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
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
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's 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
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't leave it too late to start.