Friday, November 19, 2010

Planning Matters

This is the second blog post regarding the 10 Things I Accidentally Learned on the Path to Growth and is a topic many of us as small business owners take for granted. After 25 years in this business, it has become more apparent than ever that planning is a key to success. Zig Ziglar says it this way: “Unless you have definite, precise, clearly set goals, you are not going to realize the maximum potential that lies within you”.

No Plan
I didn’t have a plan for many years. So my examples are more what not to do than what to do. I formed SCCI (now HTS) as a hobby back in 1985. It was just going to be a small sideline business to allow me to help a few folks with their computers.

  • Today it is 7 locations across 5 states with 80+ employees that will do over 16M in revenue. It is a hobby that is way out of control.

  • Our headquarters office in Harlan has had 5 additions since we began in 1985. So today we have 12,000 square feet attached to the side of our home on the farm in rural Iowa. Not exactly the best plan knowing what I know today.

  • HTG was started back in 2000 as a small peer group for four Iowa companies. Today it has become an international group with 240 plus member companies from four countries around the world. Certainly was not what my original expectations were.

Do as I say, not as I did
I could list a few dozen or hundred more examples of how things have happened that were not planned. The ones above are all positive results - maybe not everything they could have been – but not a list of all of my failed planning which doesn't always turn out that way. A failure to plan has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and caused a lot of pain and chaos. I admit it and can show you the battle scars from eBay sales of obsolete inventory because of no plan in how to control ordering, to business units that were totally unprofitable because they never had a business plan at all, to wasting hours and days of my life because it just happened to me without me taking control of my time with a plan. If you don’t plan, you will struggle to have success. It was back in the late 90’s when things began to unravel for us that I finally figured this out. During the last 10 years or more that planning has been part of our process, our growth and success has been completely different and positive. Planning does matter and it will for you too.

Four Plans
I think there are at least 4 areas you need to plan at a minimum:

  • Company business plan – tells you where your company is going

  • Leadership plan – tells you how you will lead your company to achieve their plan

  • Life plan – tells you how you will balance life and work and achieve the things you say are most important to you

  • Legacy plan – tells others what to do in the event your company or you are not able to continue status quo

I have written previously about each of these and you can follow the links to get more details.

Here is the way we see it in HTG - four plans - one we focus on each quarter - which provides a solid way to make sure we are getting things done.

Why don't we do it?

So why is it that most small businesses don’t plan? Here is a list of some of the common excuses I hear from folks. There really are no good reasons, but we convince ourselves these things:

  • Planning is hard work and takes time

  • Planning never ends

  • Planning requires communication

  • Planning requires introspection

  • Planning requires follow-up and measurement

  • Planning requires us to be honest with ourselves

  • Planning is bigger than me, myself and I

Hand in hand

Planning goes hand in hand with strategy. You need strategy to give you the “why” to what you are going to work on. But planning takes strategy and tells us the “how, when, what, where, and who” to achieve that strategy. It is important that we take time to plan. It is critical for us to truly grow our company and move toward success. Time to stop making excuses and step up to lead. That means you take time to involve your team, stakeholders and anyone else that should be included – and you just get it done. If you don’t have a plan, you are planning to fail. Don’t let that happen. Get down to business, take the time, invest the energy, and put plans down on paper. It will make a huge difference in your outcome!

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