Take a Hard Look at Your Business Plan
June 1, 2010
Creating a successful company is usually rooted in planning your success and then working to implement that plan. Creating your business plan is the obvious first step. An equally important step is to use the plan to drive the company and then make necessary adjustments as your company develops and your assumptions change.
Today, I will assume that you have created your plan. Once your plan is in place, the challenge is to implement your plan and make it a reality. Creating your plan is often the easy part, while implementation requires discipline and focus.
The reality of running a restoration company is that your days and weeks are often full already, and the challenge of change can be overwhelming. My father likes to say that if change were easy, no one would be overweight or smoke cigarettes. As the longevity of McDonald’s and Phillip Morris will attest, change is often very difficult.
Restorers frequently find that crisis management overtakes good intentions and, after a strong start, the realities of your day get in the way of your plan. I often hear from employees when we consult with a company that any ideas discussed are often just more initiatives destined to fail.
This attitude can feed an effort to interfere with any substantive change, since many of your employees also feel that change may be unnecessary.
If you have done a good job creating your plan (see “Planning for Success” in the Jan/Feb issue) then we are ready to talk about an initiative that can transform your company. The first step is to make sure you have a strong leadership team that is committed to the process and the results. If you have an “inside” group that has helped craft the plan, then they have ownership. With this, you have a team that will help hold you accountable to the results. This team will create synergy that will assure the owner is not the only one pushing for implementation, and improve the likelihood of success.
Prior to communicating your plan to the company, you need to meet with your leadership team to establish timeframes, responsibilities and priorities. Part of this assessment is the staffing levels and performance expectations for your key staff.
If you have facility improvements as a part of your plan, I would recommend a preliminary facelift as an initial step. When your staff can see an updated, clean or professional change to the workspace, it helps them realize you are serious about this effort.
We worked with a client some time ago that started his process by getting several dumpsters and clearing out all non-essential items from the warehouse, followed by a coat of paint and deep cleaning. This process can be symbolic as well as you set to transform your company.
After you have defined the key components to your plan and established areas of responsibilities, it is time to communicate the message to your staff. I recommend having a mandatory company meeting either early on a Friday morning, or host a Saturday event. Afternoon meetings can be a challenge, what with trying to balance your jobs, customers, travel and daily office management.
If you are in a position to pay for the staff time, then your commitment to paying shows your commitment. If you are not able to pay, set an optional meeting with door prizes or other incentives followed by a cookout in the parking lot. The cost of this event is low in comparison to the benefit you will receive from getting a great start.
The meeting will be a time for you to create a vision of where you are going and to announce several campaigns that will start immediately. Do not get bogged down in too much detail or too many new programs. It is best to start two or three major projects; when these are complete, move on to the next.
This meeting is extremely important, and if you are not a confident speaker, you need to work on delivering a confident and motivating message. The change process requires strong leadership. You can also have others on your team present supporting information or changes that will be coming from their departments but the primary message needs to come from the owner or general manager.
You may choose to have smaller departmental meetings after the group presentation to discuss the ideas in more detail, to answer questions, to create individual action plans or add refinements to the proposals.
After your initial kickoff, you need to continually communicate progress to your staff. At a minimum you need to hold a staff meeting once a month. This will help celebrate achievement, recognize individual and departmental performance and reinforce goals, vision and progress on key campaigns.
These routine meetings are essential to maintain momentum. Your employees will often look for reasons that the transformational effort will fail, and lack of communication only reinforces the idea that failure is imminent.
The key to maintaining momentum on any new campaign in your organization is to have timely measurements and reports. If you do not have good measurements then it will force you to become very subjective. You may find yourself “feeling” and “thinking” certain things, but you rarely “know.”
If you want to become an effective manager and leader, you will need to have the reporting to back up your suspicions. You will need to work with your office manager to determine the best reports to measure individual, team and company performance.
When you have routine reports, you can make decisions with confidence. When you have proper measurements in place, you can create short-term goals and work to set up victories that will sustain your company efforts.
You should also establish benchmarks that can be used to measure individual and team performance to an expected result. With this information, you can make adjustments and changes to performance on the way to goal achievement.
At this point, you will need to provide the resources for your staff to meet expectations. Your company should embark on a focused training effort. If you want to extract exceptional performance from your staff, you must arm them with the tools to create their own success.
This training needs to be both internal and external. Many restoration companies do a good job of sending several staff members to training, but then do not follow through and create a strong internal training curriculum. Training will give your staff confidence in everyday performance and in making the right decisions in challenging circumstances.
Effective companies find a way to integrate internal training weekly. If you are going to transform your company, you need to provide your staff the skills to substantially change their performance.
Inevitably you will encounter situations that require you to make adjustments to your plan. When you make plans, you will make some assumptions; these assumptions often change.
You first will need to ascertain whether the adjustments required to the plan are due to circumstances that are in or out of your control. Situational adjustments often involve having too much or too little work, changes in the competitive environment, or legal considerations. There are many other issues that may come into play, and you will have to assess whether they are temporary or long-term.
You will also have to consider your response in terms of your cash and the impact on your operations. In the event that the challenges are short in duration then you may consider maintaining focus on your plan. Chet Holmes, in his book The Ultimate Sales Machine, talks about the concept of pigheaded discipline. Once you determine that you are going to embark on a new business strategy, you need to have discipline and stay focused on implementation.
That being said, if conditions demand it, you may have to make some adjustments to your original plan. I worked with a contractor recently who lost over 50 percent of his business with one account. The only prudent thing to do at that point was to make major adjustments in the plan (and also to radically reduce overhead). If you find yourself in a similar position, you will learn that survival is your only choice.
Once your plan has been created, you need to make sure that it is a useful tool in your organizational development, not a hindrance. The plan should be used often and revisited at least twice per year. This will hold you accountable to the plan you have created.
Every year you should remove your leadership team from the office and hold a business retreat. This annual update is essential, as many things will change as your company grows and develops. I used to work with a man who had posted a quote behind his desk that read, “Go as far as you can see, and when you get there you can see a little farther.”
You will find that 12 months is a long time; you will see so much more as your company progresses. Creating a dynamic plan, communicating the details, creating a leadership team and measuring performance at all levels in your organization will help you transform you company.