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Strategic planning is the key to running a successful business. If you don’t plan on where you are going to go, how are you ever going to get there?
That is just plain old common sense. So, why don’t we do any planning in our industry? Why don’t we ever sit right down and decide the direction of our companies? Why don’t we get away from trying to get through the day, the week, the month, and the year without any sort of plan?
If you’re doing a lot of strategic planning these days, I’d love to hear about it, because from where I sit you are truly the exception to the rule in the PCB business. Frankly, the people I talk to have some vague idea about their strategy. They kind of, sort of, know where they want to be and what they are doing about it, but not much more than that.
Some people have a general idea: They want to be in the high-tech business. Sure, that sounds good, but when I ask them to explain to me what they consider high tech, things get a little shaky. Some shops might talk about HDI microvias, while others will talk about flex and rigid-flex and multilayers. It all depends on where they are coming from. They are always ready to go to the next step and beyond based on where they think they are today. That is not a bad plan if they also know how to get there.
Do you know where you want to be in a year? How about in two years or five years? Do you really know where you are today? Can you give me a true assessment of where you company is right now, what your company’s strategy is?
Well, let me help you. I just finished reading a great little book by Brian Tracy called Business Strategy. It is the latest volume in Tracy’s series The Brian Tracy Business Success Library, published by Amacom. From that book here are the five basic questions to ask yourself to successfully develop a strategic plan for you company:
- Assess your current situation: Where am I now? Identify your business, your customers, your markets, your competitors, and your financial strengths and weaknesses. An accurate analysis of your current situation is the starting point of all strategy.
- Reexamine your past: Look at your current history. How did you get to where you are today? What were the critical steps that you took going back a few years or even to the beginning of your business? What did you do right? What did you do wrong? What lessons did you learn? What has changed since you began your business? What were the events that got you where you are now, for better or worse?
- Create your perfect future: Define your ideal future. Where do you want to be in the future? Where do you want to be one year from now, and in two, three, five or even ten years? Where do you want to be personally, and where do you want to be as a corporation? Clearly defining your ideal future, on the basis of where you are today and how you got here, is critical.
- Prepare the next steps to take: How are you going to get there? How are you going to get from where you are today to where you want to be in the future, with the people you have, the resources you have and the market you are working in? (Tracy points out that the best way to find this out is to brainstorm with your team a suggestion that I think is spot on. After all, you do have a team involved here. It might be your company, but your entire management team has to be involved in defining your strategic direction; otherwise you will be out there on your own getting it done. The entire team has to go through the process if you want all of them on board.)
- Make a checklist: What do you need? What additional skills, resources, or money will you require to achieve your strategic objectives sometime in the future? One of the most powerful tools that you can use is the simple checklist. Begin to make a list of all the things that you would have to do and all the steps you would have to take to get from where you are today to where you want to be in at some time in the future.
This is all good advice from one of the business world’s leading consultants. But wait, there’s more. I would urge you to do more than just create a checklist. Make an implementation plan complete with actions, assignments and due dates. The most effective plan I have found is the one that has an end date. The one that starts at where you want to be and when you want to be there and then works backward to the beginning of the implementation plan.
Develop this plan with your team. Make sure everyone is on board. Take it a day at a time, a step at a time all the time, with a clear eye on where you want to be in the future and you will get there. You will succeed. And that’s only common sense.