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Planning for success - part I

By Glen Chapman

Many people spend more time planning their annual holiday then they do planning their life or their business. Mostly this is due to the fear of either not knowing what to do, finding the time to do something that appears not to generate income or that they will identify things about their business they didn't want to know. The first two are usually the biggest and the matter of finding time in a small business can be difficult.

The reality of the situation is that if you don't find time to work through a plan for your business, it is likely that you will never have time. I have worked with many businesses that were already busy all day with their business, but when we got them to take some time out and do the plan they found that there ended up being more time to spend working on the business rather then in the business, and more time for themselves.

If you want a profitable business that allows you flexibility in management and personal time, then you should aim for a system-based business. These businesses allow you as the "owner" to have a business but not have to run the business.

So a business should do what you want to do rather then you doing what the business wants (or needs) you to do. So what is it you want to do? What is your personal vision or mission? Until you answer these questions you will find it hard to identify what you want the business to do.

So the first step in the strategic planning process is to determine "Why are we in business?"

Personal Vision
So to determine "Why we are in business?" you need to first determine what you want to achieve? This question should examine your reasons personally for being in business. What are your goals? Why do you work?

Do you want to only work three days per week?
Do you want to be the head of an international company?
Do you want a business that can be run from your home?
What level of income do you want?

Anything that is personal to you and is your reason for being in business. Much of the time many businesses are started because people (including myself) have got tired of working for someone else and want the ability to personally control their own life.

What ever your reasons are, they are your reasons. They can be completely personal and they may not even be part of the business plan (as written information) but they are vital in guiding you through the rest of the planning process. Without these you have no idea as to wether this business suits you. You wont know if it will achieve your "desired" outcomes if you unless you know what you desire.

Many people have a considerable amount of trouble with this step.

If you are having trouble with developing your own personal vision, and for many this is the first time you would have to do this, then the following list of books may help.

Books on vision development and goal setting

Beyond Dreaming - Brian Leaning-Mizen
"A step-by-step guide to goal-setting for business and life"

Get a Life - Brian Houston
"Principles for success and enjoyment in every area of life"

Be a Winner - James R Sherman
"The do it! Success Series"

Reach for the Stars - Bill Newman
"The sky is no longer the limit!"

Business Vision
Once you have a personal vision you can then work on your business vision. This is the second step into "Why we are in business?".

This should take your personal vision, and that of all the stake holders, and look at developing a business vision that will provide some outcomes that are inline with the stake holders personal visions. They don't have to achieve these visions, just allow them to happen. This could mean producing enough profit for them to do or buy things or have enough time to spend doing what they want.

This is fine if you have a small business with only a few stake holders, but what if you have a larger organisation? The process is much the same except that you may not individually explore the visions of all the stake holders but all the stake holders would work through a process that gave them input and therefore input of their personal vision into the business.

The business vision will also be influenced by the market place. The business needs to focus on what the market requires. What is the problem your focus customer has and how do you solve it? What technology is the market using and what are the competitors using?

From the Visioning process the stake holder team will get a big picture view of what the business is and what it ultimately wants to achieve. The team may want to compile a Vision document which gives the team the ability to revisit regularly what the business is doing by reading the vision everyday.

Now where?

The next stage of the process is to develop the plan which has the detail of how the business will achieve the vision.

This will cover the areas of:

The businesses guiding principles and values
The businesses core competencies
The history of the business
The environment the business operates
The strategies and success factors
The challenges

(© 1995 – 2007 Glen Chapman)