Strategic, long-range planning for your business can give you 20/20 vision for the future.

What will you be doing 11 years from now? Is that daydreaming or practical, long-range planning? What did you think would be happening today back in 1998? Were you well-prepared or even concerned about the future?

Every hour of every day, we must make critical decisions regarding our personal lives, our health and safety, our business, our finances, our political involvement and our global relationships. No one can accurately predict what will happen in the future, but you can use these strategies:

1. Consider every opportunity.
  • In your personal life, this could involve a marriage, a divorce, having children, moving to a new area, spending or investing, dieting or preventative health-related decisions.

  • In your business, you could incorporate, form a partnership or joint venture, bring your children into your business, start an employee stock ownership plan, relocate or diversify - into general contracting, site work, service work, maintenance contracts, other trades, industrial work or government contracts, etc.
2. Consider every obstacle.

At the top of this list is usually finances, including our nation’s fluctuating economy. You need trustworthy and capable people to work with you and for you. You also must consider your personal age, health and stamina.

3. Consider every option.
  • Bring a financial partner into your corporation or joint venture if possible. You can reinforce your bottom-line profit picture with thorough estimates, value engineering, supervisory training for motivation and quality production, jobsite documenting and customer relations.

    You need to process change orders and collect your money on time. You need to pay your bills on time to maintain good credit with your suppliers, banks, bonding company and insurers.

    Negotiate and settle any claims or misunderstandings amicably without going to court.

    You can lease your office, shop, warehouse, trucks, equipment, etc., to maintain adequate cash flow. You could also purchase them and rent them out for additional income.

    Join your local trade associations, and attend industry meetings and conventions. This gives you a viable voice in politics as well as a great opportunity to rub elbows with your peers, and effectively think, talk and listen.

  • You can increase jobsite productivity - and profit - by using piecework or our 6-8-10 daily ratings. Your database skills inventory will provide qualified craftsman and training incentives at your fab shop or after-hours training on your jobsites.

    Offer flex-time work schedules on an individual basis to ease travel-time expenses and meet each employee’s personal commitments. Your management team and office personnel should consider the virtual office concept to perform more efficiently.
4. Consider your obligations.
  • Family first! Make a good life, not just a living. Be certain that your work and business support your personal life and desires, not the reverse.

  • Maintain a proud reputation. You must be honest, trustworthy, always on time, keep your promises and produce quality workmanship. Complete your work on schedule, and police punch lists and warranty issues.

  • Stay involved with your employees without interfering in their personal lives. Provide ample training to ensure their proud performance in order to earn bragging wages. Initiate and follow these basic principles:
      1. A written chain of command that you follow unfailingly.

      2. Written and signed (by each employee) company rules and policies to eliminate any misunderstandings.

      3. Written job descriptions defining scope of work.

      4. Maintain individual performance files. Discuss and document above and below agreed-upon performance. Use this file for regularly scheduled reviews and wage adjustments.

      5. Provide proper and flattering job titles to enhance employees’ performance and enrich their personal lives.
  • Help everyone you can. In addition to family, friends and acquaintances, this is effective with employees, customers, architects, engineers, building officials and other trades. You will be surprised how many of them will return the favor.

Thinking Out Loud

Long-range business planning is like drawing a map to get you where you want to go. We have many highways that lead to Canada, but you just need to be certain that you are headed north. Your 20/20 vision map will also provide a feasible route for any delays or detours if you stop and ask for directions.

We call this “thinking out loud.” You can get other people’s opinions more effectively with conversation than with specific questions:
  • Joe Johnson brought his son into the business and he really messed up.

  • Joe Johnson’s son really took over the business and doubled its profits.

  • Tom Smith built a new office and warehouse; he really damaged his cash flow and credit.

  • Tom Smith’s payments on his new buildings are less than he was paying for rent.

  • Mike Jones opened a satellite division in Alabama and almost lost the whole company.

  • Mike Jones’ Alabama division is doing twice as much work as the local company.

  • George Allen picked up a general contractor’s license to do remodeling and lost most of his old customers.

  • George Allen helped put his son-in-law in the remodeling business and almost doubled his plumbing work.
You will get all kinds of comments on these third-party situations, more than you would get asking about your own business situation. This approach is especially effective with your own employees, who are cautious about offending you and damaging their own job seniority.

In addition to your long-range plan, you also need short-term plans. Many contractors use a five-year and one-year written plan, as well as weekly and daily jobsite schedules.

Some of your planning will require time to think, talk and listen with a legal firm, a financial advisor and/or a management consultant.