Your plan should contain goals, objectives and action items. It also needs to be dynamic, as it will change as your business changes (because you are expecting your business to grow).
While goals relate to and describe your overall visions and a desired result, objectives are the smaller stepping stones towards reaching your goal. One goal may have many objectives, and every single one of them needs to be fulfilled in order to achieve the goal.
The concept of "Management by Objectives" (MBO) by Peter Drucker also introduced the SMART method: Checking your items for validity. Your goals and objectives should be:
Specific (concrete, well-defined and detailed)
Measurable (numbers, quantity, comparison)
Achievable (actionable, feasible)
Realistic (based on your resources) or Relevant (set appropriate objectives for the right department/people)
Time-oriented (set a deadline)
If your goals are too vague and not clearly defined, e.g. "Make my website better", how do you measure success or failure?
Unrealistic goals are most likely to cause failure, e.g. "Make a million dollars next month"; and the failure will inevitably drown your enthusiasm.
Not specifying deadlines, e.g. "Implement SEO for my website", will result in procrastination, since there's always time tomorrow or next week and no real incentive to get it done now.
Action Items are the little actions you must take to complete an objective; the amount of time every day you must devote towards achieving your goal.
If your goal is to "Increase sales by 10% over the next 12 months" and one of your objectives is "Increase online leads by 20% in the next quarter", an action item could be to "Implement an online contact form by the end of next week" to improve the communication process with your potential clients. Again, be as precise as possible.
Let's look at our golf weekend example one more time:
It clearly states a goal (spend next weekend at the golf course), contains objectives (buy the plane ticket, make hotel reservation); it even suggests and contains action items (shop around on the internet for cheapest airfare and hotel, talk to your neighbor about the cat, pack your favorite outfit). The goal and the objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-oriented. Your turn.