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Long-term planning can thwart your success

- Michelle DeClerck, founder of Conference Event Management (CEM) and Financial Speakers Bureau, is a frequent contributor to Lift IOWA weekly e-newsletter and now is a contributing writer to IowaBiz.com on the topic of Starting and Growing Your Business. 

Many aspiring entrepreneurs delay starting their own business because they’ve heard they can’t start a business without a three- to five-year plan. I disagree. That kind of thinking would have left many of today’s successful companies in non-existence—including my own.

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” —General George Patton

Now entering my thirteenth year in business, my team and I operated for the first eight years without an official long-term plan. The lack of such a plan didn’t keep us from moving forward and achieving great success and growth.

My decision to operate without a long-term plan early on may come as a surprise to many, as I’m known for being a planner by nature, but I didn’t create one because I didn’t know specifically what I wanted in terms of the company’s growth.

During those early years, we were exploring, creating and testing different paths so we could decide where we wanted to go. We had doubts about growing in some areas and fears of tackling other unknown areas. The economic downtown in our niche market also meant we were dealing with challenging day-to-day emergencies and reacting to being consistently too busy. During those years, I knew I should and would create a long-term plan—eventually, but relied instead on strategic visioning.

As many successful companies have proven, long-term business planning may be bypassed when other strategic visioning and goal-setting steps are in place. We certainly had a strategic vision of where we thought we wanted to go, and we diligently worked toward achieving it.

After employing the services of several leading professional business consultants and companies, and combining their advice with my team’s vision, we’ve since created a business plan for the company—a short-term plan. That’s right, we’re still avoiding long-term planning, and I believe most business owners should do so, as well. Why be locked into a plan that can quickly have you losing sales and market share?

Technology and adaptability allow companies that embrace change to stay on the cutting edge. These are the companies that will succeed and grow by being nimble. They can create an immediate solution to a client or industry-wide challenge, or even develop an unforeseen new product line in unprecedented time.

Shorter-term planning also allows more of your employees to have a voice in the company’s goal-setting, and in turn, to be more engaged in achieving them. Perhaps even those goals will be set aside on short notice, and new ones set to achieve even greater success.

Following a traditional three- to five-year long-term business plan nearly guarantees your competition will pass you by. Is what you wanted three years ago still what you want today? Don’t get stuck with a plan that doesn’t allow you to pivot and go in a completely different direction if needed.

You still need to have aspirations and goals—and a process to get there—but you may want to consider setting shorter timeframes for them. I recommend you review and rewrite your business plan a few times per year, and when it isn’t working, or it needs adjusting, change it immediately—not later.

For those of you waiting for just the right time to start your own business, there will probably never be a perfect time. If you have an idea and the passion to get a business off the ground, then that’s the time to get started. Create your vision, solicit feedback from other business owners and then engage business consultants to create a short-term plan that will help you quickly attain your potential while avoiding costly mistakes.

Even if you can’t put forth that much effort, analyze the risk and perhaps you’ll decide you’re willing to start your business with little more than your idea, your passion and your willingness to put in a tremendous amount of work. In that case, a short-term plan, paired with an ultimate strategic vision, can be enough to get your business off the ground and on the road to success—sooner rather than later.

As a contributing editor on the topic of starting and growing your own business, Michelle DeClerck will share her expertise and a successful businesswoman while revisiting the topics she writes about in her own business. She believes it’s essential for business owners to continually review their processes in order to grow. Share feedback with her at Michelle@myCEM.com.

For more information, visit www.myCEMblog.com.

Phone: 515-254-0289 ext. 9.



Nice article and good insight. I'm sure this will be encouraging to some entrepreneurs!
Thank you, Michelle!

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