November 28, 2017

Understanding the Role of Planning in the Annual Business Cycle

By David Mustin, Vice President - Strategic IT Consulting, Marcum Technology

Understanding the Role of Planning in the Annual Business Cycle

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra

Ol’ Yogi definitely had a way with words. But below his ironic sense of humor lay simple truths that still apply to so many things in life and work. Take business planning, for example. As autumn gives way to the holiday season and the end of 2017, the time to prepare your business for the future is now. After all, your business needs a roadmap; otherwise, it will end up someplace else.

This is planning season, the time when business executives focus on closing out the year with a bang and transitioning into 2018 with a clear plan in place—one that’s ready to be implemented on January 1, 2018.

Chief among its many uses, top-down business growth planning serves to establish goals, targets and initiatives for the upcoming year. These goals, targets and initiatives should be informed by your current and recent past performance, as well as by your customers, your competitors and changes in the market—and they should be designed to optimize your business’ revenue, growth, profitability and market position. All businesses are constrained by resources to some degree—even giants like Wal-Mart, Google, IBM and Amazon. Planning allows those businesses – and yours – to prioritize where limited resources should be focused, and how they can best deliver the most competitive position in your market space.

Business growth planning can take many forms and evolve through different processes. But generally, it encompasses some common elements:

  • Clear objectives and measures
    • The best business growth plans articulate clear objectives and metrics that indicate outcomes and performance:
      • Example: Our business must grow by 20 percent. In order to achieve that, our fasteners line must grow by 30 percent, while nozzles and gauges must each sustain 15 to 20 percent growth.
    • They establish timelines:
      • Example: Our 20 percent growth must be achieved within the fiscal year.
    • They set accountabilities at every stage
      • Example: Quarterly measurement and analysis is mandated.
    • They include meaningful measurements for all stated objectives
      • Example: We will measure growth and profitability based on the following metrics…
    • Priorities – You can’t do everything; a business growth plan should prioritize and focus your organization. In that regard, it should address core issues your business faces, and position it to meet both internal and external objectives.
    • Simplicity and brevity – Your plan is a growth strategy—that needs to be conveyed throughout your organization simply and clearly. Therefore, no matter the size or scope of your business, you should strive to encapsulate the essence of your plan on a single page. It should concisely articulate the business’ vision, mission and values, objectives, initiatives, responsibilities and metrics.
    • An understanding of what makes you different – In other words, what causes you to stand out to your customers, and why your business will create greater value for your customers.
    • Buy-in and transparency – The plan you ultimately develop aligns your executive team and employees under a unified objective or set of objectives; informs them of their priorities for the coming year; and serves as a guidepost when key leaders are not available to answer specific questions.

In the end, your plan should reconcile executive aspirations with marketplace and organizational reality to arrive at a sweet spot where growth and profitability are realistic and achievable.

There’s a lot riding on a business growth plan. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and that may make the process seem intimidating. But basic analytics, combined with project and program management techniques, can help you devise a sound business growth plan, and implement it with precision.

Do you have questions about business growth planning, or other business advisory issues? Please contact David Mustin, Vice President – Strategic IT Consulting, Marcum Technology.