Planning: The Big, Not So Secret Strategy Behind Success

March 30, 2017

It seems like lately I have been hearing one thing over and over. In each instance, it helped to make a business stronger and more profitable. And it really isn't anything new, but it's not something all small and medium size business owners do. It's business planning and analysis. I'm not talking about the meeting you have with your team to discuss rebates or current issues. I'm talking about that annual, get-down-into-the-details, look-through-all-the-numbers meeting where you dedicate an entire day to identifying the objectives of your business, your goals, what is working, what is not working, profitability and future action.  

The outsider 

Dean Gilland, consultant, former NAMA vice president of sales and 2016 NAMA Coffee Legend, suggests operators form a committee or advisory board for such occasions. That the fact that you present your business to people outside your organization makes it easier to see your strengths and weaknesses. He makes a compelling argument on the topic in his latest column, Do Your Processes Still Pass The Smell Test.  

It probably struck a cord with me because this is a strategy we use for Automatic Merchandiser and VendingMarketWatch.com. We have an annual long range planning meeting and invite executives from other areas of the company to join us. They bring unique perspectives and suggestions, many that we hadn't considered, and some we had. They are smart people with understanding of business. Its eye-opening to have them be part of the meeting.  

Having an outside group of advisors does take time, and relationships, however. In the meantime, there are other ways of assessing your business until you can find good candidates for a management review committee. 

SWOT and others 

I had a boss once that shared a matrix style planning tool his company used. It was a tool that allowed an organization to definite its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). There is a great explanation of how to use the SWOT tool here. When my boss describes it, I find the four part matrix  filled with specific bullet points for each strength, weakness, opportunity and threat, both easy to understand and a great visual reference. However, there are many strategies. In fact, when I did a Google search looking for the exact name of the matrix strategy, I found an entire Pinterest board dedicated to them...Pinterest! I always thought this site was reserved for food recipes and new DIY projects to try, but with the promise of dozens of strategic business planning ideas, I am rethinking it as a business tool. If you are interested, here is the URL: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/strategic-planning/ . 

I mentioned that I'd been hearing about this a lot lately. Another example is from Lance Whorton, president and CEO of Imperial in Tulsa, OK. He has been using an Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a strategy he read about in the book Traction, by Gino Wickman. It helped him define what makes Imperial unique as well as a roadmap for goals. He feels the EOS not only contributed to the increased profits that his company saw this past year, but also to his company's culture. You can read about it in the April issue of Automatic Merchandiser, hitting mailboxes in a couple weeks. If you are attending the NAMA OneShow, you can pick up a copy at our booth or talk to Lance Whorton in person. He's been awarded NAMA's Operator of the Year and will be in attendance.  

No matter type of business you have, but especially one that is as fluid as vending, it's important to assess it. If there is no clear path, it will flounder. It there are too many initiatives, it will divide and be weak. Take the time to assess your business and really make the coming year a profitable one.