Operationalizing Your 2018 Business Plan

Posted on Sep 26, 2017 in Articles | 0 comments

“The Nice Thing About Not Planning Is That Failure Comes As A Complete Surprise Rather Than Being Preceded By A Period Of Worry And Depression.”  — Anonymous

Operationalizing your 2018 business planning is a step-by-step process of action, reaction, and counteraction for visualizing the execution of your business plan in relation to your competition.   Business managers must determine how to apply step-by-step procedures to improve the possibility of overall success and minimize risks of failure. The manager must be prepared to examine their personnel, processes and goal setting in order to extract the most from their business planning activities. Below highlights eight key steps to operationalizing your business planning for 2018.

8 Key Steps to Operationalizing Your Strategic Business Planning

Step 1: Bring Your Plan Into Focus – Crystallize Your Goals: Knowing where you want to go is critical to managing your team and expectations. Recognize that every one of your staff members will make the claim that “they are too busy for business planning”. As the manager, you need to overcome that challenge by modifying their schedule to have them focus on key revenue-driving and expense-saving activities.

  • Set Targets:
    • Business managers should set forth revenue, expense and activity goals for their teams in advance
    • Financial targets should include:
      • Revenues
      • Expenses
      • EBITDA
    • 2 Things to Do:
      • Determine clear, precise goals in both revenue and expenses targets
      • Set these goals to a pre-agreed timetable with checkpoints throughout

Step 2: Pick the Best Possible Team – Do Not Compromise: Selecting the correct personnel for your business planning is the biggest difference-maker for success. Despite the same focus on objectives for business planning, there are huge disparities in the departmental results – and the correct personnel make the difference. Some business managers with multi-divisions can attest to this in that they have rolled out business planning at all of their units and results vary widely. In some cases, they have had the wrong person attempting to do the job – you need to cut line and put the correct, strategic-driven person in place. In addition, your role is to have constant conversation, feedback and recognize that all are different in how they approach it.

  • Skill Set:
    • Organization and Planning Skills
    • Motivated
    • “Strategic yet realistic” personality
    • Perseverance
  • 2 Things to Do:
    • Review the strengths and weaknesses of all team members with regard to strategic business planning
    • Where applicable, train your staff to maximize their overall efficiency and ultimately, effectiveness

Step 3: Set Up the “End Game” in Advance – Know Where You Are Headed: Create a sense of urgency with your team and carefully explain how their specific actions are steps to achieving the company overall goals – i.e., to drive more revenue with low cost initiatives. Leaders should motivate their staffs with the prospect that competitive business managers throughout their trade area are watching their activities. Your role is to establish a clear path to the end goal for your team so that they become invigorated to “knock the ball out of the park”.

  • Time Allocation:
    • Business managers should allocate a minimum of 5 hours a week on strategic business planning activities
    • Time allocated to business planning trails operational activities, administrative and accounting functions of the company
  • 2 Things to Do:
    • In conjunction with setting revenue targets and activity goals, outline the process that your team can expect to go through – i.e., strategic assessment, development of tactical initiatives, following time lines, etc.
    • Pre-schedule all activities in advance to identify gaps in your process

Step 4: Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Set The Example: Most people like to learn from their peers and in addition, seeing their business manager jump in during the strategic planning launch will show the staff firsthand the expectations. This will help quell any reservations that they may have about business planning; calm the “fear factor” of tackling “out of the box” thinking; and reconfirm that the business manager practices what they preach. Have the strategic business planning team share success/challenge stories on a weekly basis.

Business planning can mean many things to many people so it is very important to concisely define the expectations. Once the areas of focus are defined, review results in your weekly staff meetings focusing on getting your staff to believe, and for the ones that don’t believe, give them direction and accountability.  If they continue to not focus on it, then you might not have the right person. Help them see the big picture by connecting the dots through coaching that what they’re doing today will pay dividends in the future.

  • Time Allocation Adjustments:
    • Review systems and processes in order to spend less time on administrative and operational functions
  • 2 Things to Do:
    • Set-up a business manager training time with your strategic business planning person
    • Set-up a second meeting time to show firsthand, your staff your expectations of implementation and tracking

Step 5: Don’t Assume Process – Map Out Tactics That Feed Strategy: Sometimes long-term goals are hard to envision unless there are concrete steps identified in advance. The more the manager can map out thorough process steps, the less that will be left up to the interpretation of the staff.   Sometimes long term goals, like “increase revenue”, are too broad-based and your staff needs to know the precise steps to be executed daily in order to have them cumulatively add up to achieving that goal.   These tactical steps are to be given to the team and under your leadership, their results reviewed with them as they execute.

  • Planning Process:
    • Business managers need to set end goals/results to be achieved and allow the team to figure out how to work in activities
    • Business managers also need to set pre-scheduled hours devoted to business planning activities
  • 2 Things to Do:
    • Determine what is deemed “successful” for your team to target and then work backwards to identify all the steps required in order to achieve that success
    • Use the process mapping strategy to identify gaps or “broken pipes” in advance of them breaking in order to rectify the situation

Step 6: Mind Shift Your Staff – It’s a Lifestyle Change: One of the biggest challenges that a team will face is “we have never done business planning like this before”. As their leader, you need to “re-brand” in their minds what business planning is for your team. Business managers may want to specifically brand all of the business planning activities that they are holding their team accountable for. You may want to call the strategic business planning a special name such as “Focus Forward”. That way when you engage conversations with your divisions, you can specifically ask “show me your Focus Forward tracker”. Business planning, when presented as something special, positions your team as working on a privileged project with a rare chance to make a large impact.

  • 2 Things to Do:
    • Tie performance to incentives and your team will clearly embrace this new lifestyle change for strategic business planning
    • Don’t overwhelm your staff. Focus on the activities that drive revenue, so if you have a skeleton crew or need a more concise focus, these are the areas to attack

Step 7: Execute the Plan – Modify Along the Way As You Learn: Once you map out all of the steps to achieving your goals, you should have a fairly clear picture whether you will be successful or not – in advance!  Each step should precisely identify:

  • Time that activities will take place
  • Who will be responsible for executing the task
  • What results are expected for the task

Your goal would be to identify a minimal of 75% of the process, tasks and results and then modify the remaining 25% based on ongoing feedback and practice. The 75% foundation will enable to stay on task – do not leave the entire process to chance – and ultimately enable you to manage your strategic business planning success.

  • Targets:
    • Consider using monthly meetings to re-evaluate results
    • Track activities in addition to revenue goals
  • 2 Things to Do:
    • Execute first, but tracking your efforts is critical
    • Though it requires more work upfront, mapping out the process in advance will save you both time and money (wasted labor) in the long run

Step 8: Measure & Tracking – Weekly and Monthly Goals & Peer Recognition: Business managers should establish routines for submission of their division reports at a minimum every week and the business manager should re-send out to their group with all of their results. You can then create peer recognition and accountability during your weekly conference call with other business managers. Highlight divisions or units and ask them what they are doing that is successful – peer recognition and sharing with underperforming divisions or units. Ask divisions what they’re doing to carve out time to focus on strategic business planning. Consider developing a bonus program for both the strategic business planning person, if applicable, to incent them to deliver on the results that you have identified and then executed. Bonus program should be designed to reward revenue results and incented as a % of revenue.

Coaching and incenting your team throughout will deliver your desired uplift in revenue if you clearly define the operational roles for your staff.

  • 2 Things to Do:
    • Actions without results waste time, effort and money. Establish a tracking device that can be used as a scorecard for your staff
    • Create and establish routines to review results, efforts and process

Business planning is the road map that identifies where you are headed in advance. As importantly, it also identifies roadblocks—in advance. Your business plan should provide a common vision supported by tactical initiatives that ultimately creates greater value for your company. It may seem daunting, but by knowing your vision and its corresponding financial targets, you will have a better chance at getting there and avoiding traps in advance.

John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc., a strategic planning, operations and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries.  With more than 25 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written Game-Changing Strategies For Retailers, which is available at www.amazon.com/DP/1544026633 . In addition, he has two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com/store/.