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Focus and leadership grow success

Ever wondered why some businesses thrive and grow rapidly from humble beginnings to major successes while others just roll along in a comfortable malaise unaware of impending doom ?

Have you experienced the different feel of a company going somewhere when you visit their boardroom from one that is just making ends meet?

I have, many times, as a strategic planner and management consultant working across many industries over the last fifteen years in bad times and good.

The reason for the difference all comes down to leadership, management action and planning.

Owners and senior managers must take the initiative and lead the way, arming the business with the most appropriate products/services for the market, helping to uncover opportunities, ordering the chaos into directives and ensuring a solid communicated plan is in place.

Today, practical and fundamental planning is needed to keep pace with change rather than the complex and sophisticated plans so typical of the 1980s.

Grandiose vision and mission statements should finally be given the flick.

Given that most companies recognise the need to plan, and don’t, what makes a good growth plan to take companies forward to become corporations?

Competent plans are based on facts collected using effective means – and not on prophesy and hearsay.

Accurate competitor appraisal to know what is happening in the marketplace, combined with independent data on customers’ needs and preferences, naturally leads to the design of winning plans.

The cost of collection of this data is a lot less than you think.

The dos and don’ts of successful planning are simple.

Do base all major strategic decisions in your planning on facts and assumptions that can be verified and don’t become mesmerised by all the high level hype of business mission and visioning.

Do remember that at the end of the day growth is achieved through delivery of what the market wants, at the time they want it and in the quantities demanded – in a way that delights the customer in a sustainable fashion.

Avoid plans that lead you to become the ‘best’ as this concept is ill defined. Also avoid aiming for two conflicting things at the same time such as lowest cost and fastest to market.

If you are a small company, then avoid going head to head with the major industry players – rather find a point of difference to enable you to compete and grow from a niche strategy.

Larger businesses should avoid becoming complacent and therefore vulnerable.

If you are chasing high growth, then identify the sources of growth (merger, natural growth in the market, diversification) rather than set illusionary targets and punish the inevitable failure.

To keep on course, use implementation maps for senior managers limiting their horizon of management action to two months at a time. Once complete, a fresh two month map can be issued.

All of us can keep focused when we have only five things to achieve over a two month period.

Most planning processess, however, output a long list of a hundred or more items to be delivered by the business management team over the next three years. How could you cope? Just hope, I suppose.

Today, busy managers do not have the time to commit to long workshops or meeting schedules to develop strategic business plans.

The way to take a small business toward a corporation is to integrate planning into the normal business management functions. Kick off with a concentrated event to draft the plan.

Then put in place a system whereby reports on, say, marketing will include evaluation of past and forward plan elements.

These elements integrate with the operations drivers of the business for managers to take and report against.

In this way, development and, more importantly, updating of the short and medium level strategic plans occurs daily as part of the constant management activities.

Once every quarter or so the CEO can collate the new cut of the plan for presentation at the senior strategic decision making level. Try it and you will be on your way to building a corporation.

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