Let’s revisit the debate on having a written plan versus not having a written plan. In the simplest terms, I believe four things:
1. It is irrefutable that planning is a good idea for any business interested in growth.
2. Formalized strategic planning is not the ideal methodology for most businesses with under $10 million in revenue. After $10 million, it probably is.
3. Having an effective growth planning system is the best indicator that you company will grow.
4. Planning for growth is an ongoing process, not an event. It’s a never ending journey, not a destination.
Now, I think that we can agree on the point that by writing things down it allows you to clarify your thoughts and refine ideas and processes. I don’t believe that entrepreneurs should follow a pre-determined style of plan (unless you are trying to meet someone else’s standards such as applying for a loan or seeking investors) but I do believe that there are a few things that you can follow.
1. Representative – it should be a representation of your organization – aka getting buy-in.
2. Research – knowledge is power and make sure you collect as much relevant data as possible on your marketplace and synthesize the data in a way for deep analysis.
3. Remote – go offsite for your planning sessions. If you can afford it, go out for a night on the town, just far enough away where you have to spend the night. Avoid the office or area where you do your day to day activities.
4. Realistic – any plan that seeks to be a road map for growth must include a realistic assessment of who we are now, where we want to be, how we plan to get there, and the resources we’ll need to be successful. If you can, include an outside advisor as a reality monitor.
5. Results Oriented – SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timeline. Stick to it.
6. Responsibilities – Ensure you answer these two questions – ‘Who is going to do what?’ and ‘When are they going to do it?’. For small orgs you can use people’s names but as you grow you can break it down into departments or teams.
7. Written – When something is written down, it takes on the sort of permanence that you need. It can be shared with others, drafts / redos / improvements can be made over time and it should not stop. Hold meetings and take notes from the meetings as you continue to improve on your growth planning process. A 15 page maximum is a good idea too.
8. Repeated – get a copy of the plan into everyone’s hand and from that point forward every ad hoc meeting should review the plan. Every internal newsletter or memo can highlight aspects of the plan. The longer you wait to communicate the plan to your org, the more it becomes their plan versus our plan. Get the word out fast and frequently.
9. Real-Time Monitoring – at the very least you should have one piece of paper that gets spit out in an automated way every day and is posted for all to see. It should show the appropriate metrics for your company showing how we did yesterday versus the plan, and how do we stack up for the month, the quarter, and the year.
10. Regularly Updated – Planning is most appropriate during times of flux, times of great stress, or big change. Pay close attention to your specific circumstances, adopting a schedule uniquely appropriate to your organization. There is a right answer on this; however, it differs for everyone. Find a timeline that works for you.
That’s it for now. Any questions, post a comment below or shoot an email.