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Building Business

Building Business

Self Taught MBA: Strategic Planning, Part 2 - The ABCs of Strategic Planning

comments (2) May 7th, 2012 in Blogs
FPR Fernando Pages Ruiz, contributor


Remember to remain flexible, try different approaches and revisit your choices – your strategic planning process needs to be a permanent planning practice.

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Remember to remain flexible, try different approaches and revisit your choices – your strategic planning process needs to be a permanent planning practice.


This morning I received a distressing phone call from a subcontractor, Randy. He owns a small basement company and called to ask if I had any contacts for work, having none since November. "I'm going down the tubes," he confided. I thumbed through my mental rolodex, but on the heels of the worst year for new housing on record, I had no good leads to offer. I suggested Joe, "He's only doing remodels," Randy reminded me, and I suggested a few others, but he had already contacted each with no prospects for work. Randy used to build a foundation every three days, now he's lucky to install one per month, and he was obviously suffering, emotionally as well as financially.

Randy needs a new direction, because chances are the new home market will not rebound anytime soon. Many contractors have been in Randy mode, waiting for things to improve. So I suggested basement repairs. Randy said he'd been looking into it, and knew about a competitor that had gone from basements to repair services about two years ago, "Now he's got a six-month backlog now," Randy told me, "but he doesn't need my help." Randy needs a new strategy, and our conversation turned into an impromptu strategic planning session. I suspect many builders have come to the end of their carrying capacity, and have to figure out an alternative to waiting for the economy to improve, which is like holding your breath. It's time to do some serious strategic planning.

In the last blog, we touched very lightly on the standard business plan, which defines the steps for a new business. It covers standard topics including a description of products or services, the local market, the management team, and revenue and earnings projections. For most of us, this is a wasted effort. We're not starting a new business, but, like Randy, in need of a new approach that leverages existing skills and resources in a market-appropriate direction.

There are two steps to this effort: the first is tactical-what are we going to do and how? The second, operational, which is a detailed and specific implementation plan including duties, dates, and milestones required to achieve the goals outlined in step one.

ABCs of Strategic Planning

To start, a strategic plan represents an internal plan; it's not designed to sell your business idea or to obtain financing.  You can forgo a lot of the pro-forma elements of a formal business plan, such as the product/service description, management structure, and financial history. But you will want to analyze the environment in which you're doing business, the threats and opportunities. You'll want to consider your company's resources, financial and personal. You will identify actions needed to move toward your goals, assign tasks, set dates and milestones, and then a program to track your progress.

The strategic plan may have more bullet points than narrative, and represents both a map and a to-do list. You may start with a vision, what will the company look like this time next year? Or you could start with the present situation, known challenges and opportunities, and through the planning process develop a vision.  This is a problem solving approach, which sometimes supersedes the inspired, visionary goals that make strategic planning compelling. Either way, it will lead to setting specific goals and then reverse-engineering a route to obtain them.

posted in: Blogs, business, green building, remodeling

Comments (2)

FPR FPR writes: Thanks for the comment, Michael the Mobile Guy. I appreciate your insight that businesses difficulties often mirror personal ones,change is always a challenge and we are reluctant to submit.
Posted: 8:21 am on May 15th

Michaelthemobileguy Michaelthemobileguy writes: Success is certainly a moving target and can be quite illusive. I find that my tendency is to wait too long to make the changes I know I need to make. Change is very uncomfortable to us all. Often when we need to make difficult business decisions, like cutting costs and re-inventing our companies, it means learning new things or laying off long time trusted employees... so we put it off. I have learned that delaying taking necessary action is a costly mistake. Fernando had a good idea for Randy to approach Joe and see if there was an opportunity to add value to Joe's business with Randy's new line of services. If remodelling is where the demand is then Randy needs to re-tool. He can research how he can use his skills and trade knowledge to apply to the new economy, with new products and services.

Over the last 30 years I have had to reinvent my business several times. I think we get comfortable within our older, more developed business, forgetting that it has taken many years of hard work to develop it into what it had become. If the sales, and therefore revenue goes away, the expenses need to be cut just as quickly and budgets recast and reworked quickly. This often adds a large administrative burden during the transition. This is especially true when you are letting go of epmloyees who once handled tasks that still need to be done. As business owners we find ourselves putting hats back on that we haven't worn in years to keep the business alive.

These are turbulent times and we all need as much help as we can get to navigate the storm. Bravo Fernando for offering insight into hidden opportunities and helping the good guys win.
Posted: 2:01 am on May 15th

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