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Ain’t no mountain high enough

Business talk with Steve Elsom, July 2020

Business planning isn’t a new phenomenon, and it isn’t a post-COVID invention… its been an integral part of successful businesses for ever. Yet, often when I talk to business owners, long term planning means ‘the end of next week’ and as for having a ‘Plan B’, well if you haven’t really got a ‘Plan A’, that all becomes a bit irrelevant.

Benjamin Franklin once said ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’, in a reference to one of his key interests… time management. He saw the importance of creating an agenda, setting objectives and agreeing actions so that meetings would be
more effective and beneficial to all, and we can translate that quote into how we manage our business. Do we have objectives around what we want to achieve, how we want to achieve them, and by when we want to achieve them? Translated, for a start up, that could be around generating a loyalty across the customer base, it might be achieved by offering promotional deals to ‘gain loyalty’ and then measuring the number of ‘returning customers’, and I might put a timescale of twelve months on it, after allowing for set up and marketing activities. It doesn’t sound like rocket-science does it…. but many businesses don’t ‘prepare’ like this.

I engage with many businesses around ‘planning’ and this typically involves asking a business owner about their ambitions, the reason why they started in business in the first place, their goals, their timescales and their ‘exit’ strategy.

Here is the range of the responses that I generally hear;

Ambitions? To open a second outlet within two years… ranging to… I don’t know really.

Why did I start in business? I want to be my own boss and believe that I have the skills to succeed… to… my best mate runs his own business and does ok.

Goals? To bring a new dimension and personality to coffee… to… I haven’t really thought about that yet.

Timescales? I set myself quarterly targets and challenge myself to achieve these… to… I suppose it depends on how things go.

Exit strategy? I will recruit and develop quality and talented staff, so that in a few years they are potentially able to manage my business… to… whenever I peg it I guess!

Quite a broad spectrum – ask yourself, where would you be on the scale?

So Marvin Gaye’s song about mountains not being high enough, evokes images of being able to ‘climb anything, do anything, and achieve anything that you want’… barrier or obstacle will get in your way. But without a ‘plan’, it makes climbing that mountain just a little bit harder – after all, you wouldn’t turn up to conquer Mount Everest in your pyjamas and slippers would you?

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Steve is a regular contributor to B2B publications, see some of his recent articles for insights into current business news, leadership and much more...