Giving Yourself A Competitive Edge

When I was seventeen, I remember going to the “new” Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey when it opened in 1962. Many teenagers used to go there often – then and now. Today, I sit on one of the benches while my wife shops. I look for anyone passing by older than I am. I rarely see anyone. Time passes – and a lot faster than you might expect – so the time to act in improving your future is now, not later. Here’s some of what I’ve learned that I pass on to help you or to help your sons, daughters, or grandchildren:Focus and Specialize While having general knowledge in your field can be useful, today is the day of the specialist. Find what interests you and laser focus on it. It’s very easy to get distracted. I made a career of doing that: customer service manager, convenience store franchisee, Congressional campaign manager, real estate broker, NJ approved real estate school director and instructor, adjunct college professor at six colleges, full time business administration faculty at Atlantic-Cape, Stockton and Camden County College, and author of seven books. Not always unrelated, but certainly not as related and as focused as it could have been – and that has consequences.Sometimes not focusing won’t all be on you. Your job may force it on you. In law practices, attorneys can get pulled into a variety of different areas, making it more difficult to stay focused. That’s a situation not isolated to the practice of law either. While it may make focusing more difficult in these circumstances, try to identify what you want to focus on, then make any extra effort you can to do it. Time constraints can make this difficult, but otherwise the tail is going to keep wagging the dog. Just take as much control as you can to put the focus where you want it to be.While money shouldn’t be the focus of a successful life, it surely can be an important component of it. One of my high school classmates knew he wanted to be a pharmacist. He worked in a Gloucester City pharmacy while we were at Gloucester Catholic. He graduated, went to pharmacy school, and later became the Chief Pharmacist at one of Philadelphia’s leading hospitals. He knew early on – a big advantage – and he was focused. Even though he went ahead a few years ago, I still admire the focus he had. He also made about two and a half times more annually than I’m making now, near the end of my career. Obviously, his focus paid off.Another of our classmates was a student of “modest accomplishment”, like I was. We both would be the first to admit it. However, when he graduated he went to a fine college where he became highly motivated, subsequently went on to a lengthy post-graduate program and became a highly successful professional. It would be very safe to say he’s far exceeded the two and a half times figure above. He wasn’t focused early, any more than I was, but he surely turned that around – big time. He made the necessary changes. It made all the difference. So find something you can truly focus on, specialize as much as you are able to and go for it.Get An Advanced Degree and/or Certifications – Or Maybe You Don’t Even Have Your Bachelor’s Yet? If you’re talented, you may not have too much difficulty finding a good position. The question though is how far are you going to be able to go with it in the intermediate and long term?I tell my Management students that in order to get a job, they need to create significant differential advantages over other candidates to get hired. Just saying, “I’m Jack or Jill and I have a Bachelor’s degree” isn’t going to cut it. (Especially when over 35% of NJ adults already hold Bachelor’s degrees.) I recommend that they learn to speak other languages, maintain an exceptional GPA, take foreign study programs, experience foreign travel, take online courses for improved flexibility and time management, gain relevant experience in the field they are planning to enter, and build their contacts, especially in fields and organizations they aspire to. LinkedIn is designed to help do that, but professionals should become well-versed in all major social media, to facilitate properly promoting themselves and their organizations.


(But what if you don’t even have your Bachelor’s degree or training in a skill that’s in demand? Maybe you think there isn’t any rush. You’re wrong. There is. I told you already how fast time went for me – from seventeen to seventy-three in no time. It’s not going to go any slower for you. You’ll be forty before you know it! And how much extra income are you sacrificing every year by just working at odd jobs or in a job that’s taking you nowhere? Income that could make you more independent – instead of having to just slink through life depending on your parents or others. Everyone has a valuable talent in something. You do too. Get started and find out what it is and focus on it until you’ve started your own road to success. Make an appointment at a local community college’s Advising Office. Take an interest test and listen to the advice you get. There are many options for you. You might be a late starter, but you can still be a strong finisher!)For anyone who already has his/her Bachelor’s degree and a position, the same “distinguishing characteristics” logic above applies, except that you need to do some different things:Getting a Ph.D can be one of them. Opportunities for promotion, the ability to teach on the university level, to do research, to get published, and to have greater credence in your field are all benefits that can emanate from this. I wish someone had told me this a long time ago. Wait… Someone did. When I was in my thirties, I thought that just by being recognized as a highly rated teacher and writing books, it would make me a tenure candidate at a four year school. Someone even told me flat out, “You’ll never go anywhere in education without a doctorate.” But I knew more, of course, just like you might think you do now with the limited knowledge you have. I never got a doctorate. While I may not have ever been promoted beyond my current modest academic rank, I ensured it by not getting one. That could be you if you don’t do what you might need to do.This isn’t a gripe or crying over spilled milk. I made my choices. We’re bound by all the ones we made. After all, who was the one who was always there when the decisions were made?I’m very fortunate to have the position I have and I appreciate it. This is just an attempt to get you to think about your future and to do something about it now, not when you’re past fifty, when it might be too late to make a substantive difference. Many of my colleagues have gotten their doctorates, even in their fifties. I really applaud them for it. Better late than never. But I’m sure all of them would tell you, it would have been far better to have done it sooner than later.Obtaining a JD, a law degree, is another path. It is very true that even excellent law school graduates often have difficulty finding a position in the law, especially if they are seeking a position in private practice. However, a law degree can add prestige to a resume, and provide valuable legal, analytical and writing skills. It can also be a real plus when applying for a higher level position in your current field, or in another one. A law degree can be used in the military, business, human resources, educational administration, college teaching, and federal and state government administrative, research and analytical positions, among others.It is almost a knee-jerk reaction for business administration majors to go for an MBA as a higher degree. If I were in that position again, I would get a JD instead. It’s a doctorate. That enables the holder to teach at the university level. It is also a more prestigious degree. MBA’s might be able to teach as adjunct university instructors, but almost never as full time faculty.A “doctoral equivalent” for accounting majors, after a Master’s, can be to obtain a CPA. That is considered by a number of universities as the equivalent of a terminal degree in that field.Sometimes a Master’s may do the trick. It’s very important in fields such as physical therapy, speech therapy and nursing. Similarly in nursing, it can be very wise to obtain an advanced credential as a Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner. These are what I call “intermediate professional positions”, between being a nurse and a physician. They have a strong future. Analogous to this is becoming a Paralegal, between being an attorney and a legal secretary. Just ask yourself this. If you managed a law practice or a hospital and could hire two or three of these employees for what it would cost to hire one attorney or one physician – when they perform some of the same functions – what would you do? That’s why there is only going to be continued growth in these professions.One Master’s modification may be necessary when applying for an elementary or high school teaching position. It can often be better to get the job first with your Bachelor’s. Then after you get it, get your Master’s to make more money and have a more substantive professional credential, one that may also enable you to teach in a community college later. Normally, I would suggest getting a Master’s as soon as possible in any field, but school districts often don’t want to hire candidates with Master’s up front and strain their limited budgets. One caution: Some positions do require a Master’s to get hired, so check the job announcement carefully to determine if there is any such requirement.Other avenues for creating strong “differentials” include obtaining fellowships, judicial clerkships, Board Certifications in the medical field, and certifications in other fields, both professional and technical. There are hundreds of computer,manufacturing and technical certifications that can be investigated too. Speak to professors in respective academic departments to advise you. It can all help. They can give you an edge in hiring, promotion and salary improvement.Your competitors are going to have one or more of the above. You should think seriously about being more competitive yourself. Do what needs to be done. Not just what you feel like doing. Keep in mind that even successful people don’t want to do some of these things, but they do them anyway.One of my cousins, who is the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of well known national company, previously served as CEO there and at several other national corporations. This necessitated a number of moves to Baltimore, New England, Wisconsin, Canada and many other locations for decades, as well as his having to travel throughout the world frequently. He, and his wife, knew what these jobs entailed when he took them and did what had to be done – and they did it well. That’s why he’s successful. That might not be for you, but whatever you choose to do, you have to be prepared to get the job done, whether if it’s operating an auto body shop, running a restaurant, operating a heavy rental equipment business or running a funeral home.I’ve been a full time college professor for thirty-two years, an adjunct professor for seven years before that, and an approved real estate instructor for twenty years. I cost myself a great deal of money by not getting a law degree or Ph.D. as an educational credential. Probably at a minimum average of about $20,000 per year for thirty years – well over a half a million dollars. Do you want to lose that kind of money and lose the opportunities for promotions in your career because you lack the proper credentials? The same goes for more credence being given to much of what you might say or write. At my age, I’m not going to be making many changes. But it’s not too late for you.Make A Change If You Need To Its not uncommon today for workers to change positions a number of times and even career fields two or three times. This can be next to impossible for those who don’t have high level credentials and certifications. They give you flexibility. I can’t do much about that now, but you can. Please don’t think – “poor him”. Think instead “possibly poor me”, if I don’t do something about this while I’m still able to.Sometimes when progress is stymied in a particular organization, or in your field, because a promotional path seems likely to be blocked for a long time, or there is serious difference of opinion on organizational matters or a disconnect with personalities, it might be best to make a change. Speak with some reliable mentors to get the pros and cons of doing so. Sometimes making a change can lead you to where you would do a lot better. It can make all the difference.Finding True Happiness and Success My Management lecture and online courses are about 70% Management and about 30% self-help in finding happiness and personal success. “Self-Management” is a necessary prerequisite to being a good manager in any field. And all fields, not just business, require management. It would benefit any student to take a Principles of Management course. I offer it, principally online. Anyone from anywhere in the world can take it through Camden County College, registering through CamdenCC.edu WebAdvisor, or through the College’s Registrar’s Office.


Success is something you need to define for yourself – and it’s not just about money. That’s one thing positive psychologists agree on.I read a superior post on LinkedIn about a grade school teacher who sent home a message to Thomas Edison’s mother about him. His wise mother took a very negative portrayal and turned it into encouragement that produced a genius. I commented on it:”This is an outstanding short – with a huge message. What people say to someone can provide the encouragement to discovery and success. Similarly, how many of you have heard of someone being told, “You’re not college material.” Perhaps sometimes they were right. But what about all those who got discouraged because some supposedly knowledgeable, but not too prescience or tactful “superior”, defined for them what was going to be possible in their life. Believe in yourself and possibilities. Thomas Edison’s mother did. It worked out well for him – and the rest of us too.”We can all be Edisons in our own special way. Start building bridges to your own potential – no matter how old you are or what your station in life is now. George Bernard Shaw was asked near the end of his life, “Who would you have chosen to be if you could have been anyone else. He said, “I would be the man George Bernard Shaw could have been, but never was.” It is never too late for you to become that person.That’s the version of yourself you should strive for every day, so you have fewer regrets at the end.”Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been” – Rudyard Kipling. Now’s the time.Need motivation yourself? Visit my extensive “Happiness and Success ” website at Camden County College. It will encourage you and it will help you:Finding Happiness and Well-Being, Success, Motivation, Innovation, Reinvention and Becoming A Better You It’s not just for college students. It’s for anyone of any age and any occupation or profession seeking real gratification, peace and contentment in their lives.I guarantee that it will improve perspective for anyone who takes the time to read the over one hundred and ten positive psychology and self-help topics it contains. Read a few each day or at night before going to bed. I would encourage any employers to point their employees toward taking a look at it or to use the topical summaries in their own professional development courses. It’s the type of material that Chief Happiness Officers (CHO) would use. The website log-in appears below:Happiness and Success Course Log-in:- Go to: ccc.webstudy.com- User Name: happiness- Password: success- Click Happiness, Success and Motivation Course- Then “Timeline” on left- Then “Expand All” at the top- and You’re In! Scroll down to view the fifteen website segments and the many readings that can be clicked on, including two of my books. One is Your Unfinished Life. If you’re still breathing, you have one.You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be successful. Just pay better attention to some of the good advice you might be getting – and choosing to ignore. Far better to ignore those who tell you that you don’t have the right stuff. Be the best of what you are capable of becoming. Don’t sit rocking in a chair on a porch someday far in the future with regrets about what you could have done. Do something about it now.

Better Planning

Better planning. It is often said if work is not ready in time. It is also seen as a solution for organizations to increase efficiency or a better service. It is all true and can thus be saved much money. If this money for the picking, why do we still not done?

Effective planning in practice is not so easy. Understanding the different types of planning is a first step. As is known in which a planning organization desired, then a road to be made to such a plan to come.

Planning is receiving attention. It has worked there since organizations. Yet planning is not an area where organizations always successful.

The constantly changing circumstances, think of changing availability of staff. The standard 40 hours for all is long past time. There are unexpected events. Suddenly there is additional demand in the market, etcetera. Despite the continuously changing circumstances is necessary for efficient operation. The competition is not that extra space (eg in the form of additional people) in an organization is to smooth out the changes.

There is still debate whether there are as many as possible should be centrally or planned. Central planning makes it much easier for all resources as efficiently as possible way. Decentralized planning produces the advantage that the local changes can easily be played, partly because the planner knows the people who planned and are thus relatively easy to bear in mind such as someone once one hours is not available.

The timeliness of planning will include illustrated by a recent article in a magazine automation, which by KPMG introducing a central planning as one of the solutions put forward for redundancies to prevent secondment providing ICT.

What little is written about the people who planned to carry. Rarely is the question whether the documents the employee as it likes to bring the project to which he is assigned. Of course there will a planner in practice into account. If this happens do not explicitly adopt or unconsciously. This may be the main reason why in practice there are many decentralized planning.

To clarify how an organization can better pick up the schedule, we first distinguish the following planning concepts.

-Agenda Planning

-Planning Tasks

-Project

-Planning Agenda

-As the name implies, is planning agenda only to establish a planning agenda of the different resources to come. This could mean hourly, half day or a fixed time each day in the calendar is planned. This situation occurs frequently in field personnel or resources for an organization that posting a few days or weeks makes available to its customers. Also in the planning in a call center is often referred to agenda planning. See also the article: Scheduling Optimization for Call Center

Planning Tasks

In planning tasks are tasks in the various resources planned. A task is an activity that after a certain date should start before a certain date and should be ready. The task is how long it must be taken to implement this. Accounting firms and advertising agencies work with many planning tasks. The professional knows that in a given week 5 to 6 hours per job tasks spend, but he himself can fill in what order the tasks it handles. The worker will not be told where exactly where he needs to work. As it is known when it is off than he himself would appreciate the week to complete.

Project

Is often thought to project when discussing planning. When planning a project involves the planning of several interdependent tasks. Construction projects are a good example. In one building, the foundation can be ready before the start of the masonry walls. The development of software is a good example of a project that requires project.

When planning a focus in the organization, it is prudent to first determine what type of planning is involved. Is there planning calendar, task and project planning. Sometimes, there are several species in a planning organization. It is advisable to first look into the planning issues, which are predominant in the organization.

Existing planning rules

Any exceptions must be made on what the planning rules is created. This has two advantages. It is clear that the planning rules and those rules need to be evaluated and which were probably useful in the past but not now, or how certain rules otherwise be filled. It is through critical to the planning rules used to look and not too quick to accept that a rule is still relevant today, may be more flexibility in the creation of the plan are achieved. This increased flexibility often leads to cost savings. In a service environment, eg the rule that in 95% of reports within 3 hours after the reported failure of the service technician must be present. If this rule is replaced by 95% of reports in the interference within 8 hours after the notification must be resolved, give the organization more flexibility and gives the customer that what is really important to her.

Central or decentralized planning

It should also be given to whether centrally or will be scheduled. If manual is planned, there is often much to be said for a decentralized planning to make. In a little volume it is not central to overlook. If automation can be planned it is easier to central planning. However it is important that the various departments can exert influence on how the schedule is created.

Specialties

The peculiarities should properly be identified.

The desired capacity is every first Monday of the month 30% higher on January 1 and 60 resources are needed. The details of the various resources must be known. The one the other works 36 hours every 2nd Friday of the month only in the morning until 11 hours et cetera.

Employees hold in general if not on them when they decided to have no effect. Furthermore, it also possible that a section on special circumstances at issue. This should be factored in or planning.

Inventory

What are the unforeseen circumstances that may arise? What is the priority when it comes to? Who decides this? How can we determine whether, based on the experience gained in the past, take account of unforeseen circumstances in the future? Ad hoc solutions have always possible, but just a good inventory of the expected “unexpected situations”, the number of ad hoc solutions are limited. This is an important aspect, because practice shows that many developed planning systems failed, precisely because of unexpected circumstances often ad hoc solutions are chosen so that it seems more the rule than the exception.

Culture

Around the planning process there is often a culture. By force of habit is already planning a certain way. The way the plans are made is often a process of evaluation of years. It requires courage of the people here to open fully candid and critical look at. Therefore it is important that this happens in a constructive and open atmosphere.

If all the above aspects are examined, can be examined whether and how the planning process can be automated support. Often there may soon be offered to help the planner. This could for example the use of Excel or a comprehensive planning package. The proposed plan will always be judged by the planner and still be adjusted before the final planning.

The rules for the different schedules used, strongly determine the final schedule. This in turn determines to a large extent the costs are made in the organization and the quality of the services provided. Consider this in all circumstances or based on minimal cost should be scheduled as long as the minimum quality requirements or that there are strategic projects to naming, where even at maximum quality must be planned. Although planning in the final form a strong operational process, regular involvement of management is still required, because the planning rules used to continuous change.

Planning is important in organizations, but is often a difficult process. A process that is time consuming, not always with conclusive results. By identifying what type of planning situations exist, create better understanding of the possibilities. By then the clear and critical process inventory, creates a picture of what the organization. Precisely by existing rules into question could possibly be playing much. If the rules are known which will be scheduled, look how the process can be automated can be supported. This can save time for the planner and lead in complex situations to ensure better planning, because in a short time, the various alternatives can be calculated.

Four Reasons Why Small Business Fail To Plan and Why They Need To Think Again

It is so widely acknowledged that a robust business plan is one of the key ingredients in small business success, it seems remarkable that anyone serious about their business could considerable it optional. For example, Business Link say, “It is essential to have a realistic, working business plan when you’re starting up a business”. A recent survey showed that small businesses were twice as likely to be successful with a written business plan as compared with those without one. The Times in their annual round up of 100 up and coming UK businesses suggest that “poor business planning” is a key reason for failure. Indeed, it’s almost impossible to find an authority that would advocate the opposite idea, a clear signal that this idea is accepted wisdom. Despite this, a recent survey shows that two thirds of small business owners run their businesses on gut instinct alone.

I had a very interesting discussion about this a couple of days ago with a good friend of mine who has run several successful small businesses in which he posited the idea of a “planning gene”. He felt that the only possible explanation for the lack of proper planning in small business was genetic.

According to his theory, the majority of people are born without the “planning gene” and this explains why so many people don’t have any written business plan, despite the overwhelming evidence of a high correlation between a robust and vigorously implemented business plan and business success. The majority of us are simply not biologically and genetically wired to plan.

This is certainly one explanation, although I have to say I have a few reservations as to the validity of his theory. I talk with small business owners about planning every day. I’m part of a small business myself. I’ve owned several small businesses over the last ten years each with varying degrees of success. In all those conversations and all that experience, this was the first (semi) serious discussion I’d had about the planning gene.

If I was to aggregate the results of the conversations I have had with actual and prospective customers on this topic, four distinctive strands emerge explaining why small business owners fail to plan. Whilst I have heard a few other explanations for the lack of effective small business planning, I am treating these as outliers and focusing on the most significant.

I’m Too Busy To Plan – More often than not, the small business owners we talk to tell us that proper planning is a luxury that only big business can afford. For them, business planning, if done at all, was a one-time event that produced a document for a bank manager or investor which is now gathering dust in the furthest recesses of some rarely opened filing cabinet. There just aren’t enough hours in the day and if forced to choose, they would do the real, physical work and leave the mental work undone, which seems to be the poor relation at best, if it is even dignified with the status of work at all.

Traditional Planning Doesn’t Work – The “I’m too busy to plan” excuse is often supplemented with this one. I’ve heard the stories of the most legendary construction overrun of all time, The Sydney Opera House, originally estimated to be completed in 1963 for $7 million, and finally completed in 1973 for $102 million, more times than I can remember. Sometimes, this idea is backed up with some actual research, such as the fascinating study by several eminent psychologists of what has been called the “planning fallacy”. It seems that some small business owners genuinely believe that mental work and planning is a bit of a con with no traction on physical reality.

My Business Is Doing Fine Without Detailed Planning – A minority of small business owners we speak to are in the privileged position of being able to say they’ve done pretty well without a plan. Why should they invest time and resources into something they don’t appear to have missed?

Planning Is Futile In A Chaotic World – Every once in a while, we hear how deluded we are to believe that the world can be shaped by our hopes and actions. This philosophical objection to planning is perhaps my favourite. It takes ammunition from a serious debate about the fundamental nature of the universe and uses it to defend what almost always is either uncertainty about how to plan effectively or simple pessimism. This is different from the idea that planning doesn’t work as these business owners have never even tried to form a coherent plan, but have just decided to do the best they can and hope that they get lucky as they are knocked hither and thither like a steel ball in the pinball machine of life.

As with all of the most dangerous excuses, there is a kernel of truth in each of these ideas and I sympathise with those who have allowed themselves to be seduced into either abandoning or failing to adopt the habit of business planning. Most small business owners feel the same dread in relation to business planning as they do to visits to the dentist, so it’s unsurprising that so many simply don’t bother. However, by turning their backs completely on planning, they are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Taking each idea outlined above in turn, I’ll attempt to show why business planning is critical, not just despite that reason but precisely because of that reason.

I’m Too Busy Not To Plan – Time is the scarcest resource we have and it is natural that we would want to spend it doing those things that we believe will have the greatest impact. Of course, we want to spend most of our time producing, but we should also invest at least some time into developing our productive capacity. As Stephen Covey pointed out in his seminal work, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, we should never be too busy sawing to sharpen a blunted saw. Planning is one of the highest leverage activities we can engage in, as when done effectively it enhances the productive capacity of small businesses, enabling them to do more with less. Nothing could be a bigger waste of precious time than to find out too late that we have been using blunt tools in pursuit of our business goals.

If we as small business owners weren’t so busy and time wasn’t so scarce, then we wouldn’t have to make choices about what we did with our time and resources. We could simply pursue every opportunity which presented itself. However, for the busy entrepreneur, the decision to do one thing always has the opportunity cost of not being able to do something else. How can we be certain that our business is going where we want it to go without pausing regularly, scanning the horizon and making sure not only that we are on track but also making sure that we still want to get to where we are heading? I believe more time is wasted in the single-minded pursuit of opportunities that are not right than is wasted by over thinking the opportunity of a lifetime.

In short, small business owners are extremely busy and their time is precious. So much so that to waste it doing the wrong things with the wrong tools would be tragic. Small business owners that cannot afford the luxury of making expensive mistakes simply must regularly sharpen the saw through continuous business planning.

Traditional Planning Doesn’t Work, So We Need a New Approach That Does – There are some fairly large question marks over the effectiveness of traditional business planning techniques. In an age where business models are becoming obsolete in months rather than years, a business plan projecting five years into the future cannot be viewed as gospel. Nobody has a crystal ball and if they did, they probably wouldn’t be writing business plans but using their remarkable predictive powers to some more profitable end.

Dwight D Eisenhower said “plans are useless, but planning is essential”. Whilst producing a document called a business plan is far from useless, the real value lies in the process by which the plan is created in the first place. If this process can be kept alive in a business then the dangers associated with traditional planning can be minimised or avoided all together. In an environment of continuous business planning, small businesses can be flexible and adaptive to the inevitable changes and challenges they will face. Rather than quickly becoming obsolete, their plan will simply evolve with the changing circumstances.

Accepting that the plan is a living thing that will evolve necessitates a change of approach to business planning. An effective business plan is the response to the repeated asking of the questions what, why, how, who and how much. It is not a 20 – 30 page form to fill in for the benefit of a bank manager or some venture capitalist, who will probably never fully read it. A business plan should help you, not hinder you, in doing business. If traditional business planning doesn’t work for you, it’s time to embrace the new paradigm of continuous business planning.

My Business Could Do Even Better With Effective Planning – If you are one of the lucky few whose business has thrived despite an absence of traditional business planning, then I say a sincere well done. I hope that you can say the same thing in five years time.

Business life expectancy in Britain and across Europe and indeed the world are in rapid decline. A study done at the end of the eighties and then again as we marched into the new Millennium showed that life expectancy had more than halved for British businesses in those ten years, from an average of 9.7 years to 4.1 years. Just because a company once enjoyed market leadership does not mean that its future is assured. Many high street institutions have fallen victim to the recent recession. Five years ago it was inconceivable that UK retail institutions like Clinton Cards, Game, Borders, Barratts, T J Hughes, Habitat, Focus DIY, Oddbins, Ethel Austin, Principles, Allied Carpets, Woolworths, MFI and Zavvi/Virgin Megastore would all be either out of business or teetering on the brink of oblivion in 2012. Yet that is exactly what has transpired.

Any business from the smallest to the greatest is not impervious to the winds of change. A new competitor, a technological breakthrough, new laws or simply changes in fashion and consumer preference can all re-write the future of a company regardless of how bright that future once seemed. It is precisely because these risks exist that business planning is critical. To survive in business is extremely hard, but failing to effectively plan for the future or adapt to current realities surely makes it impossible and failure inevitable.

Of course, it is not necessarily the absence of plans that did for these companies but the quality of their plans and most especially the quality of their implementation. Even a poor plan vigorously executed is preferable to the finest planning and research left to rot in a drawer. Continuous business planning is effective business planning because it emphasizes implementation and regular reviews of real results as part of what should be a continual process of improving company performance rather than simply attempting to predict the future and wringing our hands when our prophecy fails to come true. We believe, like Peter Drucker, that the best way to predict the future is to create it.

Planning Is Essential In A Chaotic World – We sometimes feel small and insignificant as we try against all odds to translate our dreams into business reality. It’s easy to feel all at sea when we consider some of the challenges we face. However, whilst it is true that we cannot control the direction of the wind, we can adjust our sails and change the direction of the rudder. Difficult and challenging circumstances may come in our lives, but we can control the outcome of these circumstances by choosing which path to take.

The truth is that we are fundamentally achievement orientated as human beings. When this is taken away, we lose much of the energy and motivation that propels us forward. There have been numerous studies carried out on life expectancy rates after retirement, which show that when clearly defined goals and daily action moving in the direction of those goals are removed from our lives, the result is literally fatal. The individuals studied who failed to replace their career goals with a new focus for their retirement simply shriveled up and died. The implications for small business owners are clear. Those business owners with clear goals who take action daily that propels them in the direction of their goals are far more likely to thrive and survive than those who take any old goal that comes along or move from day to day with no defined objective other than survival.

It seems to me that precisely because life is so chaotic and challenging that effective planning is essential. Without continuous business planning, our businesses and the small business owners that work in them may find that bit by bit they are atrophying and on their way to becoming another business failure statistic.

There undoubtedly exists an antipathy for business planning felt by many small business owners. Clearly, this cannot be fully explained by the lack of a “planning gene”, but it equally cannot be fully justified by the reasons most commonly put forward by small business owners to not engage in the business planning process. These reasons must be critically re-evaluated and a commitment made to a continual and never ending process of improving the condition of their small businesses. Without such a commitment, the future for small businesses in the UK is uncertain.