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Learning Valuable Lessons from Wild ’N’ Crazy 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO — What a year it has been! Much about 2011 was erratic—the economy, sales trends, financial markets, even the weather. Plus, there were asteroids headed for earth, natural (and man-made) disasters, industry consolidation … and the necessity to proactively sell our services.

The uncertainty created by all these events affected our customers as well as our businesses. It has made budgeting and goal setting for the coming year a greater challenge than ever.

Although there were strong signs of improvement, there are no guarantees for 2012. If you feel that 2011 drove you to be reactive instead of proactive, now is the time to create your strategic and tactical plans for the year ahead.

Planning for the Future

As a business owner, you have worked to improve your efficiency, but this may not be enough to generate distinctive competitive advantages.

Brian Tracy, a successful sales coach to corporations both large and small, writes in his book, Success Through Goal Setting, “The payoff for setting goals and making plans is being able to choose the kind of life you want to live.”

So, if you want to choose “the kind of life you want to live,” whatever that may be, setting goals is a good beginning for 2012.

Goal setting provides a focus in the quest for higher revenues and profits. Your innovation in pursuing ways to make your products and services more appealing to your existing customers and your target prospects will greatly influence your bottom line through increased revenues. It will also build the foundation for expanding your business in the markets of tomorrow.

You can achieve your goals through an appropriate mix of strategies and actions. Strategic goals reflect the long-term vision for your operation while tactical action plans are the short-term means to achieve them.

A strategic plan will help you:

  • Transform your business and leverage the state of the industry to your advantage
  • Reflect your vision of where your business is headed and what is needed to get there
  • Achieve the right fit between the company’s potential and its skills, needs and desires
  • Keep the planning process close to the realities of markets, key customers and suppliers
  • Integrate planning into a continuous business cycle
  • Sharply focus your efforts on what is most important to your success

A tactical action plan will help you:

  • Achieve your strategic plan
  • Work on your business instead of in it
  • Manage multiple projects simultaneously
  • Define the steps needed to complete a specific project leading to goal achievement
  • Delegate and assign responsibilities and accountabilities
  • Develop your team through specific projects outside their daily job descriptions
  • Monitor timely progress toward the goal
  • Track project effectiveness
  • Dynamically adjust direction when appropriate

Define the Goal(s) for Your Strategic Plan

Start by examining your company’s status. You might find it helpful to ask some probing questions.

Where do I fit?

Have you been successful but are now looking for the next level? Do you have a plan but tend to underachieve? Are you fighting the daily fires and can’t see the long-term plan?

Where is my pain?

Define your company weaknesses. Start with the most critical issue you face. It may be:

  • Low revenues
  • High expenses (either fixed, variable, or both)
  • Low productivity
  • Low (or no) profitability in a challenging economy
  • High employee turnover
  • High customer turnover
  • Dearth of good staffing candidates
  • Time management
  • Late orders
  • Customer defection
  • Untrained or underperforming employees
  • Outdated stores

Where is my opportunity?

Define your strengths and capitalize on the weaknesses of your competitors. Prioritize your ideas to exploit the opportunities you identify. Use the classic reporter’s questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Create Your Plan

Synthesize the results of these steps. Whether you use a straightforward manual planning template (which we would be happy to share with you), or a more sophisticated online planning program, the key is to create the plan.

Don’t forget to take into consideration the constraints imposed by outside forces such as government regulation and economic forces beyond your control.

Budget for Success

No plan can succeed without a realistic allocation of resources, including one or more of the following: money, people, equipment, time, and/or promotional effort.

The plan may require up-front investment to carry the project until it is a profit-producing enterprise, or it may involve intermittent expenditures to help it overcome seasonality until it becomes self-funding. Either way, this realistic investment of resources must be budgeted.

Implement the Plan

Start implementing your tactical action plan. Do not store it in a file drawer! And revise and redirect as needed. Even a “perfect” plan needs to be revisited periodically to adapt to surprises in implementation and changes in the market. This is a normal and essential part of driving your company to continual prosperity.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].