Ways to Make Your Company Innovative
Companies that rely on temporary workers solely for “firefighting” scenarios often find that by the time one fire has been put out, another one is just flaring-up. Perhaps a permanent employee has quit, fallen ill, or experienced a family emergency. Perhaps a new contract has been won or an opportunity lost. Whatever the scenario, temporary employees are swift, effective solutions to unforeseen circumstances. At TempsAhead we are experts are finding the right person with the right skills to hit the ground running at times like these. But as 2016 quickly approaches, it is worthwhile considering that temporary employees are not just for firefighting—they might also prove essential to your company’s strategic planning.
A strategic plan is not the same as your business plan or a budget forecast. It is an articulation of where your business wants to be and how it is going to get there. In companies where hiring is reactive (firefighting), a strategic plan may struggle to thrive. That’s because new hires take time to recruit, settle in, get up to speed, and add value to the company’s strategy. This is part of the reason that large organizations (such as universities and government offices) retain auxiliary employees. These individuals, who are familiar with the strategic plan, put out a fire before it has the chance to start. That’s right: they are part of the strategic plan.
Not every organization can retain auxiliary staff. But the strategy may be mimicked. Now, if your highly important initiatives do not require a permanent hire, reshuffling the company’s talent is one way to entrust the job to employees who are close to your strategic plan. But what happens when another fire erupts?
How Temporary Employees Add Value to a Strategic Plan
Planning ahead to task qualified temporary employees with important (but not urgent) projects is a proactive strategic tactic for several reasons:
1) As the temporary assignment was strategically planned and not reactive, the temporary employee is not expected to put out a fire. As such, all parties get to know one another as they collaborate on the company’s strategic plan under normal working conditions.
2) If the fit is great, the temporary employee may be happy to have their contract extended or made permanent as your remaining strategic goals are tackled.
3) Should a fire erupt later in the year, your company will have built a relationship with its recruitment agency and a handful of temporary workers. In short, you will have easy access to “auxiliary” workers who are familiar with your company’s strategic vision.
QUANTITATIVE VERSUS QUALITATIVE PLANNING
The foundation of most current corporate planning systems is internally generated data – highly quantitative and historical in nature. Most long range planning systems look at numerical data for the past five years and extrapolate to predict the next five years. This kind of planning does nothing to change the composition of a business in terms of products, markets and customers. It also makes the failed assumption that outside influences will remain constant, in terms of competition, government influence, labor and resource availability.
Most strategic planning systems are operational in nature. As such they fail to take the whole picture into account. These systems are accompanied by a need to do a lot of analysis, usually requiring graphs, forms, bar charts, matrixes, and volumes of numbers to be presented to corporate headquarters, and which may miss the most important parts of the strategic evaluation.
Even experienced business owners can benefit from using a Strategic Plan as an integral part of their business. It is so difficult to manage all of the loose ends and chaos that can occur when running a small business. A “Plan” of any sort can help tremendously in creating success and reducing stress.
A Strategic Plan is very different from a Business Plan. A Strategic Plan sets forth a timeline of specific tasks that need to be completed in order to make your Business Plan a reality. It’s a specific list of objectives to reach specific goals.
Now once your business is up and going, we all know your Business Plan goes in the drawer and your Strategic Plan helps you implement what you conceived in the beginning.
Essentially, I consider it in many ways a checklist of things that need to be completed in the next month, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months. It takes your business plan to the next level when you are trying to decide where it is most effective to spend your time. In a lot of ways, the Strategic Plan is the how-to of your Business Plan.
Now some of you may feel isolated or alone in this process. Others may feel you can’t get your partners ‘to the table’ to build or even implement a Strategic Plan. Here are some situations that could be facing some of you and how I suggest you deal with them:
- Individual owners. Anyone that has owned their own business knows that success can often turn on one simple principle: self-discipline. When you own your own business, there is usually no one leaning over your shoulder making sure you are working the hours you need to and focusing your energy on the right tasks. A Strategic Plan can give you a regular road map to keep you focused, give you checkpoints, and help you set and keep goals.
- Partnerships. A Strategic Plan in a partnership doesn’t have as much to do with self-discipline as it does accountability. It is so important for partners to meet on a regular basis to discuss, strategize, decide, assign, and then document every decision they are making as a partnership. It is so easy to forget who is doing what, and why you decided on a certain course of action in the business. In difficult as well as successful times, the Strategic Plan is oftentimes the glue that can hold a partnership together.
- Board of advisors. Whether you are an individual owner or have partners, a Board of Advisors could be a tremendous resource to you in implementing your Strategic Plan, reviewing it on a regular basis, and being held accountable. This is much more than the “mentor” that may have helped you in the design of your Business Plan. This should be a group of professionals with experience and education in your industry that can give you honest, quality feedback on a regular basis. At the most simplistic level, this board could be a group of family or friends you take out to dinner once a month to get their ideas and assessment, as well as report back to them regarding your accomplishments. Everyone loves to give free advice over a nice dinner. Don’t underestimate the power of this resource.
I outline the steps to create a Strategic Plan in my book “What Your CPA Isn’t Telling You” and also suggest that there certainly isn’t a universal equation or approach for everyone to creating a successful and meaningful Strategic Plan. Of course, many would concur that simply going through the exercise of setting some goals and objectives for the year would be more than most business owners do. In fact, many entrepreneurs would agree that it is extremely difficult to see the Forest through the Trees.
In an effort to help through the process, I suggest there are four essential steps to creating a dynamic and impactful Strategic Plan.
Step 1: Create the Necessary Sections for Your Strategic Plan That Make Sense to You.
The following sections are what I feel are the bare essentials of a good Strategic Plan and what you should consider each time you sit down to plan:
- Organizational or Management Issues
- Product Development
- Personal Training and Education
- Employees and Vendors
- Managing by Statistics
- Marketing Tasks (based on your Marketing Plan)
In my book mentioned above, (more specifically Appendix E) I discuss some questions and/or topics in detail to consider in each of the above categories. Some of these include Organizational or Management Issues, Product Development, Systemization, and Managing by Statistics, just to name a few. Of course these are not conclusive and just a starting point for you as you review and build your Strategic Plan.
Step 2: Create a Timeline for All of the Action Items to Occur.
Don’t stress about this process. All of your objectives and tasks to complete from the different sections above should be co-mingled in an overall timeline. Don’t set up a checklist for each category. Put them all in one master timeline that should be broken into 3-month, 6-month, and the entire year.
In this section of deadlines and timelines, I like to try and set specific criteria to show the objective has been met, or in a partnership, or a board of directors, specifically assign people to complete specific tasks so there is accountability for each action item.
Step 3. Revisit your Strategic Plan Regularly.
Don’t leave your Strategic Plan in the drawer. Honestly, I love to carry mine around with me in my bag and take it with me everywhere I go. I like to review it on airplane rides or weekends when I have a free minute and the pressures of the workweek aren’t bearing down on me.
In fact, I suggest you update your plan monthly, and at the very least review it every three months. Review it constantly, and stay disciplined! Make sure you are making notes to your plan whenever you have a “brilliant idea.” Don’t say to yourself: “I need to do that next quarter when I review my plan.” Write it down now!
Step 4. Continue to Manage by Statistics.
Track your success or failures. Track the numbers and try to quantify your progress when possible. Your numbers and reports, even if you are only keeping track and reporting to yourself, will consistently tell you if you are headed in the right direction. Don’t get discouraged. Make changes as needed. Being a business owner means change. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it, and become accustomed to it.