for Planning Activities
After you've committed to periodically
scheduling planning periods, how do you determine when is
the right time to engage in the planning process? Most small
business owners won't have the luxury of a "strategic
planning committee" or some other dedicated group to handle
planning on an ongoing basis. In all likelihood, you are the
only person in a position to create a business plan. Since the
demands of the planning process fall on you, don't schedule your
planning period so that it conflicts with other demands placed
on you by your business. If the Thanksgiving to Christmas period
is your busiest time of year, don't schedule your planning
process during it.
Unfortunately, it's easy to feel that you're always busy, and
planning is something that is done on top of the more important
job of running the business. This frequently serves as an excuse
to forego planning altogether. If you feel overwhelmed by your
business, it's easy to let planning slide. However, the fact
that you feel overwhelmed is a clear warning that you need
to plan. The planning process itself is just one more ball that
the business owner has to juggle. In order to do so effectively
and efficiently, several issues should be considered:
- Do you have the time to spend on planning?
- Do you have the information you need to create a
- Will the planning process be complete in time to act on
- Are there other factors that might help you in choosing
when to create the plan?
First and foremost, you have to commit to making the time
available. Hopefully, you've considered the benefits
of having a written plan and are convinced that time spent on
the planning process is justified. You're probably thinking
about your business all the time, so the process of creating or
updating a written plan doesn't start from scratch each time
How do you estimate the amount of time to set aside? There is
no easy way to answer that. It will depend on how easily you can
obtain required information, how involved your business is, and
a thousand other factors. We suggest that you review the documents
that make up a business plan as a starting point. Consider what
is required to complete each separate part of the plan. Armed
with knowledge regarding what the finished product will look
like, it should be easier to gauge how much time to allocate.
It's just that now, you're going to specifically focus on it.
In many cases, you probably won't be able to shut yourself
off from the rest of the world and quietly map out your plans.
Instead, you'll work on your business plan in addition to your
other responsibilities. When you work on a project for an hour
here and an evening there, it takes more time. Plan for that.
Also plan for the fact that it will take longer to produce the
first plan than any of the subsequent ones.
To make the planning process meaningful, you need access to
the operating results from the preceding period. Do you know
what sold well and what didn't? If you're a consultant, have you
noticed any change in your ability to obtain work? Even if
you're just starting a new business, you'll need to make
estimates regarding the expenses and income that you anticipate.
Make sure that you have an adequate opportunity to follow
through on what you plan. For example, if you need to place
orders a certain amount of time in advance to ensure timely
delivery, your plan should take that into account. It is of no
help to determine that you can increase your inventory because
sales are on the way up if you don't find out until it's too
late to get the inventory you need. Seasonal businesses in
particular have to watch out for this. The planning process has
to be completed by the time the orders are due.
Finally, consider the need to comply with other regulatory
requirements to which your business is subject. Figuring and
paying taxes immediately springs to mind as a regulatory
deadline you'll have to meet. The information you need to
prepare your return is likely to be much the same information
you need to adequately plan your ongoing operations. To the
extent that you can combine the processes, you can realize
substantial time savings. Similarly, your lender might require
periodic reports on your financial condition in order to
continue extending your line of credit. Wherever you can get
double duty out of a planning-related activity, you reduce the
overall time spent.