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If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

Everyone in business knows that it is good advice to write a plan. Yet many of us don’t know where to start and quickly get too busy at the beginning of each new year to set aside the time to get anything useful committed to paper, let alone actually implemented.

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Everyone in business knows that it is good advice to write a plan. Yet many of us don’t know where to start and quickly get too busy at the beginning of each new year to set aside the time to get anything useful committed to paper, let alone actually implemented.

There are those of us who don’t plan at all, some who write plans and then file them to collect dust, and others who write a plan and then diligently get everything in order to get it implemented and measured. Have you met any of these people? They seem very few and far between.

In fact I met a business person once who repeatedly denied having a plan and then after an hour of talking pulled three plans off his shelf! None of them had been implemented and they had each cost him consulting fees to get them written. He had been too embarrassed to admit that he had done lots of planning but that the plans had just collected dust.

I must say though that this particular businessman is now very successful and writes himself a one page plan every year which he pins onto the wall next to his desk so that he focuses on the things that matter.

A good plan saves you time and money

Your plan does not need to be very technical, highly detailed, 92 pages long or even well formatted and presented. A simple hand written list of key decisions can make a huge difference to your personal and business life and performance.

Planning:

  • Helps you focus on the things that really make a difference
  • Helps you prioritise your activities
  • Helps you to predict change and then respond effectively to it
  • Manages your time and resources more efficiently
  • Provides direction and focus to your staff and your supporters
  • Prevents crises in your business
  • Means you spend less time fire fighting
  • Gets you ahead of the game and ahead of your competition

Having a good plan frees you up to work smarter; to concentrate on the things that really will make a difference rather than just being busy, to bring your people together and to achieve better performance and greater efficiency. It gives you much better control of what you are doing.

You know you have a good plan when it includes the key business decisions that you then refer to on a regular basis to manage your business. A good plan tells you what you will do and what you won’t do. It gives you boundaries and guidelines for managing and driving your business.

A good plan is also a flexible plan. We all know things change at lightening speed and staying still is a recipe for getting left behind. New opportunities come up all the time and you need to consider them seriously in light of your objectives for the year. You need to be responsive to change.

Charles Darwin was probably thinking of a plant or animal species when he said,

“It’s not the strongest who survive
Nor the most intelligent
But the ones most responsive to change”

But he could just as easily have been referring to businesses and the people who run them!

Your plan will change as your business and industry changes and grows. You will test different things, learn new things, find new technologies, meet new people and the market will change under your feet. So don’t worry if your decisions aren’t perfect at this point, they can always be reviewed and updated later.

Breathe a little life into your plan

Having a plan is one thing but it is completely useless and a waste of time if you do not put it into action. Statistics say 90% of strategy fails because of poor execution.

There seem to be several little things you can do to make it easier to put your plan into practice:

  1. Ask a trusted adviser to help you build your plan and to make you accountable for its implementation. Use your adviser as a sounding board and to help remove roadblocks along the way, but don’t give them the whole job.
  2. If you work with someone on your plan, make sure you do your share. Do the thinking yourself, do your own research and own the decisions you make. You need to OWN this plan, you need to know it, and you need to have complete buy in.
  3. Have a copy of your plan tucked away in your bag or on your Smartphone and add to it all the time. Scribble on it with notes of progress, make comments, add ideas etc. Keep it fresh and alive.
  4. Break it into achievable chunks, weekly goals, daily actions or whatever helps you to always be moving in the right direction.
  5. Review progress often and record progress on your plan.
  6. Share your plan with others – your staff, your family, your advisers – and be accountable to each other. Be mindful however that a good plan contains confidential information that would be very useful to your competitors. Keep it safe.
  7. Build it into your weekly/fortnightly team meetings and if you do not have regular team meetings in your company then make this one of the first things you commit to doing this year. If the response is “We are never all together,” then make it a rule that the team meeting goes ahead each week/ fortnight at a set time regardless of how many team members are available. Make it a priority
  8. Each week ask yourself and your team “What is the one thing you can do this week to drive this business toward our goals?”

The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today
– Elbert Hubbard

Regardless of the shape your business is in, now is the perfect time to get started on planning for the next twelve months.

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