Happy New Year!  Carew International is kicking off 2012 with a three-part blog series: Three Keys to Kicking off a Successful Sales Year.  Our first installment offers tips and insights surrounding your business plan.

General Colin Powell once said, "No battle plan ever survives the first encounter with the enemy."  Mike Tyson had an interesting spin on that thought: "Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth."  The point, of course, is that while plans are important, you must be prepared to adapt on the fly to changing situations.

One key to effective planning is to find the delicate balance between structure and flexibility.  Too many sales and sales management professionals become bogged down with putting together a plan that looks impressive to the "higher powers" within the organization, but this plan offers no real value to the planner him/herself once the real "battle" begins.  Creating the business plan version of War and Peace is not the goal!

Consider these tips to make business planning for 2012 a more useful experience:

  1. Have clearly stated goals supported with well-thought-out strategies and manageable action steps to achieve them.
  2. Make strategy the priority.  Invest the majority of your planning focus and time on strategies instead of action steps.  Your strategy will have larger impact and should be focused on longer term goals.  While strategies may change slightly during year, it is the individual action steps that will continually change during the "battle."
  3. Keep it simple.  Over-complicating the business plan is a common tendency, but the more complex and rigid your plan, the less likely you will get practical use from it.
  4. The power is in the process.  Understand that the greatest benefit of the business planning process comes from the act of planning versus the plan itself.  Authentic planning is a discipline you engage to evaluate what you are doing and why.  Expect to learn a lot from the process that will make you better.

Dwight D. Eisenhower said that "Planning is everything and plans are nothing," which is a pretty telling quote coming from the man who planned D-Day!  The objective is to develop a plan that will not only survive the first "punch in the mouth," but continue to be a valuable tool throughout the year.