Isn’t it amazing how much better things go when you take time to plan out not only the outcome but the way you will get to it? There are many forms of plans and planning. Some are simple like picking a place to meet for drinks after work and when you will meet, but many are much more complicated. How many of us have a life plan or a legacy plan? For business owners and leaders, how about a business plan and/or leadership plan? These last 4 are the hardest things I have ever done. I have spent the past 2 years getting mine mostly right. And now that they are done, I am not only having to live by them but also having to review and update them. Some, like our business and leadership plans, are updated as often as once a year.
For 2 days last week, we invited several of our key vendors and strategic partners to our office for our annual sales and marketing planning session. Yes, we are already debriefing 2012 and planning 2013. I find it crazy we are there already also. In those meetings, everyone comes with homework done and details to share about what went well compared to our plans, and what we want to commit to for the upcoming year. We work to understand where our partners are going and what they need from us. They work to understand where we want to go and what we need from them to help in achieving our vision. From this sharing we find common goals and set out to build a plan to achieve them. We end up with sales goals defined for key solution stacks. We end up with a rough outline of our marketing activities for the next 12 months with the rhythm of events. We have marketing budgets with partner commitments (spoiler alert – don’t spend your hard earned money seeing the new Superman movie in June; we already have your ticket covered). We then take the next 3 months to further define what’s executable within our plan and will allow us to achieve those end goals we agreed on, and who will be doing what for each step along the way. Then when Jan. 1, 2013 hits, we execute.
From this planning session we move into our internal business planning sessions which will take a total of 5 working days to complete so that we have the overall business aligned with the plans we created for sales and marketing. These sessions include staffing needs, budgeting for operations, ERP (Emergency Response Plans), internal leadership and training plans. Each manager knows what they are responsible for and begin working with their team to further push the plans down to those who can execute on them. We also know what the big boulders are to achieving our goals so that we can check in on those throughout the year to ensure we are dealing with them. Wow, I just realized how many plans that is and many would say it is overkill. However, for someone who knows what it is like to operate both with many plans and no plans, this is a much better way to operate.
Not so many years ago, we didn’t plan like this. We did some marketing without much forward thought; we had some sales budgets without many goals or executables around them; and we sure didn’t have a business plan that defined where we were going. When we thought we needed more staff, we hired and wondered what to do with people when work slowed down any. We didn’t do bad without them, but I would argue that we succeeded by will and brute force. That wasn’t an easy or fun way to run an organization.
So what should you do if you think you could use a little more planning? I would say start by identifying one area to focus on. Maybe it is marketing, sales or service delivery. From there, define some goals for the next month, quarter and year, and define what steps will need to be taken to achieve those goals. Then share your plans with as many people as makes sense so that there is a level of accountability. This last part is key when you first start putting plans into place because writing the plan is the easy part. Most of the time, it is following through on execution that is the hardest thing to do. But with some outside people watching each step for you, there is a high likelihood you will succeed more times than you will fail.
So, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Do you have a plan for 2013? Many businesses do. I hope yours is among them because, if it isn’t, there is a strong possibility that your competition does.
As always, drop me a note and tell me about how you plan and where you have failed to plan. The more we share successes and failures, the stronger we all become.