Planning Essential for Continued Success

There is nothing like a plan, nothing in the world. There is nothing you can name that is anything like a good business plan. Apologies to South Pacific's "There is Nothing Like A Dame" but the importance of planning for business owners cannot be overestimated. Good planning, especially the development of a strategic plan, is excellent business insurance; it will help ensure that your enterprise can thrive in a tough, competitive marketplace.

Some owners, nonetheless, are as reluctant to plan as they are to apply a systematic planning process to their business because they fear that "a plan" will create too much inflexibility for their company. This is a groundless fear. The basis for it usually is the owner's assessment that management flexibility has been key to his company's success and systematic planning will inevitably undermine this strength. "Flexibility," however, can become an icon; it can be a way of glorifying whimsy, sloppy thinking, good luck, or an excessive need to control the business by the independent owner. Having a plan and being flexible can coexist simultaneously. Indeed, they can enhance one another.

Planning for the future success of your business can be enjoyable, informative and profitable. Owners often report feeling gratified about the teamwork that planning engenders. They report learning new, important information about the way their business operates, become aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors, and being better informed about various market trends that influence their product lines. Planning for the future can stimulate new ideas. While these are clear advantages of planning, some owners seem to become stuck behind certain obstacles that interfere with planning for their future.

There are a number of obstacles that prevent owners from planning for the future success of their businesses. First, some owners are blinded by their own success and, tus, think planning is irrelevant to them. They incorrectly assume that if they just continue doing what has made them successful in the past then the future will take care of itself. This is a dangerous and sometimes fatal assumption. Market conditions change, competition intensifies and old methods become obsolete. Trying to perpetuate the status quo into the future and being successful at this undertaking will bleed vitality out of even the best companies.

A second obstacle to effective planning involves some owners' assumption about the competition. These owners' attitude that the competition can be safely ignored may contribute to company pride but it is more likely that this kind of arrogance eventually will be fatal to the enterprise. A corollary of this attitude is self-satisfaction. I have heard more than one owner tell me that he is not only satisfied with the current performance of his company but also he is not about to alter his formula for success. Unfortunately, a couple of these owners recently saw their market superiority taken away by hungrier competitors who responded more quickly to changing market conditions.

A third obstacle to good planning is an attitude held by some owners that planning is an expensive waste to management time. "We are profitable now, there are no frills in our operation." Furthermore, "the future will take care of itself." Unfortunately, the future will not be kind to those who view planning as an unnecessary expense. Successful companies, both large and small, plan for the future because it is their best means for continuing to be successful.

Technological changes, product innovations, the transformation of market demographics, and the changing demands of customers require that all business owners systematically plan to minimize their weaknesses, maximize on their strengths, control the effects of competitive threats, and take advantage of the various opportunities that planning will help them identify.

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