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Do You Have an Action Plan for Growth?

“Do You Have an Action Plan for Growth?”

Answer these six questions to get on a faster track.

To achieve high growth, business owners need an action plan — a document that spells out specific goals and details precisely how these objectives can be achieved in a specific amount of time.

Answer these questions to make sure your company is on the right path:

  1. Where are we now? This helps assess what resources the company has developed and how much potential exists to grow existing accounts and niches.
  2. Where do we want to be? This sets a target that helps direct resources properly and ensures today’s successes don’t make the company complacent.
  3. What specific steps are needed to get there? Creating specific goal-oriented options provides measurements for achieving success.
  4. Who will be responsible for each part of the plan? Assigning accountability facilitates everyone’s involvement.
  5. When will each step be completed? A timetable provides accountability for progress that can’t be avoided.
  6. How much will each item cost to implement in capital, time and staff? Don’t overburden the staff with so many new responsibilities that existing successes begin to falter.

Without a clearly defined plan, management can only react to events as they occur during the year. A detailed action plan helps a manager anticipate and be prepared.

Think in Measurable Terms

Make your answers complete. Many businesses fail to consider all the ramifications of their goals and don’t make them specific enough. For example, an owner may say that he wants to take his business “to the next level.” But he doesn’t spell out what that means. Does it mean doubling sales? Acquiring additional locations?

The need for specifics becomes even more intense. If your objective is to double sales in a certain amount of time, you must consider: Do salespeople have the talent to generate that much new business or take it away from competitors? Can your existing operations manager oversee a process that ships that much more product? Can your controller manage banking and accounting relationships at that volume? Can the general manager build and orchestrate a synergistic group of employees to function at that productivity? Is there enough capital to reach that level? Can you secure more?

Meeting goals is not just a matter of working harder or smarter; systems and capital must be sufficient to allow growth. Creating a salesforce that captures twice the business will be disastrous if the shipping or production staffs can’t keep up.

Put Your Action Plan in Motion

Once you have the infrastructure in place to handle double-digit sales increases, prepare a written marketing plan that will produce those sales. This doesn’t necessarily require a lot of cold calling and generation of new accounts; your strategy could be as simple as focusing on existing business, especially the best customers.

Hold annual customer reviews of your key accounts, both to strengthen relations and expand the product mix they buy.

  • Identify which customers generate 80% of sales in descending order of volume.
  • Arrange meetings to discuss service, product selection and other areas.
  • Ask key customers what they like and dislike about doing business with you.
  • Identify additional services or products they’d like or how their product purchases could be raised. Also ask for their perception of business in the coming year and their own company outlook.

The review isn’t a sales call in disguise, but it’s an excellent opportunity to get key customers on your turf and ask them how you can serve them better. By increasing sales to existing customers, it may be possible to reach that “next level” of business quicker and more efficiently.

The final word: Update the marketing portion of your action plan annually; other sections can be updated as needed.

Writer: Craig A. Shutt interviewed Bill Lee, president, Lee Resources, a consulting firm in Greenville, S.C.