The problem many businesses have is not so much about plans and planning as it is about just making stuff happen. The planning bit just makes it more likely that the right things will happen.
All the preoccupation with “The Business Plan” is pretty much a waste of time if it doesn’t actually get followed through. And that is normally the case!
The Magic Million Survey (Directors’ Centre, 2008 and repeated in 2012) looked at this very issue and was able to tell why the MMs (The Magic Millionaires) were so much better at the follow through. More importantly, it identifies what these MMs actually do (when compared with the ‘ordinary’ performers) to achieve their excellent results.
Firstly, what tends to hold people back from achieving more is their attitude. Most people blame their circumstances for what is happening to them. The MMs, on the other hand, see that they themselves are the ones who are responsible for making things happen. There is no-one else to blame.
Most of us are too much in love with our businesses. As Michael Gerber points out in the E-Myth, we are technicians who spend most of our time working IN our businesses and don’t spend enough time stepping back and working ON the business. We are too busy trying to climb the ladder that we don’t think about whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall!
If you know what your endpoint is then you can create a plan, a roadmap, that will show you how to get there. Business planning is making your mistakes on paper and a great way to see how your ideas might pan out. However, the plan and reality are not the same thing.
The theory then goes on to suggest that with a bit of overview (AKA strategic thinking) we can create a scaleable business. Just put in systems and processes that can be duplicated and, hey presto, your business grows like topsy.
There is, however, a flaw in this argument. If it is that easy to scale or duplicate then anyone else can do it. So you need to have something that is scaleable but also not easily cloneable. Not so easy, eh! And that’s why the dragons on the Dragons’ Den always ask “Is it scaleable?” and “Is it patented?”
So, having a really magic formula (scaleable and defendable) is part of the secret of the MMs as is an unnerving self-confidence. Likewise, the ability to spend time working ON the business, designing and managing it, rather than working IN it is a key element.
Meanwhile, most businesses sow the seeds of their own destruction. Set up from the entrepreneurial spark of an idea, most inventor-creator-technicians may be great at all the “working IN the business” stuff (making, building, doing) and might be great at getting a small business going, but as you grow you need the very things that most self-employed people loathe, hate and detest – things they set up in business to run away from - namely systems, process and controls.
In order to get smart and stop duplicating things, endlessly reinventing the wheel, you need to streamline and systemise much of what you do.
At the top level the whole planning process needs to be a methodical process combining the creative and the logical skills.
Without going into detail here, your VISION (blue skies ambition) creates your MISSION (the key numbers you want to hit) creates your STRATEGY (how you are going to get ‘there’) creates your CORE SUCCESS FACTORS or MILESTONES creates your PERFORMANCE MEASURES (what you are going to measure).
This is an iterative process where each level informs and affects those above and beneath.
By creating a weekly or monthly SCORECARD or DASHBOARD of, say, a dozen key performance measures, you can monitor and run the entire business. You can see what is and what is not working and take immediate action to get yourself back on line.
Work on the IMPORTANT not the URGENT things. It’s about getting the big stuff in place. Ask each of your reports to give you a half-a-page note every Friday telling you what important things they’ve done for the business and what it means for the business... every evening write a short list of things to do the next day and DO THEM... sack energy sappers and work with energisers... create a weekly and monthly meeting regime... run meetings to time and ban latecomers or unprepared attendees... measure, discuss and focus on actions and results. The list is endless. Just do it.
No more excuses. Just do it.