A Living Five Year Plan

I recently heard of a businessman who took two years and created a five year business plan for a business that he hoped to open. Financing was arranged and suppliers were secured, in a large part because the plan was so well thought out and researched.
The five year plan was right on the mark, amazingly the projected numbers and financial results were almost identical. I wish I could say that they all lived happily ever after.

What went wrong were years six, seven and eight. There was a feeling that having been successful in years one through five somehow guaranteed future successes, the business was operating on auto pilot, just keep repeating what had been done. Autopilot assumes that there is a course or route mapped out and by making small course corrections periodically the destination will be reached in the end. But what if the destination is not planned? It is like planning a trip from New York to Chicago, every turn, eatery, hotel defined and reserved. Upon arriving, remember that the true destination is Los Angeles, then setting out without map, GPS or plan.

The five year plan was a great start, best that I have seen as a professional business coach. The plan would have been complete had it been a living plan. A living plan is one that has no expiration date, as one year is lived another is added on the far end keeping the ultimate destination in view. In this case, when year number one was close to completion a year six would have been planned. Each year as the results are reviewed, adjustments to the five year plan are made, always keeping a five year perspective. Adjustments can take into consideration changes in the market, competition, technology, pricing, economy, but ultimately adding a new last year to the plan.

Make planning a part of your routine, and compare results with the plan, by doing so you can objectively critique both the planning and the actions that produced the results. Most important, make sure your five year plan still has at least five future years.


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