Mapping Out Your Firm’s Success

Planning long term while working short teerm requires an effective strategic plan

“If you recognize that the only constant is change, that will encourage you to be prepared for change,” says president Adrienne Lumpkin, 42, who founded the Raleigh, North Carolina-based company with her husband, Kelly, 46. “A lot of what’s important in keeping the business going are things related to preparation-contingency planning-so that you can respond appropriately as change occurs.”
So how has the company managed to sprout from a husband-and- wife operation to a staff of 12 with a five-year growth rate of a remarkable 1,408%?

It’s all about being prepared, and that means having a plan that goes beyond the instrument you used to launch your business. Now that you’re up and running, it’s vital to know where your operation is headed and how you’re going to get there. You have it all in your head, not on paper, and the advantages to having such a document are too beneficial to ignore.

The previous two parts of this series delineated the steps to take to plunge into the precarious world of being your own boss, and how to manage your firm’s finances to keep it afloat. Now that you’ve scaled those mountains, it’s time to address how you can keep your business running as you head toward profit and viability with the help of a carefully drafted strategic plan.

“You certainly don’t start out on a trip without a road map,” says Bennie L. Thayer, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) in Washington, D.C. Not having one, not following the grand design, “has been the failure for most entrepreneurs. They’ve got a great idea-something that people really want-and it goes well. But [soon they realize] they have no idea where they want to take their business.” The solution: a long-term strategic plan.

Melvin J. Gravely II, president of Infrastructure Services Inc., a 10-year-old, $2 million Cincinnati engineering firm and the author of The Black Entrepreneur’s Guide to Success (Duncan & Duncan Inc., $14.95) and Making It Your Business: The Personal Transition from Employee to Entrepreneur (Impact Group Consultants, $16.95), says planning is important because it shifts you from being reactive to proactive. And the advantage of being proactive is you take advantage of opportunities instead of opportunities taking advantage
of you.

Gravely adds, “That doesn’t mean we can control every aspect of what happens, but at least [planning] puts us in a better situation to handle what goes on from a proactive standpoint.”

Central to following through on a strategic plan are the issues of time and project management. Are you making the best use of your time as it relates to accomplishing your business goals? Are you managing the project or is it managing you?

THE BASICS
The most important insight to grasp up front is the difference between the plan you used to get your business off the ground and the one you need to keep it going. More than likely your current business plan was created for one express purpose: financing. The strategic plan you need now is your how-to

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