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Ask SCORE: Successful companies review plans

Did you review and adjust your plans as COVID-19 stuck our economy last year? Lewis Carrol said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” This is unfortunately true regarding business strategic planning. Year end is a great time to review results, update your plans and set goal for the future.

Willis Kanaley

Data from the U.S. Small business Administration shows that companies with a written plan that is reviewed and updated regularly grow 30% faster than companies without a written plan.

A strategic plan will help:

  • Focus businesses activities on more effective growth and improvement.
    Improve communication with employees and the leadership team.
    Set priorities and make better decisions.

Start with the numbers. What are your sales, expenses and profits and how do they compare to last year and to your plans for this year? Calculate the differences and analyze the reasons for the deviations. Preparing a list of things gone wrong and things gone right will provide a good starting point for making improvements.

While the numbers are critical, they are not the only thing you should review. Items such as your overall vision and mission for the business should be examined. Do you have the right people in the right job? Do you have a succession plan? What training is needed? Are you happy with the style of your organization? How is morale?  Are you satisfied?

Small business is risky — 30% fail within two years and 50% fail within five years. Having a plan this is clear and understood by everyone in your organization can greatly reduce these risks. The following series of manageable steps can help reduce your risk.

Make sure your vision aligns with the company vision that is shared with employees and customers. It should be short and make clear what the company’s future will be including products, markets, and long-term goals.

Review and analyze your current situation. A good technique is to use a SWOT review of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Where will future growth come from? What are you competitors doing and what will be your competitive advantage?

Establish personal goals with your employees and overall goals for the company plus plans on how to accomplish them. An effective technique is to use the SMART check list for plans. They should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable/Attainable
  • Identify the Responsible Party
  • Timely with intermediate checkpoints.

Regular reviews and follow up are essential to make sure progress is being made. A common approach is an in-depth monthly review with weekly follow up on a few specific items. Plans rarely work out exactly as expected. It is important to allow some flexibility and to build in some contingency ideas and funds to deal with unexpected events that are very likely to occur. A collection of professionally prepared business plans can be examined here:  https://www.bplans.com/

SCORE, “Mentors to America’s Small Business” is a part of the SBA. It is an organization of volunteers who provide free unlimited confidential counseling to business owners and entrepreneurs. They have local members who have prepared business plans and are available to help. A variety of courses are available at  https://www.score.org/courses-demand  If you would like a confidential review of your situation, you can schedule a meeting at www.score.org  or you may call 610-376-3497 in Reading, 610-327-2673 in Pottstown or 717-397-3092 in Lancaster to speak to a volunteer.

Ask SCORE: Successful companies review plans [Column]