Thankfully, just about every A/E or environmental firm does a business plan these days. I no longer have to relentlessly beat my drum here in The Zweig Letter on all the reasons to do so!On the other hand, the plans companies put out there could often be a lot better. There are a couple of good reasons for this: One, unless someone shows you what a good plan looks like, you may not know how to do it. Two, even if you do know how to do it, you still need some inspired, passionate leadership to guide the development of the plan. Many more firms fall short here. First things first. Plans need all the soft stuff like a mission, vision, long-range objectives, and strategies. They also need hardcore, very specific short-term financial targets and action items to be accomplished, along with a budget. These items must be addressed in clear, simple, and easily understood English, and put together in an easy-to-read-and-follow document. And, one more thing— any plan that lacks either the philosophical or tactical elements is not complete, as far as I am concerned. That said, the passion of the leader or leaders for the clients the firm serves and the very business itself has to be evident in the words of the plan. Without this overriding guidance at every single step along the planning process, the results will seem uninspired. Yet, it’s easy to say you need inspired leadership, but much harder to actually find it. I find inspiration for all I do in the wonder of daily living. What brings you joy? What makes you most proud? What do you really like about what you do? How can you really help someone (including clients, employees, consultants, and teammates) be more successful? Why did you go into this business in the first place? What, if anything, has changed since then? These questions, and many more, need to be asked and addressed, in writing, as a pre-work exercise for those driving the planning process. And the responses need to be considered as the mission, vision, and strategies are crafted. No plan is worth the paper it’s printed on without having ALL of the required elements and without having INSPIRED authors who are passionate about their work. The first part is easy and the second part, while harder, is not impossible. But what if the inspiration clearly can’t be summoned from the firm leadership? They should get out of the firm and the business as a whole, for that matter! Or, at least get out of the way— i.e., the top management role(s)— for someone or ones who are inspired. There really is no choice. The firm needs an inspired reason for its existence, an inspired vision of what it could be, and inspired strategies guiding every major area of the firm. Anything less is a slow death sentence! Originally published 3/13/2006
About Zweig Group
Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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