Business Planning: The Hourglass Approach

business plan infographic with hourglass in the middle

When it comes to annual planning, businesses often spend too much time on the planning process or too little because they are busy with day-to-day operations. There's a simple method called the 'Hourglass Approach' that can help you efficiently focus on your goals and create a plan to achieve them.

Top of the Glass

In the first stage, review the internal and external business environment. Force yourself to carefully consider the variables affecting your business:

  • The internal environment. Look at all aspects of your business, from personnel to financing. Review your sales and marketing as well as operations. Identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as the critical success factors for each aspect of your company.
  • The external review. Now conduct the same review of the business environment. Review your competition. Review your current marketplace. Look specifically for trends, both good and bad. Conduct a similar review of the legal and regulatory environment.

The Narrowing Middle

Now you should have a good handle on the current situation. Use this information to create the middle of the glass and distill it into actionable priorities.

Short Lists of Actionable Focus

Create a short list of three to five strengths and weaknesses. Create a similar short list of your biggest problems and opportunities. These lists will be your focus as you set your goals for the next year.

Create Goals

Your goals should be well defined and measurable

  • Financial Goals: sales, gross margin or net income targets.
  • Volumetric Goals: number of customers, orders or other key measures
  • Learning Goals: lessons from product launches, competitive intelligence
  • Operational Goals: projects to addresss weakness or leverage strengths

The Final Results

In the bottom stage, you need to create your plan with a specific road map to reach your goals, such as:

  • Create your annual financial plan
  • Identify resources you need to achieve your goals
  • Prioritize projects and create to-do lists
  • Create basic timelines

Consider trying the Hourglass Approach to create your next business plan. It could help you and your team move your business in the right direction.


The information in this article is written as accurately as possible and to best of the writer's knowledge. However, there may be omissions, errors, or mistakes. Because of this and changes in circumstances, the information in this article is subject to change. This article is for informational purposes only and should not serve as professional, financial, medical, emotional, and/or legal advice. Readers may rely on the information on this article at their own risk, but they should consult a CPA, financial expert, or other professional for advice. Givilancz & Martinez, PLLC reserves the right to change and handle this article series, and therefore, may remove or alter any part of this article or the comments section. Any comments inserted by readers are not the responsibility of G&M PLLC and do not represent the thoughts or ideas of G&M PLLC.