By Kenneth Surbrugg, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Missouri Southern State University
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett
Have you ever thought about where your company will be in three years, five years, or ten years from now?
Will your current customers still want to buy your products and services? What about your competition? Will you have reliable sources of supplies, inventory, and employees? Will the cost of your raw materials greatly increase or decline? Will technology in your industry advance quickly? What other challenges will your business face?
Every company should take a realistic look at the internal and external environmental factors that will impact their firm. Is your business prepared for another disaster (i.e. COVID shutdown, floods, windstorms, etc.)? How will the population change over this time period? What will you need from your employees in order to compete in the future?
It may be hard or next to impossible to predict the future; however, you still need to think about working on a contingency plan to help your company deal with whatever the future may hold. Ask yourself, does my company have a strategic plan? Have we done any contingency planning?
Being prepared for the future is a big part of success in business. By the way, a strategic plan is not just a document you pay a consultant to write and then place on your book shelf to gather dust. Successful planning is a continual process that allows for reasonable and achievable goals and methods to accomplish those goals. It means that you review, revise, and change your plans in order to meet competitive and environmental forces facing your business.
So, how do you deal with the uncertainty of the future? You start planning! The process of planning forces you to think about options for improving your business. As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Consider these tips when developing your strategic planning initiative:
- Assess your company’s external environmental situation by carefully examining the threats that face your business and opportunities your firm may take advantage of now and in the future. Are there new regulations and competitors that may be harmful to your firm? Can you capitalize on new technologies in order to increase profits? Remember to keep listening to your customers by regularly surveying their opinions.
- Examine your company’s internal environment by focusing on your firm’s strengths and weaknesses. In what area can your company improve? What new products or services can you produce? Do you have great customer service and satisfied customers, or do you need to train your employees?
- Identify your company’s mission and goals. What is your firm trying to accomplish in your community, and why are you in business? What kind of sales, profits, growth, and community involvement goals has your business set?
- Write a detailed action plan. Refer to your company’s mission and the goals you developed. Devise policies, strategies, and procedures that you can put in place to help you achieve your goals. Examine what human resources and monetary resources you will need to accomplish these plans.
- Set dates to complete steps in your action plans. Don’t write plans for the sake of writing plans that are never implemented. In order to succeed, you need to put your plans into action.
- Review your strategic plan at least once a quarter. Adjust or pivot your plans as needed to meet competitive and environmental conditions. I think we all have some expertise in this area.
- Develop a company contingency plan. How are you and your company prepared to deal with adverse events? If you want to continue to positively transform your business into a continually successful venture, you must be prepared to deal with adversity.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Plan for your company’s future in order to ensure your firm’s survival and success.