They say if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail - and this could not ring more true than when running a real estate business (or any other for that matter). So as we near the end of another year, now is the time to get some plans and strategies in place. Eview founders Manos and Maria Findikakis know first-hand the importance of holding a productive "Business Planning Day" as the New Year approaches. In this article they discuss why it is important, when it should be scheduled, who should attend and what agenda items should be discussed.

Why are planning days so important?

Our planning days are integral to the company's overall success. Over the years we've learnt a lot about hosting an effective and productive planning day to prepare for the year ahead - determining what works and what doesn't - and implementing lessons learnt to ensure continued growth over the next period. Crucially a planning day allows you to clearly see the road ahead, and intelligently use insights gained over the past 12 months to form your future approach. Whilst the principle benefits of a sound, structured planning day are clear, an important by-product is the buy-in and collective energy and momentum that you can create within your team. This is also a fantastic opportunity to get everyone involved and ensure that they to feel valued and listened to.

Who should attend the planning day?

It's key to firstly decide who will be attending the planning day. We invite our whole leadership team and everyone associated with them - management, admin and support team, as well as those responsible for organising events and our marketing calendar both onsite and off-site. We then communicate the results of the meeting to our sales teams at a later date once everything has been finalised.

Location, location, location

Another big question to ask when preparing for a planning day is on-site, or off-site? We keep our meetings in-house because we are fortunate to have separate facilities enabling us to lock ourselves away and avoid disruption or interruption. If you don't have access to this it's best to book a location elsewhere with everything you need (presentation facilities, sufficient room for everyone to sit together and discuss). Organise lunch and refreshments in advance so that you can focus on planning. The effort you put in to the day and the results you get out of it have a symbiotic relationship. The team will really buy into the "little things" like food and drink - so attention to detail is key.

An agenda is important

Before starting, set out a clear agenda for discussion. Main focus points should include calendar creation, business planning, marketing and budget. Where possible, allocate rough timings within the plan to help you to stay on track throughout the day and ensure regular breaks.

First look backwards before moving forwards

A calendar for the upcoming year needs to be built before you start the day. Begin by reviewing last 12 months. What worked - and what didn't? Highlight and focus on specific things that happened throughout the year. There will be those that worked exceptionally well, another others that didn't. We capture everything which enables us to clearly view past events and identify the things that went really well and other aspects we could've done differently.

Create a calendar

Plan out an events calendar for whole year (we use a spreadsheet), working backwards. When you start in December next year, it's easier to work back to January. This way you can clearly see what you've already done and where you can include key events over the following twelve months. We keep everything on a centralised server so that we can easily amend the calendar and slot everything in for the following year. Every year we learn something about our events and can develop and adapt our approach.

When you start preparing for next twelve months this way it becomes really easy to slot those events in and then work around main events with smaller ones. Take into account training events, big celebrations and holidays. This initial calendar is mostly flexible and there will be adjustments to be made - events are only locked in if you have made bookings and paid deposits. For this reason you've got to be sure of what you want and organise the larger events that need to be booked now properly from the very beginning.

Business planning should constitute the largest portion of the day

Start looking at your successes over the past twelve months. Did you achieve your targets? If so, look at what worked to help you to do that. Then looking towards next year, what do you want to achieve? Increase your sales or market share? It's one thing to say you want it - and another to actually plan for it. For example, you made $1m and want to secure $1.5m in 2018. If you did $1m with three agents does that mean you'll increase your team by two, or invest in existing staff members with training and support to optimise performance? Get clear on the cost implications of various options too so that you can properly plan financially to ensure the best possible return for any investment you make.

Where property management is concerned things get a little more interesting. Are you going to grow, or maintain rent roll and attract as much profit from it as possible, opting to maximise rather than focus purely on growth. During this planning day you have the opportunity to look at what you really want to do, where you want to go and how you'll get there.

Marketing

Plan out the entire year ahead in terms of marketing and give agent and individual offices give calendar so that they can see where they are going, what needs to be done and when. For smaller businesses, one marketing prospecting calendar for everyone to follow is best - larger agencies may need separate calendars for different branches and agents.

Start by determining what messages you are sending out to the community. Who are you targeting? Future new clients, existing prospects? Map out who you're focusing on and why - then determine how you'll communicate with them effectively. The best way to do this is to look back once again to see what worked last year, and ascertain whether it's worth exploring new avenues or sticking with what you know and developing your skill-set there. This is where accurate reporting comes into play. Look back over your reports from the past year and examine them closely for valuable info to use for the coming year. If you generated 200 sales, analyse your lead sources through reporting - say you have 60% from referrals, 20% direct mail-outs and 20% office and marketing presence. Check out what worked last year and why - then allocate a sizeable budget for the elements you feel you can maximise to take your business to the next level in 2018.

Budget is key

What will the above elements cost? Strategise events first as marketing often revolves around them - so scope costings here primarily before moving on to the marketing as it all works together cohesively. This is another reason why everything must be taken care of in one day - to help you to allocate funds appropriately to each element of the coming year's success.

Keep on track

It's very easy to go off on a tangent on certain topics and before you know it, eight hours become twelve and you're rolling into the next day. For this reason it's important to make sure you have an agenda - but also that you stick to it as closely as possible. Be realistic - you won't have the full strategy down in one day, but the foundations will be built. You can then give key components to each specialist team - social committee, marketing team, HR team, they'll put the ideas into action.

Bonus tip: Make it fun

Our planning day is one of the favourite days we spend with our team. Locking ourselves up for a whole day with the corporate team and scheduling the whole year really brings us closer together and ensures that everyone is involved with and takes a key role in the success of the company going forward. Keep it light, fun, enthusiastic and positive at all times. You'll need to address areas to improve on - do so in a constructive, inspiring way focusing on how things can and should change for the better rather than what went wrong.


    

    

    

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