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The previous issue of Route to Profits™ discussed how to identify and use a company’s sustainable competitive advantage (SCA) to take it to the next level.
Peter Drucker said “the ‘plan’ is nothing, but planning is everything.” I certainly agree with Mr. Drucker, but wonder why he would make such a statement? When that statement was made, and even today, the prevailing outcome for companies engaging in a strategic planning process is to prepare a well documented and meticulously edited notebook mapping the company’s one to five year “plan.” Unfortunately, most of the time that notebook graces the shelves of the company’s executives and is dusted off only for the next corporate retreat. Is this exercise valuable? Certainly for the executives involved in the planning and documenting process, there was a “meeting of the minds” and an understanding of the direction the company would be moving toward. Hence the assertion the “plan” is nothing but planning is everything.
Taking SCA a Step Further
We do not often have the luxury of documenting strategic plans and expensive corporate retreats. We need a meeting of the minds and an understanding of the company direction. Additionally, implementation is the key to success. How can the corporate plan be modified to work for a middle market company? The answer is a one page plan. Creating a one page plan forces us to be nimble enough to quickly respond to opportunities and threats to the business.
NOW? WHERE? HOW?
The one page plan is designed using the NOW, WHERE, HOW concept (see diagram).
- Where is the company NOW?
- WHERE does the company want to be in the future?
- HOW are we going to get there?
When developing the plan with your management team, document the company status NOW with regard to the areas where improvement is needed, the current status of the company as a whole and then where your company should be in the next six to 12 months.
For example, let’s assume an area of improvement is sales.
- What is your company’s current sales volume for each of your services or products?
- What are the sales by region?
- Do you need to consider a major customer that makes up the bulk of your overall sales?
Next, document what you envision sales to be by region, customer, product or service in the next six to 12 months?
In the HOW section, document the necessary strategies and tasks to move your company from where you are NOW in sales to WHERE you want the company to be in the next 6 to 12 months.
- Do we plan to sell more often to the same customers?
- Raise prices across the board, or strategically?
- How many new customers do you want to add, and how do you plan to reach them?
The key to winning is to be as specific as possible about your strategy on HOW to move the issues from where they are NOW to WHERE you want to be in a specific period of time.
Individual One Page Plans
Now you have your company’s one page plan in place and agreed to by your management team. Are you done? Not quite. Assign the tasks from the overall one page plan to the most appropriate executive to implement the strategy. If your company has three strategies for improving sales; then each strategy should be assigned to a champion.
Each executive should have their own one page plan for their assigned strategies. If one of the sales improvement strategies is to reduce client turnover, the individual one page plan would expand on the strategy by developing several individual strategies and tasks, like a client satisfaction survey, designed to reduce client turnover.
Since the one page plan is a living document, the plans can be easily updated, edited and communicated. Follow-up by the owner or other executives is efficient and can occur throughout the year. Key performance indicators can track the implementation of the plan objectives. Individual matrices can also be identified and incorporated into the evaluation and compensation process. In short with the company and executive one page plans in place the owner’s job becomes that of removing roadblocks, coaching and encouraging completion of the objectives already agreed to by all.
Companies that have adopted the one page plan as an implementation tool comment that this alone has helped take their company to the next level. They refuse to end a meeting without documenting in a one page plan what strategy or process improvement needs to change and how it will be changed going forward. This discipline has reduced miscommunication and false starts by project teams. That is not to say that one page plans are not altered or edited during the process. Quite the contrary, since one page plans are living documents, updates or changes to the plan can be made and communicated easily and efficiently. Therefore for companies that adopt and stay with a one page plan approach to implementation, there may be setbacks, but failure is not an option. So let’s get to work!
Byron Hebert, CPA, CTP, is a director at PKF Texas and practice leader for the Entrepreneurial Advisory Services group. PKF Texas can provide assistance to companies looking to implement the techniques detailed in this issue.