Strategic planning is a lot like good nutrition. Everybody agrees it's a great thing, but deciding just what steps to take to achieve the desired goal is another matter. Who has time to make plans when phones are ringing and clients are waiting to be served?
Nonetheless, planning is an essential part of doing business if your company intends to have those sales orders continue to come in, while keeping financial goals on track. Smart companies commit to making the investment of time and manpower today to ensure that their business stays on track tomorrow.
MAKING THE DIFFERENCE
Planning sessions are important enough to be held away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday work environment so you can eliminate distractions and get down to the important business of mapping out your goals and the steps needed to achieve them.
All Occasions Event Rental in Cincinnati even goes one step further than getting off site. "Our management team takes a retreat every January for a couple of days and we bring in a professional facilitator to help with the process," says Robert Hughes, director of special events and outside sales for the 20-year-old company. "With the market, competition and customer needs changing so rapidly these days, long-term planning is more challenging than ever."
TIME IS MONEY
"If you make the commitment to develop a plan, it will definitely work," insists Martin Hubbard, president of Los Angeles-based Abbey Event Services, a Stellar Company of 250 employees.
"We meet off property for one day a year each November to brainstorm and set goals and objectives for finance, operations and sales. This is a business of urgency and lots of demands, but we make the commitment to get away for the day, and feel it's an investment in our overall success. Everything's written and documented. Then our executive management group meets again through the year, quarterly as well as monthly, because without proper follow-up, your plan is useless."
"Our quarterly brainstorming sessions provide a key way for our managers to communicate on everything from our sales strategy to the feedback our customers are providing," says Susan Kidwell, senior client services manager for Stuart Rental, headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif.
"Part of the fun and part of the challenge of this business is responding as quickly as possible to what the customer wants," she notes. "The second step in our planning is outlining action steps necessary. Then, weekly meetings in house keep our written plan flowing into our day to day activities."
LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE
A viable strategic plan is worth its weight in gold should you decide to expand your business to another location. That was the case for family-owned and -operated Pedersen's Party Rentals in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company put a strategic plan in place last September and six months later opened Pedersen's Event Rentals 110 miles away in Seattle.
"Vancouver is much more an incentive destination and Seattle is a corporate market, so our plan there targeted that audience," says Rhonda Pedersen, vice president of customer service, who adds that the experience of 52 years in business definitely helps the company plan for the future.
SIX STEPS TO STRATEGIC SUCCESS
Schedule a formal meeting off premises to brainstorm.
Write down the best ideas generated during your meeting.
Select three or four of these ideas as your top priorities.
Outline an action plan for reaching each goal.
Be consistent in your efforts and keep track via weekly or monthly follow-up meetings.
Communicate goal progress to all your employees to keep them motivated and working toward goal completion.
RESOURCES: Abbey Event Services, 310/900-0099; All Occasions Event Rental, 513/563-0600; Pedersen's Party Rentals, 604/324-7368; Pedersen's Event Rentals, 206/749-5400; Stuart Rental, 408/734-9966