proposals to 7 companies, Jan. 31st: setting up meetings with top 20 leads.
  4. Work your expenses and expenditures—once you get the sales breakdown in place, you need to do the same thing for the one-time expenditures and regular expenses you will incur along the way.  Examples of expenditures:  redesigning your website or getting a delivery van.  Expenses: salary, rent, taxes, interest on loans.  Doing this for your 2011 goal will show you the impact it will have on your cash.
  5. Play it forward—Now you are ready to work your plan forward.  With the forecasted sales, expenditures and expenses for each month for the quarter you are in, you will be able to monitor how things are going and adjust, if necessary.  When you get to the end of the quarter, you break out the next quarter into months.  If you didn’t hit your goal in the previous quarter, use the months in the new quarter to catch up to the end goal for that quarter.

When you set up a plan, you have given yourself something to focus on.  Make sure you have your support structures in place.  With both your plan and your structure it is more than likely your 2011 goal will become a done deal!


Action Steps for the Week:

If you have not thought through your 2011 financial goal, start with what you really want to make happen this year.

Then work the above five steps.  When you get to Jan. – March monthly goals, it will become clear to you if it is UnReasonable AND realistic.  If it appears unrealistic to you, adjust your 2011 goal and work it backwards again.

Keep doing that until you feel you have a basic plan in place that works for you.

Don’t forget the expenses and expenditure side.  You don’t want any surprises along the way.

Lastly, you know yourself… what is going to trip you up along the way?  Accountability?  Self-sabotage?  Distractions?  Over-committing?  What?

And then get that handled!  Get a colleague, peer, board member, experienced coach, whatever you need.

Otherwise, it is likely you’ll find yourself in a familiar pattern and your goal will start to collect dust on your shelf somewhere.