The Importance of Planning: Vision, Strategy and Execution Necessary Previous item Grab the Popcorn and Let’s... Next item Sales Tips from the Old...

When planning your company, it is important to know and understand the importance of writing a business plan. It shouldn’t just be something the leadership team does for the shareholders and financiers; it is a process that everyone should build into their individual roles.  After all, as the adage goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Why create a plan? It’s a simple way to outline what you feel a successful year looks like, in addition to setting milestones, goals and thresholds for the company and individual departments.

In many cases, it is hard to determine where to start.  There isn’t only one way to compose and follow a business plan. There is a way that works for each organization, and content is different depending on the market, the goals and competitive nature. The first step is to just get it down on paper.  Don’t worry about editing it as you go. Also, don’t write your plan in a vacuum.  Ask colleagues and team members for input and collaborate by getting input from vendors on their planning strategies. And, last but not least, try not to think in short and long term. Think of goals in and of themselves; then determine a timeline for each individual goal. Ultimately, some will be five-year goals and others will be 10-year goals and so on.

Here are a few best practices to get you started :

  • Focus on a small set of achievable initiatives. Longer term plans can be broken into bite sizes. For some, there is a tendency to carve out everything that needs to be done.   Remember, nothing gets done without focus.
  • Understand the market. For example, if the market is growing at 5%, and you are expecting 50%, then ‘How’ and ‘Why’ become important questions to achieve that goal.
  • Use data to determine a pattern. Vendor input, financial reports, trade magazines and government information can all help to determine patterns in business paths.
  • Be inclusive. If the plan impacts certain people or departments, get them involved in the planning.  They will be more invested overall as a result.

Congruently, you should also keep in mind that measurement is a key part of vision, strategy and execution.  If you can’t measure it, how can you determine its success? So, remember the business plan is the thing that success is measured against.

Additionally, there is debate over short-term and long-term planning, but most crystal balls get foggy pretty quickly. As a result, trying to plan more than three to five years can be problematic.  We all know a great deal can change very quickly, especially in the business world; however, if there is a 10-year vision for the company, it should be stated and understood. So, keep it in the plan and always reassess SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

Once you have a plan, understand that it’s not written in stone.  Be flexible, so if the market changes, the plan may have to change; but, keep your eye on the original goal. And, continually ask yourself and your team: “Does the current condition change the desired outcome?”  If not, change the path, but not the destination.

Try to remember: When things get tough, it’s easy to lose clear vision on what needs to happen. But, if you have a plan you can always go back, revise and reprioritize for that initial desired outcome.