By John C. Kelly

An excellent way for any business to start the New Year is with an annual kickoff meeting. I started doing these early in my business career and found them to be highly motivational and fun for the entire company. Of course, the planning and effort required increases as the number of employees increase, but they are useful and appropriate even if you only have one or two employees. Everyone likes a renewal point, a place to wipe the slate clean and have a fresh start. The end of the year and the beginning of a new year is a natural renewal point. For most companies, this will also coincide with the year-end financial statements. I have always liked financial years that coincide with calendar years since it keeps things clean and simple.

To simplify things further, I shifted the performance evaluation periods of all my managers to the calendar year as well. Clearly, this created more work at year end, but it allowed everyone to begin a fresh start at the same time. Perhaps most importantly, it allowed me to easily link my manager’s performance with the financial goals of the company. When managers prepared for their portion of the kickoff meeting, they were indirectly also preparing their performance evaluation criteria for the upcoming year. It was all done at once, in one neat package.

Managers in the areas of corporate management, financial management, product development, sales, and marketing were required to develop a plan with goals for the upcoming year. In a small company, you, as the owner, might fill several of these roles. In many ways, our kickoff meetings were like a one-year business plan. In any event, we would use the kickoff meeting to revise our business plan to ensure that it reflected our current thinking. The kickoff meeting consisted of each manager briefing the entire company in the following areas:

  • Mission statement –Description of why they do what they do
  • Vision statement – Description of what they want to become
  • Principles of operation – Rules and procedures that guide day-to-day decision-making
  • Goals – List of things they things they planned to achieve
  • Action Plan – Specific actions they will take to achieve their goals
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs) – Quantitative measures, not necessarily financial, which would be used to measure progress toward goals
  • Critical success factors (CSFs) – Things that must happen for goals to be met

To make the meetings fun, we coined a slogan for the year, made T-shirts for everyone, had lunch catered in, and made it a whole day affair. In future articles, I will describe some of the specifics associated with the annual plan.

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Annual Kickoff Meetings