Evaluating the Long Term Planning for Your Business (Even if Your Business Does Not Have a Written Strategic Plan)

This evaluation process is not only for businesses with a written long-term plan in place (a small minority of private businesses). Not having a written plan in place does not mean that there is no long-term plan for a business. The plan occurs with various decisions being made and those decisions are communicated in a variety of ways and comes into being in informal and unwritten form. Whatever the planning status of your business, there are certain evaluation questions that can be asked that suggest the efficacy of the long-term planning for the business.

What is the story of the business? Every business has a story. It is the history of the business for publication and as told to new employees. It is also the oral history of “what really happened” and the description of founder personalities told informally. Is the story convoluted or does it convey what the business is about? This story, real or imagined, is the context for business performance.

Who are the owners and what do they want? Are the owners and their motivations described realistically or are they portrayed in a glossy and fabricated way? How could the owner possibly not have a business motivation to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible? Where an owner is said to place the welfare of employees above all else, is there a basis to believe that statement is credible? What is the alliance of the owners? Are there obvious groupings of ownership? Is there a basis to believe that an owner is the best person to be chief executive officer of the business? Where a family owns and manages a business, is there a crucial role for a non-family member? If the goal of an owner is stated to be something obviously not credible, what speculation will replace the incredible statement?

Judged by the goals of the owners, how good are the decisions made by the business? Who really makes the decisions? Who executes the decisions? Are the decisions actually carried out or does someone down the line save the business from a bad decision? Who knows about decisions when they are made? Do decisions made by owners or policy-makers really have any effect? Those in the business know what makes the business operate – is it in spite of policy-making decisions or because of them?

How are the contributions of those in the business measured? The metric of performance is often the key motivator for how that performance is accomplished. Is the primary goal revenue, or is there something else involved?

Where should the business be in three to five years? Is there an understanding about this within the business? Is the business being groomed for sale or being run into the ground prior to liquidation? What groups (founder, employee, family, or investor) will control the business?

As a private business owner, you may find it interesting to ask these and other questions and evaluate the long-term planning of your business. If you do not like the results of the evaluation and what you perceive the plan to be, consider taking control of long-term planning by creating a written long-term plan. If this plan is the result of group decision-making, as it should be, it will be credible, answer the evaluation questions, and be a guide and basis for the improved success of your business.

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Creating and Building a Decision-Making Policy for Consistently Excellent Decisions

Businesses that make consistently excellent decisions realize excellent business results. These businesses do involve the right people discussing the right things at the right time and then making well-communicated decisions. These businesses monitor decisions made and quickly revise decisions as is appropriate. The result is an honest formulation of goals and a perception of reality that creates consistently excellent decisions and profitable business results. Let’s break this down.

Consider who makes the decision. There is a person with authority and responsibility who will “make the decision” by articulating the decision. Who makes and articulates the decision is significant, but the procedure to make the decision as a part of the business culture is also articulated and is more important. Simply because you have the authority and responsibility to make a decision does not allow you to ignore the available information and the opinions of others knowledgeable or involved. You may be gifted with intelligence or intuition or both, but alone you will not be able to produce as consistently good decisions as a group of knowledgeable and involved people. Most people accept this fact readily, but if your arrogance does not allow you to respect the views of others, the successful decision-making process stops here. Yes, the authority and responsibility will be vested in accordance with the governance rules of the business, but the procedure to make an excellent decision involves a group of people.

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Expect the Plan Will Not Go As Planned

If you have made a plan and even if you are very sure of your decision-making, you should expect that the plan will not be executed as you envisioned. This is not a valid reason to avoid planning.

“Why plan if it never goes as planned?” The reason that you should plan is not to predict the future. That cannot be done with any degree of consistency. Do not expect it to happen.

The axiom that validates the benefit of planning: businesses that experience excellent results do so because they make excellent decisions. Planning is the process that creates excellent decisions and therefore excellent business results.

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