This posting describes one of the most frustrating and rewarding challenges of marketing and entrepreneurship. You just can't know, from one day to the next, what to expect. Often business life is a roller coast of emotions and surprises -- you start your day with certain expectations only to find that at the end, you are living a different experience.
This time next week we'll be starting our annual planning meeting. Employees and contractors from North Carolina, and northern and Western Ontario will join local staff at a chalet in West Quebec. The entire process will cost close to $10,000 when all the expenses are added up, and the plan we implement will, within days, be changed in the world of real life experiences.
There is no secret that I previously thought this type of planning meeting reflected a colossal waste of time and money -- shucks, $10K can purchase some pretty cool toys -- and in any case, how can you plan the imponderable; when you think you know where you are going, but you never quite get there . . .
I now know differently -- the business plan is, in fact, the vital counterweight to the essential and real daily instability in business. The plan sets out rules for the chaos -- and guides us back to a safer place when we sometimes are tempted to let things flow with the wind, if only because things seem so chaotic in the first place.
The plan doesn't answer all the inconsistencies, but helps in defining the right choices to take.
For example, here is a question that arises from my visit to Nashville. The business plan makes clear that we can grow if we find the right people who who pass our standards for recruitment and selection -- and it doesn't much matter where they are. The unanswered question is: How do we find these talented individuals?
I have some but not all the answers to that question -- so, I expect, it will be raised at the planning meeting and we'll find an answer, or a way to solve the problem.
One thing is clear, the plan (2008) doesn't have a budget to pay for third-party recruiting support. Maybe it is a good idea, but if it isn't in the plan, how can we pay for it? That is where the plan helps with discipline, thinking and choices -- because otherwise, we might play with seat-of-the-pants responses. We might decide to put this recruiting expense into the budget, of course, for 2009, perhaps with other methods.
Most small businesses don't think planning is important and they make the same mistakes I made for years. Now, with challenging economic conditions, you need more than ever to build the annual planning process into your systems (and ensure you have systems for the important routines of your business). You can't afford to fly by the seat of your pants -- though, no matter what you do, you will find that things never work out the way you plan.
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