Let’s face it: the market makes no promises.
No matter how hot your product or service, there’s always a chance it won’t be as hot in a couple of years. Still, many entrepreneurs are too busy with the present to think about and plan for the future. While they know it’s important, “not all entrepreneurs go through the process,” says Ravi Bahl, principal of FutureSavvy Inc., a Toronto-based firm specializing in strategic planning. “It’s a back-of-the-napkin approach.”
But how can you know what will be the next big thing? You can’t — but you can be ready for anything if you make some preliminary plans now. Here’s how:
- Explore options, set goals. Scan the horizon for opportunities and set some goals for your company. “Make assumptions about where you want to be,” says Bahl. Consider what breakthrough products or services can help you achieve that goal.
- Prioritize. Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s time to put them in order of importance. Consider their value to the company along with the resources needed to achieve them, then create a plan. “Each project will have certain objectives which are measurable in terms of specific timelines,” says Bahl. Keep these timelines realistic.
- Implement. “There’s no strategy without execution, otherwise it’s just sitting on the shelf,” says Bahl. As the leader, the responsibility falls on your shoulders to get the ball rolling, but call on others to help. If you’ve created a proper framework, you’ll be able to consider all angles and create a team that pools all the talent in your office.
- Don’t go overboard. “Typically what happens with people who are doing strategic planning is they get into analysis paralysis,” says Bahl. These planners try to predict every little thing. If you and your team are falling into that rut, one solution is to make meetings time-specific. Timed meetings force people to stay on track.
- Tailor your approach. There’s no one-size-fits-all when planning for the future. What worked for one company might not work for yours. Consultants, says Bahl, are meant to facilitate the flow of ideas, not create ideas. “The strategy is always in reference to your own context.”
- Be realistic. Creativity is one thing, but don’t go overboard with new products or services. “Make sure there is a customer need,” warns Bahl. “Don’t just create something in a vacuum.”
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© 2003 Karen Kelly