Critical Success Factors

The Critical Success Factors are those components of your strategic plan that must succeed if the overall plan is to succeed. It is from the Critical Success Factors that you identify your 30/60/90 Day Focus.

So think through your plans; view them from a high level; reread your Three Year Picture; review your One Year Goals.

Ask yourself the question: if any part of my plans is not achieved what will happen to my business. What will it do to the achievement of my Three Year Picture? Will it put my overall success at risk?

Some Examples

Your sales and marketing process is working really well. From the process you know if you can get in front of 20 people to tell your story then you will have 5 people try your free value (sample your product/service) out of which two people will become customers. You have identified that a Critical Success Factor is to increase the number of clients by 10 in the next 90 days so that you can keep everyone busy and you can increase your revenue. So your 90 Day Focus is to get in front of 100 people by giving presentations to groups that contain you client type.

When looking at your overall plan it has become clear to you that if you do not free up some of your time to spend more time on the marketing and delivery of your services then you cannot possibly achieve your growth targets. While some of the things you do could be eliminated the reality is that most can’t. You need another pair of hands. So the Critical Success Factor is finding and hiring the right person to take on those tasks you shouldn’t be doing so that you can focus your attention on business development and service delivery.

Included in your plans is the strategy to upgrade your IT technologies to the latest and greatest. So you ask yourself the question: What will happen if I do not upgrade this year? If the answers are:

• I will not be able to increase the customer base

• Delivery capacity will hit a ceiling and quality will start suffering

• I could lose my entire data base and be out of business

Then you have a Critical Success Factor.

However, if the only answer you can come up with is “I will not be able to surf the net faster” then you probably do not have a Critical Success Factor.


This year you have planned to move your home office into an outside office. Your reasons are one or more of:

a. You will be hiring people and you don’t want them in your home

b. Your spouse is ready to divorce you if you don’t move the office out

c. You or your partner is pregnant and you need the room for the new baby

d. Your kids are using the office computers to access questionable web sites

e. You need to bring customers to your office and Starbucks no longer works

f. You feel a traditional office is important for the growth of the business

Which of these are Critical Success Factors?

Your products are being extremely well received by your customers. They love the quality, are willing to pay for that quality and rave about your delivery times. And they love you for bringing them so much pleasure. However, while working with Your Planning Partners you identify that your profits are not what they should be. So you are faced with a Critical Success Factor; you must increase your profits or you cannot stay in business. You have several ideas:

a. Move production to China

b. Increase prices

c. Cut expenses by canceling the lease on your spouse’s Lexus (who doesn’t work for your company anyway)

d. Put your products online and offer them to the world

e. Shave a few corners off the quality control processes

f. Increase the number of customers so that higher volume will result in higher bottom line

If you were developing the 60/90 Day Focus for this Critical Success Factor, which, if any, options would you select.

You are tired, cranky, overworked and underpaid. On some days you wonder why you are doing this. On other days you are elated by the enthusiasm of your customers. Some days you want to throttle your spouse for nagging you about the money you earn and/or the long hours you work. But you are always thankful for having the opportunity to build something meaningful; to create something from your ideas that people love. And so as you develop your plans you start considering the idea of bringing in a partner to share both the trials and tribulations and the excitements and rewards. Is finding the right partner a Critical Success Factor? Or are there other options that you might want to implement first? Or is there a different Critical Success Factor?


Nick Hughes is President of Your Planning Partners Ltd., a Toronto based consulting firm that helps small business owners build strong, sustainable businesses.  Your Planning Partners has helped hundreds of clients achieve the success they want from their business.  Nick is a keynote speaker and a published author on a broad range of small business topics.  Follow Nick on Twitter@NickatYPP.  Subscribe to Nick's Blog here.

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