In addition to it being time to renew your Amazon Prime account so you can buy presents for people who don’t actually need a thing, it is also business planning time! One of my favorite times of the year!
Not every AEC firm has a plan. Some people (claim) they are too busy to sharpen their axe. Others think you can’t predict the future so why try? Others have had bad experiences such as word-smithing a mission for three days and still ending up with something as profound as “ABC Associates provides innovative, cost-effective solutions.” No matter what, though, the truth is EVERY firm needs a business plan. It guides daily decision-making, provides direction to the firm, and helps get everyone who works in the company on the same page as far as what you are trying to achieve.
Here are some things I would be thinking about related to your business planning for 2017:
- Get input from your current and desired clients. You need to know what their plans are, what they like and don’t like about you and other similar service providers, and much, much more. Doing a plan without consulting the people you are doing business with or want to do business with is insane. Think about it.
- Get input from all of your employees. Some call them your “internal clients.” They have to be happy in order to properly serve your firm’s clients. What tools do they need? What are the impediments to them doing a first class project every time? How can you help them be more successful? What frustrates them? Again – you need to know the answers to all of these questions and a lot more.
- Work on the broad philosophical stuff, but also work on the concrete, tactical stuff. Business plans need both. Some call the broad brush, big picture plans “strategic plans,” whereas the detailed, shorter-range plans are often called “tactical plans” or just “business plans.” I don’t care what you call it. I just know it is important to have both elements in your plan and, at a minimum, look at all of it at least once a year.
- Keep your “do” list to a reasonable length. We all know what happens when you try to do too much. You either don’t get it done and feel bad or rush through it and do a less-than-best job at it. Neither is acceptable when it comes to your business planning. I like a reasonably short “do” list that will get done. And once it is you can always make up a new “do” list.
- Keep the jargon down to a minimum. I read a plan earlier today that had so much in it that it was virtually unreadable. On top of that it was repetitive and used the same paragraphs more than once. Aaackkk!!! Why make your readers suffer?
One last point. Business planning is a critical area. If you don’t feel you can manage it all on your own, get help. But be sure to ask on qualified people for their help. I would look for someone, who at a minimum, runs or has run a successful enterprise – not someone who has just read a bunch of books on business planning!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s founder and CEO. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.