A Hazy Crystal Ball is Better than a Rearview Mirror

Several years ago, my family did a cross country trip. I laid out a rough plan of what we wanted to see, places to eat and place to stay. When we hit the road, I looked ahead and tweaked the plan. I did not look in the rearview mirror.

Unfortunately, business owners often run their business this way. Often this year’s business plan becomes “let’s do what we did last year” – the rearview mirror. Although this is a common practice, we should run our businesses with an eye on the future.

No one has a crystal ball that provides perfect clarity on the future. A million factors affect our business and most of them are not within our control. Planning requires looking ahead, taking our best guess on what the future holds. A rough, hazy plan is better than no plan at all.

Make the Plan

  1. Where am I now? Assess revenue, profitability, operations and market position. What working well and what isn’t?
  2. Where do I want to be? Write down goals for 1, 3 and 5 years out. Do you want to grow the business? Assess how much growth.
  3. How do I get there? What improvements are needed? Identify actions/investments needed.
  4. What is most important? Prioritize your improvements. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Work the Plan

  1. Establish a consistent review process and make adjustments as needed.
  2. Review financial performance on a monthly basis versus the plan.
  3. Review strategic projects on a monthly basis. Assess progress on goals.
  4. Adjust course. If you are not “on plan” understand why.
  5. Modify the plan as needed. The crystal is hazy. As you adjust you will learn your capacity for change and identify ways to improve.

Start Now and Keep It Simple

When planning my cross country trip, I identified key sights to see along the way. We paced ourselves and enjoyed the trip.

When you shift your gaze ahead, you are more able to see the business as an asset rather than a job. Your team knows where you are trying to go and will often get on board to help you stay on track. Looking ahead allows you to see the potholes before you hit them and helps the journey become more predictable – and more enjoyable.

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