Creating Next Year’s Business
Plan Can be Hell, but Heaven
is in the Details
Last week was the most exhausting one
of the year. It wasn’t due to a trade show
or extensive travel. In fact, I didn’t even
leave The AVC Group’s headquarters in
Carlsbad, CA. My exhaustion was much
more mental, being sequestered in our
boardroom, drafting a strategic plan for
next year’s business. My boss, Mark, calls
it “hell week,” and you would too after
participating. But the outcome is critical
to our success going forward.
I’m sure you can relate that after six
long days of work, a little R&R was in
order. So on my day off I fired the coals
in the BBQ (slow and low), chilled some
locally bottled IPAs, and cranked the
sound system to begin the healing process. Yet even with these distractions,
my mind was still on the plan, and it immediately locked onto the first
song Pandora played. “Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller resonated with lyrics
that seemed to fit. “You know you got to go through hell before you get to
heaven,” Miller sang. Suddenly all my stress disappeared. I realized that
going through hell week gave my team and me a clear pathway to follow
and the confidence to win.
If getting to heaven is your business’ goal, you had better go through a
hell week of your own and draft a working strategic plan. Here are a few
simple steps to follow when you do:
1 Build a Team: Identify who will participate in the planning.
Typically in larger organizations this is senior management. But in
smaller companies it might just be a few partners or the proprietor. James
Lind, who directs the custom installation division of Nebraska Furniture
Mart, offers this advice about their process: “We identify the stakeholders
and bring them in on the process up front. This ensures that everyone buys
into the strategic plan and is committed to its tactical implementation.”
2 Focus on What You Want: Work from a stated strategic position
to the tactical implementation. It’s easy to get buried in details before
knowing exactly what your strategic overview and objectives are. Here
Lind advises: “We start our planning process from a strategic standpoint,
making sure our specific objectives align with those of our corporation.”
A good anchor in this phase of the process is to post your mission (why
you go to work every day), vision (what you want to be), and values (the
tenants you hold important in business dealings) on the boardroom wall.
It’s easy to get buried in details before knowing exactly what your strategic overview
and objectives are.
3 Analyze Where You Are: The best plans consider internal
capabilities and external forces as well. Start with conducting a SWOT
analysis. Write down your top Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and
Threats. Typically strengths and weaknesses are internal. An example
of strength might be that you have exceptional programming skills. A
weakness might be that you lack working capital. Opportunities and
threats frequently are external, such as dynamics in your market or with
your competitors. If you’ve never done this before, just Google SWOT
and a number of good tools will appear in the search. Frankly, I like to
build on the strengths and find ways to mitigate weaknesses.
4 Write Your Plan: Now that you know what you want to do and
are aware of the opportunities and limitations, it’s time to put your
plan onto paper. First list the Top-5 Basic Business Performance Goals for
last year, the current year, and next year. The sheet might look like Figure
1. Now write down the three to five strategic initiatives that will get you
there and what tactics you think it will take to make them happen. In this
case it might be like Figure 2.
5 Get Intense: Make a Tactical Implementation Checklist (TIC).
On a spreadsheet, list the action items required, who is responsible
for getting them done, when they are due, and any comments that are
necessary to note about each. Set a time once a week to review the
checklist and update it. It doesn’t matter if you are working the plan
alone or with a group. The discipline of reviewing the list every week
will drive you and your team to higher performance and to hit your plan.
Should you wish to ask a specific question related to your individual
plan, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org