Planning for Success

A consultant that helped one shop improve quote-capture rate by more than 50 percent offers his take on what makes a business plan successful.

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Mold Craft co-owners Justin McPhee (left) and Tim Bartz say getting off the shop floor and working on the company’s overall vision is critical to ensuring a sustainable future.

In this space last week, I touched on something many of shops I’ve written about have in common: they know what they do best, and they direct their resources accordingly. The clearest and most recent example is Mold Craft, a shop that took a formal approach by enlisting the help of an outside consultant, Ted Capistrant of Profit Builder Network (PBN), to help codify its plans and aspirations in writing. As a result of the shop's business-planning process, quote-capture rate and on-time delivery rates have substantially improved.

Read the full story in this article. In the meantime, here are some thoughts from that Capistrant on factors that make any business plan successful:

Keep it simple. Planning and tracking goals can be complicated, but at Mold Craft (and Capistrant’s other clients), the “master plan” fits on a single page. “It’s gotta be read and understood by anybody in five minutes or less, or it won’t be read at all,” he says. He adds that in that five minutes, the reader should be able to answer five key questions: 1) Why does this entity exist? 2) What are our specific goals in the short and long term? 3) How are we going to meet those goals? 4) Is it really happening (i.e., how are we testing and measuring results)? 5) When will we complete critical initiatives, resolve issues, or meet milestones?

Get everyone to buy in. The system in place at Mold Craft relies on “subplans” that cascade goals outlined on the master plan through individual departments, while regular meetings keep everyone informed of what’s going on. Regardless of how it’s done, the key is to fully engage the people who will actually be executing the goals you’ve outlined. They need to understand what needs to be done and why.

Stay active. The business plan should be a living document that’s revisited and updated regularly. This is one reason why PBN’s “Tracking Action” web utility, which is designed to ease the storage and tracking of key metrics and other information that goes along with a plan, doesn’t automatically pull relevant information from outside ERP or other management software. In part, that’s because the process of actually entering information forces focus on the plan. “People are allergic to accountability,” he says.

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Even if a shop isn’t in a position to hire an outside consultant, Capistrant recommends reading up on business planning. He cites the following books as particularly good resources: The One-Page Business Plan by Jim Horan; The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling; and The Balanced Scorecard by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton.

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