How to Bridge the Gap Between Your 90-Day and 12-Month Plans

Do you often have to throw your 90-day business plan out of the window because events come up that throw a wrench in the works?

Over the past few years, pandemics, social justice movements, and wars have made the world feel more chaotic than ever. And that impacts you as a small business owner, as do the things just going on in your personal life.

So, how do you bridge that gap between your quarterly plans and yearly goals? In this episode of the Promote Yourself to CEO podcast, you’ll learn how to take your goals for the next year and turn them into an achievable plan. I’ll teach you the difference between process and project goals, the critical systems you need to make it all work, and examples of where you might need to shore up your business.


On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:

5:19 – What type of goals are you setting for your business? There’s a difference between process goals and project goals.

10:43 – Many small business owners are doing project goals they think will grow their business. Ask yourself these two questions when it comes to your goals.

15:00 – Is your business leaking anywhere? Do an audit to see where you need to plug the gaps.

22:35 – Make sure you have these three systems dialed in for all your offers so that you (and your team) succeed without burnout.

26:50 – What can happen if you don’t implement these systems in your business before adding new things?

29:54 – Here’s an example of a project versus process goal within my business. It enables me to take this next step with The CEO Collective I’ve been working on behind the scenes.

Mentioned in How to Bridge the Gap Between Your 90-Day and 12-Month Plans

You just finished creating your 12-month goals for the year ahead and now it's time to actually break those down so that you are making progress towards those goals every single day, week, month, and quarter. But how do we do that? How do we bridge the gap between our one-year goals and creating checkoffable, achievable plans that we can follow through on? I want to talk about that today to make sure that you have everything you need as we go into the new year.

Are you ready to grow from stressed-out solopreneur to competent CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook, and I've spent more than 15 years helping women entrepreneurs sustainably scale their businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

Hey there, CEOs. Welcome back. Today is a fresh episode here on Promote Yourself to CEO right after we have shared the Plan Your Best Year Ever Challenge here on the podcast. I always love to share this five-part challenge directly on the podcast for so many reasons. But the biggest is we have been running this challenge since 2017 and we know that there are people who have repeated this challenge, gone through it, actually look forward to it every single year.

I know that because every year, I get tagged in their posts as they're sharing it, as they are commenting, as they are sending me messages and DMS showing me like, “Here's my progress year over year.” They're using this actively in their business. We also get a lot of questions that come up.

So I thought today I would record this special episode because I had this comment on TikTok from Brit who was a work stress coach and she said, “I felt like I get my legs swept under me every time I try to plan more than a quarter out. It feels like I get whiplash from how often I have to change plans due to big life events.”

This is something I hear from quite a few people and I understand. The last few years especially, the world has just become a kind of even more chaotic place. There have been so many different things happening in the world that we have to adapt and adjust how we're approaching our business as a response to the pandemic, wars happening around the world, social justice movements, all these bigger-picture macro things that are happening that do impact us as small business owners.

Then there's also the micro that is happening to us as individuals. We have things going on in our life. We have things going on in our personal life, our family, and our health.

If you, like me, also are in that sandwich generation, maybe you have kids that you're raising and their needs are changing all the time, and what you have to show up for as a parent is changing all the time, if you're in a partnership, you're married or with somebody, of course, they have needs, they need your time, energy, and attention, of course, those relationships are always evolving so you're always having to respond to how your relationships are, your relationships to other people, other family, other friends, just supporting other people in your life.

Maybe you also are taking care of aging parents. This is a huge thing personally for me that does take a lot of time and energy and there are absolutely times when I will get a phone call, “Mom had to go to the hospital. I need you to meet us there,” or “Hey, we are short of nurse and we need to go find another nurse for my mom.” There are all these different things that are constantly happening in all of our lives, it can make it feel really hard to have a long-term plan for your business.

The reality is in the Plan Your Best Year Ever Challenge, we're only talking about 12 months. It's not a super long period of time. It might feel like it when you are starting the year, but as you're ending the year, you're definitely, I know I am going, “How did this year fly by so incredibly quickly?”

So today I wanted to share a few things to help you create a plan that you can follow through with, to take those goals that you might have for yourself and your business in the next year, in the upcoming year, and turn it into a checkoffable, achievable plan.

This is the work that we do with our clients inside of The CEO Collective so I thought I would just jump on the mic and share some of these insights here in case maybe like Brit, you also have felt like, “I just feel like I can't follow through with my plan because things are always changing.”

Here's my first thought when I hear things like this. My first thought is that we need to talk about the type of goals that you are setting for your business. There's a big difference between what I call a process goal, which is something that you are consistently working on again and again, it's part of your systems in your business, versus a project goal, which is something that is a one-and-done.

Inside of The CEO Collective, here at The CEO Collective in all the work we do with our clients, a lot of our goal-setting is first built around implementing what we call the 90 Day CEO Operating System. It is a growth framework designed to help you build more rinse-and-repeat systems in your business 90 days at a time.

We're doing that by first making sure that we're implementing what we call your Client Growth Engine, which is your marketing system, your sales system, and your delivery system. As that starts to grow your business, as you become more consistent with your marketing, you see more consistent sales, you have more consistent clients signing up to work with you, which creates more consistent cash flow, that starts to grow your business. As all of these things start to work more consistently, it grows your business, which is why we call it our Client Growth Engine.

As you continue to do that 90 days at a time, you start by implementing these systems, and then you've got to optimize those systems, and this process, just putting those systems in place in your business, can take six months to a year depending on where you are when you start with all of these and your specific business model.

But these are all process goals. When we go through Plan Your Best Year Ever, you might have heard me talk about when we're doing goal setting in day four, in the fourth part of the series here on the podcast, we talk about setting goals using our framework where you're setting goals for Attract, Engage, Nurture, Invite, Delight.

This is your Client Growth Engine. There are five components to it. There are five little systems you have to have in place. Think of them like a bunch of gears that once they connect, they all start working together to make this engine work.

When you set your goals by making sure you have an Attract goal, Engage goal, Nurture, Invite, Delight goals, what starts to happen is that every single day, week, month, quarter, year, you are consistently implementing the processes that grow your business, not by adding more to your business—here's the important part—not by adding more complexity, but by adding more consistency.

This is a difference between a process goal and a project goal. Because often when I talk to small business owners about goal setting and they're going through whatever goal-setting process they have, they're not building processes and systems in their business. They don't have a Client Growth Engine.

Because they don't have a Client Growth Engine, they're not consistent with their marketing, they're not seeing consistent sales, they're not seeing consistent clients, which means their business, at worst, goes through dry spells, is in the feast-or-famine cycle, and at best, is just really, really frustrating because they have to work so much harder each time they need to go do marketing sales or client delivery. They're always starting from scratch, and they start to reach a point in their business where they kind of tap out on a ceiling of what their business can do.

This is another huge reason why we teach goal setting in the way we do using our framework because the next piece, once you get the flywheel, once you get the systems in place, and you have your Client Growth Engine in place, then it's time to start bringing on a team and you need your Team Growth Engine in place, which means you need to know how to find, recruit, then hire, and then manage people on your team who are now doing the marketing system, they're doing the sales system, they're doing the delivery system.

On top of all of that, you have to know how to lead the team, how to lead yourself as you are continuing to move your business forward. All of this is built on systems. That's how we have laid out the 90 Day CEO Operating System. This is not about creating new all the time. It's about doing the hard work once and then running the system again and again and again, implementing it, optimizing it, maintaining it, and then hiring people to continue to run it and grow it before they add anything else to the business.

When I talk to a lot of small business owners and they're doing their goal planning for the year, usually, they are not talking about process goals, they don't have a growth framework they're using inside of their business, instead, they're making a list of project goals, things that they think are going to be the key to growing their business.

For example, this could be my project goal is to create a whole new offer, a whole new product, program, service, event, or something new. I'm going to create something new to sell in my business. That's an example of a project goal, creating something new.

I'm going to do a rebrand for my business. That's always one of the first things that I hear from people, “I want to do a rebrand of my business. I need a new website. I need a photo shoot. I need new messaging, I need a new copy for my website. I need to rebrand.” Or they'll say something like, “I want to write a book.”

You can hear that these are all project goals. I mean, there's nothing wrong with having these types of goals. I have had all of these goals at some point or another. But the question that I have for you is, if you're looking at your goals, I want you to ask yourself a couple of things: One, is this actually holding me back from growing my business? Is this actually going to be the solution to what is holding me back from growing my business? This thing I'm working on, do I have to do it because not doing it is holding me back from some aspect of growth?

For example, the website is going through a whole rebrand process with hiring copywriters, designers, photographers, and that whole nine yards. Honestly, a decent website, if you're doing a full-on rebrand, let's say it's anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 depending on who you're going with and how much you're hiring out the level of expert you're hiring, is that going to make a meaningful difference in your business next year more than being more consistent with your marketing, your sales, and your client delivery, or more than recruiting, hiring, and managing a great team? Is your existing website actually holding you back?

This is something I think about with a lot of my clients who are struggling with this. One of the reasons that they struggle with planning and they struggle with goals in general is because the goals they are setting truly are nice-to-haves but they're not must-haves. Having marketing, sales, and delivery systems in your business is a must-have. It's an absolutely essential thing.

Once your business starts to grow, especially if you are crossing the multiple six-figure mark and you need to bring on team, having a recruiting process, a hiring process, and a management process is a must-have. That is essential. Going out there and creating something brand new might not be essential. That might actually be a project that is not going to move the needle as much as putting these essential systems in place in your business.

Ask yourself, “Is this a process goal that is building out my Client Growth Engine, my marketing, my sales, my delivery processes to help me maximize my existing offers, the existing things that I have already created, taking that asset that I have created once, whether it's a product, program, or service, and really making sure I am getting the most mileage out of it? Or is this adding more complexity to my business?” This is a big question to ask yourself.

The other thing I think about when it comes to the idea of process versus project goals is when you're looking at your business as a whole, and this isn't even just goals, it's just business as a whole, do a quick little audit of where the leaks are in your business, your Client Growth Engine, and your Team Growth Engine.

If you aren't consistently showing up and getting visibility for your business, then that's a pretty big leak. That means that you're likely marketing to the same people over and over and over again and you've already converted the people out of that potential pool of potential clients. You've already converted the people who are ready and willing to pay you to work with you.

In order to get new clients, you have to get in front of new people. So if you're not doing enough Attract marketing, then we need to fill that gap. If you're doing a ton of Attract marketing, but you're not getting requests for consults, requests for proposals, you're not getting those people to book for more information or request more information, or you're not getting people to get in your overall marketing ecosystem, so they're joining your email newsletter list so that now you can nurture them, they have to take some sort of action, raise a hand, and say, “I want to hear more about how to work with you,” if you don't have that process in place, you can do all the Attract marketing in the world but you're literally sending traffic to a leaky bucket because there's no clear path for that potential client to learn more about how to work with you.

On the Nurture side, do you have a clear Nurture process in place that, again, can be rinsed and repeated over and over and over again? Whether it is the process between somebody going to your website and filling out a request for a consult, how are you educating them prior to the actual consult itself? What information are you sending to them so that they are prepared and ready for that consult and they understand the types of ways you can help them?

If they are requesting more information or they're requesting a proposal, what are you sending to them so they understand how you work? For a lot of service providers, this is a huge gap because they feel like to nurture, they need to focus on newsletters, social media, and content nurturing, but really, they need to focus on more high connection nurturing, more one-on-one where they're preparing people from the time that they book that request for consult, the time they book that request for proposal to the actual conversation where you're giving them the information they need so that they can now make an informed decision when you're ready to invite them to work with you. Is that a gap?

On the Nurture with content, especially if you are running a business a little bit more like mine, I tend to nurture more with content, are you consistently showing up on the platforms you have committed to three to five times a week? If you're not showing up three to five times a week on any social media platform that you have committed to, then we need to get more consistent there. That is the gap you need to fill.

If you're creating original long-form content, whether it's a blog post, a video, or a podcast, and you are not creating something two to four times a month until you have created a library of content that answers all the questions somebody could possibly have about how you can help them get results, then we have a huge gap.

Now once you get to the point where you have created a content library and you have an asset, maybe you can back off of creating content two to four times a month. I know at this point on my podcast, I have been recording a podcast and sharing episodes pretty much every week since 2015 or 2016. I am just now getting to the point where I feel like I have hit all the major areas and I can repurpose, rinse, and repeat my content more and more and more frequently, and reduce the amount of new original fresh content I'm creating.

But that has taken a long time. It has taken years of working through creating long-form content to really showcase my experience and expertise. Now maybe you don't need to do that much. I mean, my business is built around my strengths which are definitely in creating content, but for a lot of people, for a lot of small businesses, it probably will take a solid year's worth of showing up on a regular basis with your Nurture content to get those people ready, answer every possible question, and take them along the customer journey to help them make the decision for themselves whether or not they want to work with you and really understand the types of offers that you have.

Is that a gap that you have? Are you consistently emailing people in your email newsletter list? Whichever content platforms you have committed to, whether it's social media, email, podcast, blog, video, etc, have you really done it consistently? Because if you haven't, then I can guarantee you have not gotten as many clients as you could with the exact same size audience you already have, which means anything else you're going to do is actually now working harder, because you have to either generate a whole lot of new people or now you're trying to educate on a whole new different offer.

Have you really done the most that you can commit to here for your Nurture content? making sure that whether you're doing more high touch one-on-one nurturing with connection or more content-driven Nurture content that you have really shown up and been consistent with, do you have that piece of the puzzle in place?

When it comes to inviting people into your specific offers, do you have a clear sales process that you can rinse and repeat? Do you have all the assets that you need for each of these? Do any of those assets need to be updated or optimized? Do you have a sales page with all the information people need? Do you have educational material with all of the details people need?

Do you have a proposal template that you know gets results and gets people to say yes? Do you have all the emails you need during that enrollment process or that registration process? Do you have all of the assets that now you can rinse and repeat to sell that product, program, or service again and again and again? Have you built that system?

When it comes to delivery, are you still manually doing every single piece of it or have you started to document this? Have you started to put it in a process, in a system, and made it so that you can more easily deliver the product, program, or services that you have?

If you have not done those things, then I can almost guarantee that adding in a new thing you want to create from scratch is actually just adding complexity to your business. That's one reason I say audit your business and ask yourself, “Do I have these things for my signature offer?” Your signature offer is probably your bread-and-butter offer, the one that you are the most known for, the one that generates the most revenue for you.

I want you to ask yourself, “Do I have the marketing system dialed in, the sales system dialed in, and the delivery system dialed in?” Then for any other offers you have, “Do I have those three things in place?” This is one of the key things I tell my clients all the time is for each offer, for each product, program, or service, you actually have those three systems, and they're all going to be slightly different for each offer.

You have to have your marketing, your sales, and your delivery system for each offer and they'll be slightly different for each offer. Which means if you have three offers in your business, then you have nine systems that you're trying to maintain once they are all implemented, optimized, and then you're in maintenance mode with them.

If you don't have those systems dialed in, and now you're going to add more on top of it, not only are you creating more inefficiencies in your business where you're not getting the results you really could from your existing offers, all of your existing assets, and your marketing sales and delivery, but you're creating more complexity.

That's actually going to make it even harder to grow your business consistently in the next 12 months. It's going to make it harder for your team to know how to run the marketing, the sales, and the delivery of each of those offers, because they're all a little bit different.

It's going to make it harder for those people to understand what the priority is right this second, it's going to make it more likely that things are going to fall through the cracks, and you aren't going to be able to maintain the higher level of customer service that I know you want to have.

When we're looking at our goals for the year, are we really asking ourselves if these goals are moving us forward or if they are nice-to-haves versus must-haves? These are hard questions to answer for yourself. This is one of the reasons when we work with our clients inside of The CEO Collective, one of the first things I do is a strategy review with each and every person because there are a lot of moving parts here.

We've got to make sure that you have chosen the right offer, that we have optimized that as much as we can, that we're putting all these systems in place. But if you're finding yourself each year setting goals that are primarily project goals that are about creating something new, and you haven't already implemented these core systems in your business, you haven't optimized the systems, and you haven't maintained those systems for at least a year, then chances are you're adding layers of complexity that are actually going to increase the chance that a bump in the road in your life, in your health, in your family will become more than a bump, it will become like a full-on a car crash side of the road. Everybody's like trying to take a look at what's happened. It turns into your business grinds to a halt because those systems are not in place.

I hope this episode is a little bit helpful as you're hearing me talk about this. I often find that this is where people struggle a little bit because entrepreneurs, in general, a lot of entrepreneurs are wired for the big ideas, the visioning big new things, we like the new.

There's a huge, exciting component of brainstorming new ideas and there's a lot of dopamine that starts to happen when we think of new. That's exciting. Implementing a system, then optimizing that system, and then maintaining that system is not new and shiny. This is not sexy.

This is not sexy at all. But any business that is really going to be positioned to grow beyond just you as an owner operator, and grow to the point where now you have team supporting you more than just a single assistant who's doing maybe some admin, but actually having people who are running huge parts of your marketing, your sales, and your client delivery, as you start to grow that team, these systems become even more imperative.

If you don't implement those systems, you will reach a natural ceiling, a natural limit in the growth of your business because it cannot run on just pure willpower, that you're going to sit down and be consistently manually doing each and every one of these things. You have to build in a system that becomes a flywheel that takes on its own momentum, that your team can step in and continue to run.

I have to say the best part—and this is just my personal experience having implemented the system in my business and running my business this way for the past 15 years—is as someone who is a parent of three, if you know me, you know that I got pregnant with twins six months after I started this business, they're about to be 14, and my youngest is about to be 11, which is gosh, just pray for me all because we are entering a whole new world of I no longer have little kids, I'm a teenager household now, I've been able to do all of this while being super available and super present for my kids and my family which was a massive priority for me.

I've been able to do all this while navigating multiple chronic health conditions that include chronic fatigue and chronic pain, where I would actually have multiple weeks in a row where getting out of the bed and taking a shower took everything out of me. Still my business continued showing up, people still saw things coming out on social media, on the podcast, on email. They continue to purchase from us. They continue to be taken care of by my team.

When my mom needed me to step in and manage hiring nurses, now we have a team of seven to eight nurses all the time because my mom lives at home and has 24/7 at-home nursing care, I was able to step in, I was able to manage all of that. I was able to take over pieces of her care. I was able to help my dad out as he's becoming older and needs help. He now needs people to go to the doctor with him, go to lawyer, and make sure all their stuff is handled if anything, God forbid, happens.

All of this I have been able to do not by creating a million new things, chasing every shiny object, and coming up with lists and lists of projects that I think would be so exciting and fun. Trust me, I have those ideas. I have a book I had been wanting to write for years and it had to just go on the back burner because life was lifing and things are happening, and that's okay because that book actually isn't holding me back from making sales, getting in front of potential clients, and serving the clients I have.

It's a nice-to-have, it's not a must-have. My framework, the 90 Day CEO Operating System, everything in it is a must-have. When you have it in place, and you spend the time to implement it, you start to see the results very, very quickly. It's a game-changer, I promise you.

This is what makes it possible for now, me personally, to pick up additional projects. One of the projects we're currently working on behind the scenes is now a certification program. I have been teaching the 90 Day CEO Operating System inside of The CEO Collective since we launched The CEO Collective in 2020.

I've had hundreds of people come through our program, and then come back to me and say, “I would really love to teach my clients this framework and use the tools that you have developed and the systems you have developed with them.” “I am a therapist and now I'm coaching more therapists on how to start and grow therapy practice, can I use this with them?” “I'm a personal stylist, and now I'm getting personal stylists coming to me asking how they can grow their business the way I just grew mine. The way I grew it was with the system, can I now go into this niche?”

So I sat down and have spent the past year developing a new offer. It's not because it's a must-have, it's not holding back the potential growth of my existing business right now, but it is a nice-to-have and it helps me to actually get the system out in front of more and more people, which is really, really exciting to me.

The reason I'm able to develop this level of content, develop this new level of training, and now spend 2024 working with our first round of certified professionals, training them, and then getting them prepped to go out and teach this one-on-one to more small business owners since I no longer do one-on-one work, it is going to be another way that we can grow the business and I now have to build out the Client Growth Engine for that offer and the Team Growth Engine for that offer and I have to now kind of rinse-and-repeat my whole 90 Day CEO Operating Process, again, in a whole new way.

I'm going to be able to do it without taking on a ton more extra work or stress because we have a framework that we're using to grow the business and we know that it works hundreds and hundreds of clients later in literally dozens of industries. We know that this growth framework is geared for small businesses who are ready to scale beyond the business owner and they're ready to do it without working more.

It really is I think the bridge between how do you take those big 12-month goals that you have and make sure that 90 days at a time, you're setting your business up for more and more success so that once your business is running more smoothly, you can start to test, experiment with a new idea, create something new without derailing, slowing down, or coming up the works in your existing business. Now all things are running smoothly together.

That's really what I want for more small business owners, especially more women business owners because in the research I have done, a little over 30% of us are parents of school-aged kids, meaning we're actively in the trenches raising families. Another 34%, 35% of us are stepping in as caregivers for our parents, older adults who if you are a caregiver, I mean, it could take anywhere from a couple of hours a month to you could be full on needing to help on a regular basis.

It's not just the physical time there, it's also the emotional labor you're carrying of all of that. Then taking care of yourself, making time for yourself, making time for your partner, making time to have an actual beautiful full life, it is a lot that we are doing.

I have found that when I can simplify every area of my life, including my business, including how I approach the work that I do, including how I approach taking care of my family, taking care of myself, all the things that are important to me, if I can simplify that and make a system out of it, oh my gosh, I cannot tell you the feeling of peace of mind knowing that it's all going to be okay and that we have it all under control. It is a game changer.

I didn't really have an outline for this episode but I'm hoping that in listening to this, you really start to connect the dots between where things might be going off course for you when you're setting goals for the year ahead, when you're trying to do these big-picture things, planning things for your business is really delineating between: Is this setting up the processes? Is this process goal-oriented? Is this building into a framework that is going to grow my business?

Are these the marketing, sales, delivery systems for my Client Growth Engine, or the recruiting, hiring, and managing systems for my Team Growth Engine? Is this running processes in my business to make it more easy to run and more rinse and repeat or is this project? Is this nice-to-have? Is this a shiny object? It’s something I'd really like to do but it might pull my attention away from the processes that absolutely are essential.

I'd love to hear your feedback on this one. Make sure you pop over on Instagram and shoot me a DM. I would love to hear your thoughts. If you want to dive deeper into just understanding the framework, the 90 Day CEO Operating System Framework, we have an absolutely free training that walks through each of the five core components of it so you can really see how implementing this into your business, honestly, whether you just take the training for free and start working on it on your own, you grab our planner, you attend a retreat, or you come full on into The CEO Collective to work with us, you will start to understand how this simplifies so much in your business to make it more rinse-and-repeat and run more smoothly.

I encourage you to go check out that absolutely free training and use that to double-check all your goals for the year ahead and then start to chunk it down and work on the next 90 days. What are we going to work on? What gaps are we going to fill?

What systems are we going to start working on implementing so that we can get more consistent and really get more juice for the squeeze out of all the effort that we're putting into our business? I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'd love to hear your thoughts, insights, and any questions that you have so make sure you head over to Instagram and tag me @racheal.cook and let me know.

Thanks so much for listening to this episode. Thanks so much for listening to Promote Yourself to CEO in the last few weeks as we've been sharing the Plan Your Best Year Ever Challenge. Really excited about a new series that we are closing out the year with so make sure you're subscribed and stay tuned. Talk to you soon.