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Planning for the route ahead – Peter Barnet writes

Wednesday, 05 December 2007
By Print 21 Online Article

Without a plan, you are just a tourist driving a bus. This may sound great if you are on a holiday but it is not so good if you are running a business, especially in the graphic arts industry today.

When I talk to people in business they all tell me, without exception, that they would love to get more sales. I am sure you do too. They add that their business is in a position to double the current turnover with only needing to add a few extra staff. All they need are the sales! At this point I say "Congratulations! That is a great position to be in." I then ask, "What is your plan to get there, can you show it to me in any form?" I then usually get a summary of all the opportunities that exist and the number of great customers, hot leads and referrals that they have or can get, but unfortunately no written down plan with a list of actions and deadlines.

"It’s alright" I hear you say, "I’m too busy to plan" or "I will get around to it". Well, let me pour some petrol in the wound to get a sense of urgency in your desire to get that plan happening. Write down your current average monthly turnover. Then write next to it your desired turnover per month. Subtract the two numbers and then multiply the result by 12. The figure you now have is what it is costing you per year to not have a plan. Have I got your attention now?

Join the Bunnies and Bombers
Remember, to improve your performance in anything you need a plan and the plan needs some deal of thought and substance. The answer is not simply to increase sales. Let me use some sporting metaphors to illustrate the point.

I am sure Peter Holmes à Court and Russell Crowe have got a plan to win an NRL premiership at some stage in the first three to five years with the South Sydney Rabbitohs. I can almost guarantee that the plan is also written down. However, I am sure that they were not expecting to win it in the first season. It would have been great if it had happened but they realise that they have a lot of things they have to do off the field in order to give their players the best possible chance of being able to perform at the required level to win the premiership.

In the AFL, the board of Essendon Football Club also need a plan to win their next premiership. Their plan will be different and be focused on the field as Essendon Football Club is one of the best run sporting clubs in the country and no stranger to success. Rabbitohs and Bombers fans may disagree with the finer details but the message here is that the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.

So what can you do in your business to develop a plan?

The what, where and how
First, the easy part – do a stocktake of where your business and sales are at now, today’s date. This is like the CSI team at the crime scene – what are the facts, and only the facts and what could be constituted as evidence. Start with sales but do not forget to include your whole business. Remember, it’s pretty hard to fill up a bucket if it has a hole in the bottom.

Next, draw up a list of where you want to be at the end of this year, the end of next year and at the end of the one following. Do not limit yourself – remember the story of Sir Edmund Hillary and Everest and, if you need further inspiration, go to YouTube ( and type in ‘Worlds Strongest Dad’, watch the clip and aim high!

The final and hard bit is the ‘how’. What do you need to do to get from where you are now to where you want to be? The end result will be an action plan with deadlines and people responsible. This differs in every business and will be easier if you break it into bite-size chunks with a timeframe. The other important thing to remember in this part is that it is not possible to do everything at once so break it down into the top three or four items that will make the most impact. Stephen Covey, renowned author and speaker on effective habits, calls them the ‘Big Rocks’. You may be able to do this on your own or with your management team. If this is something that you do not feel comfortable doing, you can speed up the process by getting outside help.

Consolidation will continue to happen in the graphic arts industry and this consolidation combined with new technology creates opportunities for businesses and people to flourish. Devising a plan is the only way to create your future rather than let the future happen to you. GOOD LUCK!

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