Strategic Planning

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Many small business owners think that a formal strategy planning process is unnecessary and a waste of time. After all, I’m the owner, and I’m here aren’t I? I talk to the people every day, don’t I? I tell people what needs to be done, don’t I? So what’s the problem – everyone knows where we’re going! But do they?

Let’s crank it a little tighter – do YOU? The human mind is a marvelous thing. You think about your business, you dream about where you’d like to take it. You daily grapple with problems and improvements in your own mind. You’ve taken a lot of time to consider these issues, probably both at work and later at home. But is thinking about it enough? Many business owners are convinced they can achieve “freesults” – good results just by thinking about it. It doesn’t work that way.

Having considered it in your mind doesn’t guarantee:

  • That you’ve actually re-aimed the business
  • That you’ve implemented the change that addresses a challenge
  • That you’ve actually dealt with an employee problem
  • That you’ve brought about that change in managing your own life
  • OR

  • That your employees know anything about what you’ve been considering!

There are four ways to tell if this is happening in your business.

1. Have you ever asked an employee why something wasn’t done, and gotten a blank look in return? Have you followed that by pointing out that they should KNOW it needs to be done, only to get another ‘deer in the headlights’ look?

2. Do your employees frequently seem frustrated with their jobs?

3. Have your profits flattened out?

4. Have you noticed competitors picking up opportunities that you’ve somehow missed?

If you’ve answered “Yes” to two or more of these questions, chances are your business is suffering from unclear direction. That can include one or both of the following. First, you may have NO direction, or patchy direction. What does that mean? It means you haven’t systematically thought through the important aspects of the direction your business requires. Deciding on a direction means taking time to consider what is facing your business, and what COULD face it over the next year or two. It means planning for those possibilities. It means understanding your own staffs’ values, capabilities, and motivators. It means putting these together into a plan and writing them down. Why write the plan out? Isn’t it worthwhile, once you’ve taken the time to really wade through these issues, to remember what you came up with? Writing it down guarantees you will do that.

Second, unclear direction can come from not COMMUNICATING your plan to staff. This is where most business owners fail. They may have the plan, they may even have a good plan; but they don’t communicate it to staff, get feedback on it, and then spell out who will do what. Neither do they regularly report progress to the staff on the unfolding of the plan, or of difficulties that are cropping up. So staff don’t know what how its going or what they can specifically do to help.

It’s not so hard to do, and it’s very much worth the time. You’ll feel better about where you’re going. Your employees will understand company direction and their part in it. And your competition will find your company setting the pace and causing headaches for them!