Longer term business planning (strategic planning) is something that tends to easily get pushed aside by the realities of running the day to day aspects of a business. Three scenarios come to mind:
When things are good you are so busy keeping up with customer demands and delivering on promises that planning for the future just doesn't seem important. Hey, "you are now successful and you've "arrived" at the end".
When you are just starting up (assuming you don't have infinitely deep pockets) or if you've hit a bump, then you are focused on cash flow issues and it becomes hard to see past the next few months even if you have the time to do so. The stress is just so high it's hard to do anything else.
Sometimes neither of these situations apply and you've just developed the habit of being short-term focused.
All of these situations are extremely dangerous for long-term success.
Wait a minute… scenario 1 seems pretty good doesn't it?
Well, when you are successful today, you know what worked yesterday and maybe today. There is no guarantee that it's going to continue working tomorrow. You have competitors or will have competitors. Needs and expectations change. Relationships with customers change.
What do we mean by business planning? To me these include several components:
- Company vision
- The moral compass (ethics and other aspects of what you will or won't do to achieve the vision)
- The strategic plan
- The exit plan
The company vision is the very big picture and doesn't really change often (or at least it shouldn't).
The moral compass encompasses things like ethics… what the company will or won't do to achieve the company vision.
The strategic plan is the specifics of what you will need to do over the coming months, year and several years to achieve the company vision based on where you are now. Goals must be specific and measurable with explicit timelines. You either meet goals or you don't. This is the map of how to get from point A to point B and it is subject to periodic review and change based on internal and external factors… it's adaptable as "how" you will accomplish the company vision changes.
The exit plan is important even if you don't plan on leaving any time soon. This is how you (i.e. shareholders) are going to realize rewards from all the hard work you put into running a business. This ensures that you focus on maximizing the value of your company throughout it's life. Things can change and change can happen rapidly… marital breakup, illness, accident, disagreement with partners, etc. Ignore this and you may get pennies on the dollar when you decide to sell or more likely, liquidate your assets.
Also, don't forget to work on making your services and operations repeatable no matter how much you grow or people change positions. Otherwise your people are your business and you can't sell it for much (revenue and profit are not repeatable for a buyer).
So even when you are busy, or stressed or just plain not feeling like it. Work ON your business and this means business planning and all its related components.