No Time for Planning? Be Certain to At Least Do These Two Things!
June 21, 2022
In a previous article, I shared the story of my experience with "strategic planning".
In the words of George Steiner, a strategic plan is, "a systems approach to maneuvering an enterprise over time through the uncertain waters of its changing environment to achieve prescribed aims."
Having a strategic plan is generally agreed to be a very good best practice for every business.
So, I had to have one, and started by reading the definitive book at the time on how to do strategic planning, written by Mr. Steiner, who was considered to be one of the best business planning consultants in the industry.
Digging into Steiner's book, I read to the middle of chapter 4, then put it on my bookshelf for later.
Because Steiner made it clear that I wasn't ready for strategic planning.
He said, "At first there will be very little if any formal planning as the entrepreneur of a small business strives desperately to find customers so that the company can remain solvent."
This described my business perfectly at the time, having just hung out my shingle, with myself and only two employees, and focused primarily on survival.
Referring back to my Four Levels of Freedom hierarchy, I was at the "Struggle" level, and would have still found strategic planning a significant challenge to implement even at the next highest level of freedom, "Competent".
The reality is, no matter how helpful strategic planning is, small business owners are not likely to take the time to do it until the business is operating at the "Experienced" level of freedom, when the owner is spending most of their time working ON the business rather than IN the business.
If my experience with strategic planning sounds familiar to you, then my experience with business planning probably will too.
Since starting my first company twenty-three years ago, I've started seven more small businesses by myself or with partners.
None had a "business plan", at least not a formal business plan with the following details worked out before getting started:
- Mission, Vision and Core Values
- Principle employees
- Legal structure
- Market research identifying customers, determining your advantages and disadvantages, and understanding the regulatory environment
- Product and/or services offered
- Product manufacturing and/or service delivery plan
- Pricing, budgeting, financial projections
- Marketing and sales strategy
Of course, most of the above had been considered and worked out in my head or with my partners, but we just charged ahead based on previous experience and figured stuff out as we went.
Not the best approach, I admit.... but does this sound familiar?
Maybe not to everyone, but for some of you small business owners, I'm sure it does.
The real question is, why didn't I, and don't so many other small business owners, bother to put together a formal business plan?
For the same reasons we don't do formal strategic planning.
When you're in struggle mode (as a start-up or not) just trying to survive and keep the doors open, for better or worse, there isn't enough time to spend on planning, be it the business or strategic kind.
By my research, this represents over sixty percent of small business owners.
Steiner readily admits in his book that strategic planning is complex, and time consuming.
"To try to complete it in its entirety the first time an organization introduces a strategic planning process would, for most companies, probably result in failure."
Though relatively less complex, putting together a formal business plan for the first time takes a lot of research and thought, which likewise is time consuming.
However, planning should not be an all or nothing game.
There are a few elements, common to both business planning and strategic planning, that every small business can implement relatively easily, and will allow the business to ascend to the "Experienced" level of freedom, where more time can be devoted by the business owner to formal planning.
The End In Mind
For the first 15 years I owned my business, D.R. Wastchak, LLC, my vision for where I wanted to be in five to ten years was never formally shared with my team.
Same with sharing any explicit ideas of what I believed in or stood for as a business owner, which of course meant what we believed in and stood for as a business.
Not until I rebuilt the business starting in 2016, were my vision for the future and core values formally written down and shared with the team, but it could have been, and should have been done much, much sooner.
There are many parts and pieces that make up business plans and strategic plans, and two of the most basic components are the vision and core values for the business.
While I may not have had time to devote to formal business planning or strategic planning, I certainly could have taken time to write out a simple vision statement for what D.R. Wastchak looked like, acted like, felt like, and performed like in the future, be that three, five or ten years.
This would have given everyone in the business an end goal to strive for, rally around, and allow the team to see how the work they did each day fit into the larger picture of where we were headed.
Likewise, I could have identified three to five words that represented my core values, what I believed in and stood for.... what D.R. Wastchak believed in and stood for.
I know now the power of both a vision and core values to creating greater buy-in, alignment, engagement, and excitement for my team.
It's a shame that so many years went by without making the most of these two simple things that every small business owner can and should have written down, even if they don't have time for formal business and strategic planning.
Don't Miss Your Opportunity!
Don't make the same mistake I did and wait years to capture your vision for the future and discover your core values, missing the opportunity to move your business to a higher level of freedom today rather than some day.
Go to the resources page on my website and download my free "Vision Builder" and "Personal Core Values Discovery" tools.
These will not only create a foundation for greater success for your business, but they will also start you on the path to creating a Freedom Focused business that provides greater personal and professional freedom for you, the business owner, and for your team.
Best of luck with these two exercises. By putting your vision and core values in place, you will now be more....
Focused on your freedom!