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A plan for all reasons

Despite the challenges that have been posed over the years, IFAs have

survived in the main. That said, past performance is no guide to the future

and, while I expect IFAs to prosper post-stakeholder, many will need to

reconsider their business strategies. Planning for the future may have to

be more thorough than may have been the case in the past.

If you are unconvinced of the benefits of devoting valuable time and

resources to formally planning for the future of your business, let me put

the arguments in favour and provide you with some practical help in

developing your plan.

Dwight D Eisenhower once said: “Plans are nothing, planning is everything.”

The best plan in the world in itself does not add a penny to profit or a

penny of revenue to your organisation. So why bother? Well, a good plan

can:

Help establish priorities. If you have a clear vision of where you want to

be, you can more easily work out what are the really important things you

need to do to achieve your aim.

Act as a barometer to check progress. There is a saying: “What gets

measured, gets done.” A properly constructed plan will allow you to check

periodically where you are and take corrective action if necessary.

Provide a framework to evaluate new ideas. There are 1,001 opportunities

open to any business at any time. Unless you have some kind of framework

within which to evaluate new ideas, you may get led up all sorts of blind

alleys. That, in turn, means you may not make the best of your resources

and talents.

Stop everyone doing their own thing. If the plan is properly communicated

and all the key people have contributed and are committed to it, you have a

shared vision of the future. That means everyone pulls in the same

direction to achieve the same goals.

Those are some of the more formal reasons for developing a plan.

Informally, when I talk to people about why they spend time planning, they

often say things like they feel more confident about their ability to cope

with the future or they feel more professional because they have a formal

structure within which to develop their business and that makes them feel

better within themselves.

They know what their ambitions are and they know how they are going to

achieve them. It makes them concentrate on the right things, not just doing

the wrong things more efficiently. It introduces a discipline and a focus

to their operations. They then have answers to questions like: “What are we

trying to do?”, “What are we trying to become?” and “What do we need to

change to become that vision?”

Of course, some people will tell you that planning is a complete waste of

time. In my experience, people fall into this camp for two reasons. First,

they get caught in what I call the vicious circle of planning. Because they

do not believe in planning, when they are asked to contribute to planning

process each year they pay lip service to the exercise and do not do the

job properly. As a result, the work they do is superficial which means that

the plan is based on inaccuracies or is simply unrealistic. As a result, no

one buys into it.

With no commitment to the plan, not surprisingly, it fails. This, in turn,

reinforces the manager&#39s view that he was right all along – planning is a

waste of time. It is a vicious circle, which companies have to break out

from if planning is to be meaningful and worthwhile.

The second problem with planning is that, in some companies, planning is

left to the planners. One of the golden rules of planning is that a plan

should never be prepared by one group of people to be carried out by

another.

There are a number of reasons for this. The people responsible for the

plan, while having many skills, may not have the most experience in the

business – an essential input to the process. In addition, it is not just

the one area that is responsible for delivering the plan, it is the whole

organisation and, therefore, each area of the organisation should feel a

sense of ownership. In short, the people responsible for implementing the

plan should be the people responsible for developing it.

Effective planning can help identify the most profitable opportunities and

give the business a sense of direction. Don&#39t leave it too late to start.

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