Ready, Set, PREP! - Business Planning (Part 2)

The Business Planning series will posted on Tuesdays Wednesdays, and Thursdays through the month of September 2011. A number of business planning issues will be addressed in the blog. For more detail, depth or individual information and answers, please contact Soltys, Inc. Comments and questions are welcome. We will post answers and responses.

Many companies will sit down to write their business plans over the next couple of months. Probably less than 20% will finish the plan and even fewer will put the plan to work. If the plan is the recipe for success, why do so many leave all of the ingredients on the table? There are several reasons that seem to be prevalent.
  • No time to do it.
  • Not sure where to begin.
  • They have downloaded a template they do not know how to use.
  • Key players are not involved in planning.
  • Little if any preparation has been done.
 If we take care of the last one, preparation, most of the other challenges will resolve themselves.
Over the years, consulting with all types of companies, I have found that a business planning retreat day or two is often the most effective way of getting the business plan written. Whether the retreat is off site or onsite, it needs to be concentrated time with few interruptions. There will be breaks and meals to take care of the urgent items. The following preparations will help you accomplish your business planning goal. Get commitment from all key players that they are ready, willing, and able to participate and contribute fully. This includes the commitment to clear the required time from the schedule.

  1. Set a Date – Choose a date(s) where your entire team can meet. Usually it is best to avoid Mondays. Generally no more than two days as people will have trouble clearing their schedules and staying focused. If two days, determine overnight arrangements if any are needed.
  2. Book your place. The place you choose does not have to be very expensive. It can be a training room, a community room or a retreat center. Whatever you choose, there should be tables where you can gather with reasonable work seating, room to use computers and write, electrical access, Internet access, cell phone service, simple snacks and access to lunches or dinners if needed.
  3. Designate the project leader. This person is often the head of the company or a key management person who has both positional and personal leadership. Their job will be to make sure that everyone is prepared and that all data gathering ahead of the date is complete. They are also responsible for making sure that all key players attend ready, willing and able.
  4. Make sure that everyone has the preparatory checklist with their responsibilities clearly stated. The project leader will need to do a status check or two prior to the date to make sure that all prep work is done.
  5. Ask everyone to think about the following: (a) What would you like to accomplish next year for your unit, area or for the company? (b) What goals from last year were met and why? (c) What goals were met from last year and why? (d) What are the greatest challenges you see ahead?
  6. Prior to the business planning date, share these, discuss and seek input or addition from all. This will help you begin the process and create a mindset.
  7. Create a central point for data collection. Whether you have a shared access drive that you can get to remotely or use tools such as Google docs, Windows Live Skydrive or Dropbox and give each key person access to contribute and view. Later you will want to organize data that is created or loaded for sharing.
  8. Prepare to be a leader. The success of working with your group to create a plan will demand your best in leadership to keep everyone focused and committed.
Tomorrow’s post will continue to go over some of the prep work needed. A Business Planning Preparation Worksheet will be available for download to help you. Business planning is not necessarily complicated and becomes much easier to accomplish successfully when prepared.