Have you ever taken a road trip not knowing where you will go? The kind where you get in the car and go wherever the pavement takes you? It sounds adventurous, exciting and maybe a bit glamorous.
Not knowing where you’d end up or what you would encounter, this sort of trip would have to be one of low expectations. You may find fun and adventure, or you may end up lost or calling a mechanic. Would you spend your time and money on a trip that at best had a 50% chance of success?
Planning The Business Trip
Many businesses, particularly small to medium-sized ones, go on a trip like this every day. They’re not sure where they are going, but one thing they know for sure is that they have to keep moving. Their movement helps them dodge bullets, but they also by pass opportunities.
Despite so much activity, these businesses can’t get ahead and they don’t understand why. They work hard, only having time for what is in front of them. And there is always something in front of them that is more important than the last crisis. For businesses like these, any chance of future success financially or otherwise is less than 50%.
Lewis Carroll put words into the Mad Hatter’s mouth when he penned, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. That is how many businesses operate.
The objections for having a future plan are many but those most frequently heard are as follows:
- There is no time to plan. I can barely keep up with today. When and how would I create a plan?
- Business is great, why do I need a plan? I am going to keep doing what I’m doing. That’s my plan.
- My business is so unpredictable and affected by factors I can’t control. How can I plan when I can’t predict where I will be 2 weeks from now, let alone a year or two?
- What am I going to do with a plan once I have it? Nobody here has time to implement it.
Luck or Design
Several years ago, I had a client who without a plan had managed to achieve reasonable profits year over year. When presented with the notion of doing some forward thinking, his response was, “I just had an 8% annual increase in a down year, why do I need a plan? It seems like things are working fine.”
At that juncture he was asked if an 8% increase was by luck or by design. He admitted it was luck. The next question was “What kind of increase do you think you could have had if you had a plan?” Long story short, the next year he committed to developing a strategic focus and since that time profits have increased by 15% per year.
Let’s go back to our road trip example. A year has passed and it’s time for another trip. This year, with a plan in hand you will know your final destination, the route you will take, and what you will do once you get to there. This trip already feels better than last year’s and you haven’t even hit the road. This time your success has not been left to chance.
Have you ever operated by luck? What has been the result?
What do you think your company could accomplish if it had a plan?