Where do you see yourself in one year, three years and five years? What are you willing to do to expand your business, increase your profits and operate a larger company? Most owners would agree that a bigger business is better. However, few are willing to fill in the blanks in the planning process. I believe that is because they are approaching the planning task from the wrong perspective.
Admittedly, most of us are not proficient planners. We are more hands-on kind of people who want tangible results from a goal. But without a well-thought-out plan, we don't achieve those results. Part of that plan is reducing overall goals to specific steps - actions that help take us to our final objective.
Defining that objective is a key part of achieving it. If you are not very specific about what it is that you want from this business, you are not likely to receive it. For example, instead of just aiming for a bigger business, we need to specify how big and what the detailed criteria are for that business, such as 15 trucks and a certain dollar volume of business.
Spelling out the details of our goal is very much the same as drawing a blueprint for constructing a building. You wouldn't see a contractor attempt to build a building without a blueprint. Yet, I see service and repair business owners try to grow their business without a definite plan.
The plan reveals how much of what you want and when you want it. If you really want to be operating 15 trucks and enjoy millions in revenue, then you need to identify that goal, then assemble your blueprint.
Here's where I've seen people go wrong.
Most owners begin by making some changes in their business (maybe customer service training for their technicians, or hiring more technicians or increasing advertising) and hope to achieve the improvements in sales and profits they set as a goal. I think that's the wrong way to go. It's not following a blueprint; it's planning as you go.
You wouldn't see a building being built that way. Can you imagine the results if workers came to the site every day and then met and said to each other, “What should we do today? Do you want to try this?”
No building would be finished properly or on time, nor would it be safe. A blueprint needs specific details.
In ReverseJust like building a building, your blueprint must have the final result clearly in mind before the job is begun. For example, architects draw up plans for a building and they specify the exact dimensions and features the building will have in advance. Anyone can look at the plans and tell what the building will look like before it is built.
What is more obvious in constructing a building is the fact that, in reality, the plans require a complete and detailed vision of what the building will be like in order to make the plans - the blueprint.
The same sequence of events needs to take place in building a business. Architects can't make a blueprint for a building that is missing specifications. You can't design a blueprint for your business without identifying the precise parameters of the business you want it to become. The necessary perspective here is you need to work backward from the goal, instead of forward from the day-to-day operations of the business.
Effective planning is similar to reverse engineering. You take a known object and duplicate it by seeing how it works or what it takes to make it.
Only by planning in reverse - starting with the exact description of your business in the future - can you achieve the desired results. Let's look at some examples of what I am talking about.
If you want to operate 15 trucks, for instance, what will the cost be to acquire the trucks? To achieve the volume of business to generate those funds, how much marketing will be necessary? How many technicians will you need and how will they be trained to meet the needs of the calls the call takers receive? How many more calls do the call takers have to make to generate and sustain the level of business necessary to increase your marketing budget? This data can be determined with very accurate estimates, given what we know about the business.
Once you begin working backward from the real goal - where you want your business to be at a specific time - then you can produce the blueprint that will lay out all the steps you need to accomplish it.
ResourcesThe more resources you have available, including capital, people and knowledge of the business, the faster you can accomplish your plan. The fewer resources you have, the slower you may have to proceed, but you still can make progress in the direction of accomplishing your goal. That is, as long as that goal is specific and well defined.
When you construct a building, you know you are going to need subcontractors, experts who specialize in all the phases of construction that are necessary: electrical, mechanical, plumbing, HVAC, etc.
If your team is good at what they do, you will have a building that will withstand the forces of nature, such as wind, thunder, lightning or even earthquake. The better the construction, the more durable the building will be. The experts know where 2x4s or 4x4s are required and where to place steel beams and the roof. Plus, they know the building codes and the latest engineering techniques and materials. You depend on their knowledge for the integrity of your building's structure.
Similarly, there are experts whom you will need to construct your business the way you desire it to be. Instead of the various contractors and subcontractors, you will need expertise from people in accounting, finance, marketing, customer service and other areas of management. Not only do you need a team you can rely on, you need to follow their advice when they offer it.
Besides a team of experts, you need to have the latest in business management and customer service techniques to accelerate the process of implementing your plan.
ImplementationOnce the plan and the team are in place, you will need to manage the plan. Implementing it takes deliberate action. And it often takes patience. Building great businesses, like building great structures, isn't accomplished overnight. The secret to achieving all the results outlined in your plan is to perform each action in a step-by-step sequence. Paying attention to the plan and routinely and frequently monitoring your progress (including making adjustments as needed) will pay dividends in completing it successfully.
Many great plans have been generated and not all of them have succeeded in producing the results anticipated. The primary reason for this shortfall is the implementation step. In fact, an adequate plan well implemented is more likely to succeed than a brilliant plan that was not properly implemented with consistent follow up and monitoring. Often, it is the implementation, not the plan, which makes the most significant difference in results. So, effective implementation is an absolute prerequisite to a successful result.
One of the most devastating barriers to successfully building a successful service and repair business is fear. It may be fear of the unknown (“What should I do about my business?”) or fear about taking major steps forward or fear of investing money in the business to make it grow. Acting in desperation from fear is crippling and usually not very effective. People take unnecessary risks and fail.
The easiest way to overcome these fears, which you can be assured that most people have and that they are perfectly normal, is to take action in small, planned steps. By knowing what is coming and how it will be achieved, you will eliminate or minimize the fear normally encountered. You are simply following a plan so the uncertainty is minimized.
When analyzing how you would accomplish major tasks, they seem far less intimidating if they are broken down into small steps. Each step, maybe adding another call taker or training technicians to increase their average invoice amount per sale, is easy to understand and represents a very small and understandable risk.
Ironic as it may seem, planning backward from a desired goal, outlining all the steps necessary to accomplish that goal, is not only effective but the only way to be certain of the results. By implementing the necessary changes, a step at a time, in marketing, management systems, dispatch, telephone answering and all aspects of the business, we can get the kind of business we have only dreamed about.