A well-developed business plan gives insight into growth potential, possible disruption, and resource constraints.
Your business plan is due soon. You’re juggling client deliverables and managing staff. And maybe you have a proposal or two to review. You take the company’s growth target, apply it to last year’s plan and submit it. Maybe you’ll achieve it, maybe you won’t, but you’re not worried – after all, work is walking in the door … for now.
How many of us submit business plans and don’t look at them until the next planning cycle? Perhaps more than are willing to admit. If you spend meaningful time converting your business plan into an implementation plan that includes multiple goals, both quantitative and qualitative, you’ll have the ability to pivot as necessary when factors beyond your control affect your business and/or the industry as a whole. You’ll also be able to track progress more frequently to ensure you are doing the right things to achieve the larger and perhaps more quantifiable goals. All of a sudden, your business plan has become a tool, not a paperweight.
Find a balance between the quantitative and qualitative goals. For instance, revenue growth is likely (and should) be a goal. But developing a plan that has only a revenue (growth) goal creates an immense amount of pressure to deliver on that one metric. As we’ve all likely experienced, things outside of our control may derail our best plans. Client priorities may change, funding may be diverted, even acts of God (think COVID) can pose a significant risk to our plans. But it’s critical that we know we are making material progress.
That’s where the qualitative goals come in. A business plan with qualitative and quantitative goals distributes additional metrics to measure success. Pandemic related job cancellations and project delays hurt sales goals. If that is the only metric in your plan, what other success can you point to? Pandemic disruption created an opportunity to have new and different touchpoints with clients. Business plans that are developed with goals around understanding external conditions (economy, client priorities, regulations, etc.) continue supporting growth, even when the business is experiencing disruption.
Identifying qualitative goals starts with a quantitative goal then works backward. Say your revenue goal is $5 million. What clients or projects will help you get there? What do you need to understand about the client or project to position to win? What does the client need to know about you to make you a preferred consultant? Then lay out the tasks that will get you those answers.
Qualitative goals may be supported by tasks that include research, content development, and client interactions. Review a capital plan or regulatory change, then call the client to ask informed questions about the impact (that’s two tasks, for those keeping count). Then develop content that illustrates the expertise required for the project to be successful.
Be realistic and stay on top of the plan. Managing resources and adjusting the task timeline will be important. I’ve found that when teams spend time developing the plan upfront, they have more realistic and achievable goals. As the owner of the plan, you are far more informed and confident in advancing and achieving goals. The plan has become a tool for you to map progress, not an annual administrative exercise.
Say for example, you have a gross revenue (quantitative) goal that relies on a certain amount of revenue from a new market segment. You will want to set up a series of qualitative goals or actions – marketing, content development, thought leadership strategies – that you can frequently evaluate to ensure you are setting up the firm for achieving the stated revenue goal. Along the way, if market conditions change, funding is limited, you lose critical resources, or whatever factor negatively affects the market or your efforts, you can pivot and still have a chance to meet your quantitative goal. If the quantitative goal can’t be met, the team hasn’t failed; you can still point to the tasks you achieved and the stronger insight and market positioning you have because of it. You might take a quantitative hit on one year’s plan, but your stronger position is an investment in future growth.
Leadership teams with a growth mindset prioritize progress over deadlines. They want you to win the key project, even if it gets pushed into the next year. A well-developed business plan gives insight into growth potential, possible disruption, and resource constraints. One last little secret: if you spend the time converting your business plan into an implementation one time, you’ll just build on it in the future. You won’t be rewriting the plan every year.
Shannon Koop is a strategic marketing manager at SCS Engineers. She has a background in market research and growth planning for AEC firms. She can be reached at email@example.com.