My career started over three decades ago and during that time I’ve inevitably worked in different areas of business, different sectors of business, and sent products and services out to different parts of the world. I’ve also volunteered with schools and charities over the years so experienced the world outside business too. It continually fascinates me that there are some issues that prevail no matter what sector or type of organisation I encounter.
I have the great privilege of meeting and working with organisations large and small in both the UK and overseas and I help them with everything from marketing planning to international trade strategy. Almost always – and often over coffee or lunch – questions emerge that would best be put in the category of Business Fundamentals. On multiple occasions I’ve chatted with companies exporting to numerous regions around the world. When we drill into their challenges, inevitably they’re nothing to do with international trade and everything to do with inter-department communications, or lack thereof. Or activities that take place regularly but without consistency. Or even lack of awareness of the company’s overall goals.
Subsequent blogs will explore more of these areas but, for now, lets start with the absolutely fundamental topic of having a plan.
You must have a plan!
Winston Churchill famously said “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” He most certainly had a point!
If you don’t have a plan how do you know what to do? Think about that for a moment. If there isn’t a goal or a purpose or a vision you can do anything. And you will and so will your employees. And all those well-meaning actions will fill your time but won’t necessarily take you where you want to be. But if there is a plan with a defined goal and purpose you will know what to do and, just as importantly, what not to do. With a sound business plan, you will know your goal and how to achieve that goal. You will be able to assess new opportunities and decide whether to follow them because they help you achieve your goal; abandon them because they don’t; or adjust your goal. And it’s OK to adjust your goal from time to time – just be aware that you’re doing it and not just reacting to a new shiny toy/opportunity.
Share your plan
You can share your vision with those who can help you achieve it. That naturally includes your team, your employees, and also those that support you such as your business advisors, the bank, and others. Your plan doesn’t need to be a lengthy written document, although sometimes it does. It could be a set of slides or a vision statement with bullet point goals and strategies. Frequently the process of building the plan is the most valuable part. It enables you to examine your goals, discuss your vision and truly get under the skin of what you’re setting out the achieve and how you’re going to do it.
The final word belongs again to Winston Churchill who is also quoted as saying, “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”
I couldn’t agree more!