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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The planning day

We spent a long day today -- from 10:00 a.m. until 8 p.m. at a chalet in west Quebec, about 90 minutes from Ottawa. Bob Kruhm flew in from Durham, North Carolina and Chase from St. Catharines (via Toronto). Natalie Laferriere and Amanda Arthurs drove in from Ottawa -- I picked up Chase at the airport, and we drove in together; because of Chase's flight time, this meant we arrived an hour late from the original scheduled 9 a.m. start time.

Then we went to work, under the facilitation of Bill Caswell and Upkar Bilkhu of Caswell Corporate Coaching Company. The objective: Take a good hard look at where we are, and where we wish to go, and fashion -- through collective involvement -- our business plan for the next year.

And we did. Unlike last year at this time, when I had a staff of rather reluctant and frankly angry people, we didn't carry any excess baggage with us. And so we set out to visualize where we really wanted to go in the next year and set out some realistic and practical objectives.

Last year's plan, frankly, fell off the rails almost as soon as we drafted it. The plan simply didn't have a realistic heart in it. This year, however, I am much more optimistic that we will stay on schedule, and as they day concluded, I could see how if we had a similar planning process in place a few years ago, we would never have gotten into the mess that virtually destroyed my business.

Most importantly, specific expansion ideas and concepts were set out, budgeted, and built into the schedule. There will be no 'spontaneous' expansion or money-spending -- but we don't have to feel we are treading water; we know where and when we will grow (the specific details don't need to be disclosed yet in this public blog). In our plan we built in another planning session; this time to align the budgeting with normal fall practices -- but we will probably have in the future a spring session as well, to keep things on track.

I could see more clearly how a systematic and regular planning process involving all key staff members really allows a business to avoid mistakes, grow, and avoid conflicts and negativity. This process is not inexpensive. I will have to pay the facilitator's fees, travel and hotel costs, and of course the 'lost day of producivity of employees from current operations. But I know this is money well spent.

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