Small Business Success Tips - Planning
Some small business owners plan to the smallest detail, sometimes planning themselves
into a nervous breakdown from long hours and stress. Others are completely impulsive,
shouting orders madly and cursing the dolts who didn't order enough whatchamacallits.
Neither extreme results in smooth production in all areas of the business.
The first trick to planning is to plan for the positive. Trying to anticipate and
prepare for every possible obstacle is a negative approach, and self-limiting. The only
necessary plans are those that will lead to success. If you want 200 attendees at your
next event, plan how to bring in 400, even if your hall will only hold 250. Don't let your
production capacity keep you from bidding on jobs that will strain that capacity.
The second trick to planning is to identify the essential elements of success. For your
event, you need a sound system, refreshments, and your printed materials. Sure, other
items will come up, but set up the essentials, and you will have a framework for any other
needs to fit into.
The third trick to planning is allowing lead time. "Too little, too late" should never
apply to your business. Being "too busy" is never a valid excuse. "Too busy" comes from an
earlier lack of planning. If you are in this vicious cycle, the only way out is to
discover what is essential and do only that until you are caught up.
The fourth trick to planning is thoroughness, which is different from obsessing over
details. Whether you are planning for a major client project or a minor office rearrangement,
make a list of the essential actions. Always, always make a master written list of essential
actions when planning. The list can change over time, but the list is absolutely necessary,
or guaranteed, something will slip through the cracks and lead to a crisis.
The fifth trick to planning is to plan with a purpose. Plans can encompass any time
period from minutes to years. Merely planning how to use your time, however, will not move
you forward at any great pace. You can get a lot done and still not accomplish much of
what you need and want to accomplish.
Example: you plan to meet with the mayor from 3:00 to 4:00 to talk about parking
ordinances. If that is the whole of your plan, you may not accomplish much. A real plan
would be meet with the mayor in order to show him how changes in the parking ordinances
would benefit the city. With that plan, you can gather your data, practice your arguments,
build your Powerpoint presentation, all with a single end in mind.
Similarly, planning to double your landscaping equipment sales in the next year does
not give you much of a framework to hang actual actions on. Instead, plan to quadruple
your client base by expanding your sales area and establishing the superiority of your
equipment through dramatic demonstrations throughout the year. That plan will get you
where you want to go.
Finally, be sure to include others in your business plans, especially your staff. They
have to plan their own actions and decisions to fit in smoothly with your plans. Key staff
should have a complete picture, and lower-totem-pole staff need to know about anything
that will affect their decisions and actions in that department. After all, your staff
will be the ones who will help you bring your plans to life, even if your staff is only
one part-time bookkeeper.
In summary: no planning means constant fires to be put out and bridges collapsing; too
intensive and painstaking planning means projects take too long and cost too much. Just
enough planning means the company grows through a series of successful actions that always
contain some element of surprise. Some level of occasional challenge keeps life
interesting. Plan on it.
Don Dewsnap is the author of Small
Business Magic, published by Oak Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the
principles of quality necessary to business success, applying to all aspects of business
from production to sales. The principles of quality are not well known, and almost never
applied to their full potential.