By John Matthews, Founder, Gray Cat Enterprises
Recently, I had a terrific session with one of my clients on business planning. I have written articles before on the importance of business planning, but this session resonated with me. What was reinforced to me during our meeting is that no matter how you approach business planning, ultimately you have to execute the plan through hard work. Much like hiring a fitness trainer to help you workout, eventually you have to do your sit ups. There are no alternatives.
Business planning is one-part strategy and one-part tactics—but where the sausage actually gets made is in the execution. Execution comes in the hard work necessary to carry out a plan and the accountability for your activities by tracking them. Without actually executing the work, it is like working out by going to the doughnut store—you won’t see the results.
Where I see most fail when it comes from business planning is in the execution. Execution of the plan can be tedious, tracking results even more so. So, shortcuts are made, and the plan falls well short of its expectations. It is not easy doing sit ups, but there are no shortcuts to achieving your business goals. Focus and accountability on execution trumps all other parts of the business planning process. Here are points of consideration:
Where Do You Want To Go? Set your high-level goals of what you want to achieve by year-end. This is the easy part simply due to the fact that most “planners” arbitrarily pick a growth target out of the air. “I want to grow 10% in sales” or “improve my profits by 20%” are typically the claims for a budget. This type of growth target is called a “top-down” approach where a target is selected first, and initiatives to achieve those targets are developed second.
How Will You Get There? An alternative way to developing your overall goal is to build toward that goal “bottom-up.” That means developing all of your initiatives that you wish to accomplish for the year and having them roll up into a top line goal. This bottom-up strategy enables you to compartmentalize your plans in chunks, each identified to add cumulatively to the overall goal.
Do Your Initiatives Achieve Your Overall Goal? Whether identifying initiatives through top-down or bottom-up processing, each of the initiatives needs to have a project plan (step-by-step tasks) developed in order to determine how each initiative gets accomplished. Without this level of detail, the plan essentially grinds to a halt. This is the most tedious aspect of your business plan, but in my opinion, where the rubber meets the road.
Time Line The Initiatives: Once the initiatives are vetted against the viability of being able to accomplish them, they need to be sequentially time lined. This will add a layer of assurance to your plan that projects will not be competing against one another for resources. In addition, with a time line for each initiative, contributing revenues can be accurately accounted for as a roll-up to your overall financial goal.
Create Measurement And Feedback Mechanisms: Much like the trainer in the gym ensuring that you do your required exercises, create some sort of measurement process— either internally or third-party—that holds you accountable to achieving your plan. It never hurts to have accountability to someone and by reporting your activities— it forces you to execute against your plan. Peer pressure is one of the strongest motivators.
Do Your Sit Ups: It comes down to this— if you want a flatter stomach, you better be prepared to do your sit ups. A plan is what it is— a plan. The plan only works if it is put into motion and the execution of the plan is flawless. Failing to execute and hold yourself accountable will result in missing your desired goals. There are no silver bullets in business—hard, smart work trumps all. In the words of Vince Lombardi, “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.