Business planning is always a topic for much debate. Some authors conclude that it is too difficult for busy small businesspeople to stop long enough to do any planning, let alone do it well.
Since many business people enjoy responding to opportunities and don’t enjoy the restrictive feeling they get from formal announced plans, it is very tempting to conclude that a document that results from ANY planning process will be outdated and irrelevant by the time it’s distributed.
So why not just “go with the flow” of the rapid changes in today’s marketplace? Because that is only one of several available strategies.
For every business that “goes with the flow,” there are others who “got out in front” to create those changes. Some companies establish focused specialties while others generalize. Some companies succeed because they “go it alone” while others need strategic alliances or partners.
All too often, business planning processes and documents lack an emphasis on strategies and are merely extensions of abstract sales projections or boring financial worksheets or are written like overly critical “to do” lists. An “itchy” small businessperson will inevitably ask, “Where’s the beef? Where’s the sizzle?”
Meaningful strategic planning begins with fun discussions about big trends and sharing dreams about what key people in the company would do in light of those trends.
Meaningful mission statements summarize which trends matter the most and what the company wants to do about them. People who enjoy discovering new applications for state-of-the-art technology and also enjoy sharing those discoveries with others will want to focus on technical trends and will prefer “go with the flow” driving strategies.
People who are proud of their existing product may focus on demographic trends like mobility, globalization, and aging and will prefer to have driving strategies that emphasize specialization and market penetrations. Their implementation strategies will feature ongoing research on find new niche opportunities, targeted marketing campaigns and clear territories.
Most of the time, meaningful strategic planning involves reflecting on what has been going well, the sources of recent problems, opportunities, and risks.
This step (often referred to by the acronym SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) provides a forum for matching external trends with internal factors to increase the company’s chances for success.
It is during this step that business leaders look at the context of the business, including the roles that employees, customers, suppliers, and competitors play on the identity of the company. The company’s driving strategies and implementation strategies can be tested as they are generated during planning.
Wonderfully, an exciting momentum builds from driving and implementations strategies that fit together and are well known to everyone involved. Selecting opportunities that add to that momentum is a primary secret to success. As new opportunities are recognized after a planning cycle feels “done,” they can now be evaluated within a context.
Expensive false starts can be prevented when the business owner is able to recognize and address the risks involved with taking an opportunity that does not readily fit within the driving and implementation strategies of the company.
Known as The Growth Strategist®, Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP helps rapidly growing midsized companies (typically $20 – 200 million/year) realize their goal of Achieving Accelerated Growth With Sustained Profitability® through opportunity/resource analysis, executive coaching, strategic working sessions, and her intermediary role regarding growth financing. Her clients are among the brightest, most ambitious business leaders whose names now appear on published lists of the fastest growing privately held corporations. The recipient of 23 prestigious awards for her success as an entrepreneur and industry leader, Ambler hosts a peer-to-peer-to-peer Internet radio program, aptly called The Growth Strategist®, which features lively interviews with CEOs of midmarket companies who have successfully executed the growth strategy of the week. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna (253-6662), by e-mail at Aldonna@AMBLER.com or online at www.ambler.com.