Dear Small Government Contractor, What is Your Five Year Plan? Previous item Federal Race to the Finish... Next item Federal Buying Season...

For all the small government contractors out there, ask yourself this question: What is your 5-year plan? “It’s all in my head” isn’t the best response and is rarely comforting to people who feel stressed, and it’s not a great business strategy.

While you may have a general idea of how you want your company to grow, if you want your business to be successful, you need to have written, identifiable plans. Written plans and goals let everyone on your management team know what matters and ensures they can move forward if you get hit by a bus. We were surprised, therefore, to find that many small government contractors do not have written strategic plans.

Yes, it takes effort to sit down with a team and create a strategic plan. Few of us, including this writer, are fans of multi-hour meetings. Yet, it is essential to your businesses’ success to have identified missions, goals, and well-understood growth targets. Without a business road map, your company may not grow, may take longer to get where you’re headed, or end up in a swamp that a map would have helped you avoid.  Below are some best practices to get you started:

Ask Yourself the Tough Questions

If your company hasn’t undertaken such an exercise, this October may be the time to get the management team together. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What were the hits and misses from the just-closed federal fiscal year?
  • What lessons were learned?
  • How do they tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are moving forward so that you can stay strong where you are and improve where you need to?
  • Where do you want to be one, two, or 5 years from now?

Make it a Team Effort

A strategic business plan is not a “go it alone” exercise.  It requires the input of your senior team for multiple reasons. Everyone on the team brings different experiences, areas of expertise, and viewpoints, to the table. Importantly, this can be as much about what works as what does not, enabling your company to identify and follow best practices without chasing down dead-ends.   The broader the background, the better the opportunity to create a more comprehensive strategic plan.  In addition to the diversity of ideas, participation means that your team is better invested in the company’s success and has a clearer purpose.

Create Goal Champions

Another best practice is to assign each identified goal to a “goal champion” on your team. The champion is responsible for research on ways to meet or exceed the goal. Keep in mind that not all goals have to be about external growth factors. Identifying ways to train and retain critical personnel can be as important as deciding that “we want to grow 10% next year.”

What resources will be required to meet the goal? Do these requirements match with the priority level of the goal within the company’s overall outlook?  Sometimes a goal turns out not to be in the company’s best interest or should be modified.

Whatever the case, the goal champion “owns” that particular task and is responsible for reporting progress at established intervals to the rest of the team. The ability to achieve a goal or otherwise manage it through its course can be an important evaluation factor, further ensuring that critical details get the attention they need.

Monitor and Evaluate

Regular follow up and evaluation are essential parts of ensuring the plan’s success across the board. Plans that sit on the file cabinet and gather dust are a waste of time and can lead to internal morale issues. Many companies have quarterly, or at least, semi-annual reviews of the plan. At the start of each year, the plan is modified as needed to keep the company moving forward.

Invest for Results

Many companies find that a written strategic plan results in better focus and out-paced growth.  A little investment now can lead to substantial returns over the life of the plan. Make sure your team has a strategic planning date on the calendar for after the federal fiscal year.