Long-Term Planning in Volatile Times
Many of the business owners I have been talking to from 2020 to today are intimating different forms of the same refrain, “How can I think about long-term strategic planning and managing against projections when I have no idea what tomorrow will look like?” While this is a valid concern, it is my contention that it is in volatility and uncertainty that these practices are most imperative. Come with me as I articulate my thinking, and work to address some of the most important considerations in times such as these.
You have more control than you may think! Let’s start with the most heartbreaking element of this line of thinking. This sentiment assumes a level of helplessness that is most unbecoming in entrepreneurs. Let’s face it, the odds have always been stacked against business owners with more than 65% of start-ups failing within their first ten years, according to a 2022 Investopedia report. Entrepreneurs start businesses because they have superior ideas, tactics, vision, and skillsets such that they will inevitably beat the odds.
So, to hear business owners abdicate their control to the unknown, even for an instant, shakes me to the core. How do leaders in business recognize and exercise control over their destiny in volatility?
The first step is to get back to the core of what you and your team do exceptionally well. Is your prevailing strength tactical execution, your vision for the company, your ability to inspire a team behind you, or simply the motivation to take on impossible odds with unfaltering conviction. The essence of what made you a business owner originally will strengthen you to face uncertainty.
The second factor is getting back to the team that helped you get where you are today. These are the people who challenged and supported you through your personal and professional trials and victories. You will need your team more than ever to regain your ability to assert your will on these trying times.
The final step in regaining control over your circumstances is to reflect on the realities of economic abundance. While the stock market may be zero sum, regional and global economies are not. Winning in business does not mean that someone else needs to lose. Focus on the fact that the best companies thrive in adversity and make the conscious determination that you are leading one of the best companies in your industry and will that into being.
Now that you have your foundation reset, your team at your side, and your mindset back it is time to look at the fundamentals of forecasting and long-term strategic planning. To quote my good friend Yogi Berra, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” The whole point of forecasting and strategic planning is to establish the parameters against which you measure success or deviation. Strong plans encompass the long-term goals, milestones along the way to achieving these goals, and near-term objectives that will move you forward along the path. In times of uncertainty, it is the near-term objectives and key results (OKRs) that will keep you on track. These are typically 90-day targets with a series of shorter key results that allow for immediate course correction.
The process of forecasting and strategic planning is in itself an act of defiance against the fates, and completely in keeping with the bravado and motivation that makes business owners exceptional people in general. The process of generating a forecast and strategic plan is a process of looking every threat and risk squarely in the face and decrying “you have no power over me and my team!” Your best and only tool to face these volatile times is to bring your team together and identify every way that this volatility could hurt your organization. Once you have all of the threats identified, work through the same exercise identifying all of the opportunities that this volatility presents. Then adjust your pro forma and expectations to maximize the potential and mitigate the threats. This will put you heads and shoulders ahead of your peers, you will be performing pro-actively instead of re-actively. You have regained control, and are once again in a position to create your future.
Creating your future is the heart of what Blue Sky Business Resources was built to support. If you have questions or insecurities, please schedule a free consultation. We are here for you.