If you had your own sports team, would it be okay with you if the players only showed up on game day? Do you go on vacation by jumping in the car and setting off randomly? These questions are slightly ridiculous, but many business owners do the equivalent with their business planning. Some may have a plan that is neatly filed somewhere and dusted occasionally. Others may not have a plan at all. If the hardest part of planning is implementation, how do you create an actionable plan?If you had your own sports team, would it be okay with you if the players only showed up on game day? Do you go on vacation by jumping in the car and setting off randomly? These questions are slightly ridiculous, but many business owners do the equivalent with their business planning. Some may have a plan that is neatly filed somewhere and dusted occasionally. Others may not have a plan at all. If the hardest part of planning is implementation, how do you create an actionable plan?
The best plans have a very simple format:
- Evaluate where you are.
- Evaluate where you want to go.
- Determine the best use of your time, money, and focus for the next 6 or 12 months, keeping the target in mind.
Where Are You?
To evaluate where you are, you’ll need data. What is the core business of your company? Is this core still the biggest moneymaker? Do you still do this better than or differently from your competitors? Do customers still value what you do?
Look at your numbers. Which sales brought the most money and/or returned the most profit? Which customers provided the majority of your sales? What expenses took the highest percentage of your spending?
Look at the competition. Has anything changed there? Are there new players, different products, cheaper or more expensive competing prices? Are you still different enough or better than your competition? Get feedback from customers, employees, and competitors (if possible).
Look at your customers. Have you lost any customers this year, and why? Are most of them still happy with your company? How do you know? Is there a new service, product or assistance you can provide that would enhance their experience?
You will also want to do a new analysis of internal and external factors that might affect your business going forward. Look at each area of your business and note which areas might be a strength or a weakness for you going forward. Do you have enough knowledgeable personnel? Do you have the equipment you need to compete in the industry today?
For external factors, look at the competitive environment as it stands today. Are there changes in technology, the economy, or social trends that could change the way you create and sell products?
Where Do You Want to Go?
Armed with the data and analysis of your present situation, it’s time to look at your stated vision and goals with new eyes. In putting out the daily fires, your business may have detoured from your intended target. Do you need to change anything about this target? Does everyone in your company still understand what they’re working toward? It’s important to employees to have a goal and understand where they fit in the plan toward reaching that goal.
Think of your vision for the business as the definition of winning. If operating your business was a game, how would you know when you won? Imagine a coach telling players in a new type of game to go out on the field and play. The first thing they’d ask is what they’d need to do to win. Defining winning for yourself and your employees will help you plan the strategy to get there.
How Do You Get There?
What will you try to achieve in the next three to six months that will move your business forward? What are your options for ways to fix the problems, address the potential external factors that could help or hurt your business, and gain the resources you’ll need to move forward? Evaluate each option with your management team, narrow the options down to the most viable choices with the resources available, and break the options down into steps and actions to assign to team members.
The best plan is a rolling plan that is constantly followed up on in brief meetings, refined on a regular basis, and measured. It becomes a habit instead of something to drag out once a year for reboot.
(Source: Alisa Kirk, Area Director, UGA SBDC at Clayton State University)