Lessons Learned #21: Do You Have A Plan? Or Are You Planning To Fail?

LL_21 - Billy Joel CD coverOne of Billy Joel’s songs has a phrase in the lyrics that rings so true, as universal truths tend to do – “time is relentless.” I heard it first when I played the CD from the live concert held in New York to celebrate the turn of the century (year 2000).

That phrase came to mind as I prepared to write this issue, since it was about 4 months ago that I sent out the previous one. Time does go by “relentlessly”, waiting for no one, no matter what. This year, more than in years past, I have been surprised by how fast the months have gone by. Fortunately for me, it was due to how busy I’ve been. But, in taking care of priorities, I failed to make the time to write to my readers on a regular basis as I had in the past.

So let me get down to business; your business, that is! I have been thinking about most companies that start up from scratch. As the owner, you are proud that your small business has grown to the point where you have the ability to take on larger contracts, have a backlog of work, and can attract competent employees to help you share the load so you wouldn’t have to work so hard.

But, “wait a minute” you say, “I seem to be killing myself and not getting where I want to go!” You had no idea when you started, how much of your time and energy would be spent worrying about cash flow to make critical payrolls each week, or how to get a bond that would allow you to sign that lucrative project you’ve had to pass up so many times.

Do these thoughts or conversations with yourself sound familiar? If you own or manage a company that has been fortunate to grow over the years, this scenario should be familiar to you by now.

As the owner/manager of a small to mid-sized contracting business, you need to recognize when it’s time to change the old ways of management and shift your operation to another gear. A well-constructed business plan prepared with the help of an experienced consultant may be just what your business needs.

Your carefully prepared plan, properly executed, can be a powerful tool to help you “build” the transition “bridge” on your road to success. Without a sound business plan, your task may appear overwhelming at first.

“But why should I waste my time with a business plan?” you ask. “How could it be so important for the success of my business? I have always been able to plan in my head, I don’t need to put my plans in writing.”

Stop and think for a moment how in our industry we take for granted the need to have accurate plans and specifications in order to construct a new facility. Moreover, consider how even with very detailed plans and specs, sometimes we discover how expensive it can be to follow the plans when they are inaccurate or flawed. How many times have you seen boilerplate documents that weren’t suited for the particular project result in higher costs, with damaging results for those who participate, including the owner?

I suggest to you that the same holds true for your business. Look around you, chances are that the companies that have succeeded (sometimes with spectacular results) have built their success on a solid foundation of a well-designed and executed business plan tailored to their goals.

Like in the construction arena, where a change order is used to alter the design and construction of a project, your business plan also needs to be updated from time to time, taking into consideration the changes in your business, as well as the fluid conditions of your market.

Teamwork is essential when preparing your business plan. It’s not just your ideas that need to be considered, but those of key members in your company, and others who might not be a part of the company. In fact, a qualified outsider is often in a better position to offer valuable advice and direction to the key members of your business to shape plans and provide a necessary, unbiased perspective.

The development of a business plan for your company will foster teamwork among key employees, serve to be a “growth” experience, and will motivate them to do a better job in their area of expertise.

One thing appears certain, if you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail. So, what are you waiting for? After all, “time is relentless.”

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