Since it is now July 2009, it’s time to review your plans for this year and begin planning for 2010 and beyond. This will be a three part series of articles and is designed to stimulate thinking for management teams, and provide a few tools that should help the process.
For the last few weeks I have been writing about Market Diversification with an emphasis on developing practical strategies to grow profitably into new markets and find new customers. For further information on these articles, here’s a link to my Manufacturing Line Blog at AllBusiness.com, http://www.allbusiness.com/manufacturing-services/4967954-1.html.
Review Your Current State
The first step in developing a plan for 2010 and beyond is to honestly evaluate your business’s current performance versus the plan you developed for 2009. Even if your plan was only a loose one and you have no hard goals, objectives and targets identified, you still have expectations for the year. So sit back for an hour or so and review your performance for the first half of 2009 by asking the following questions:
- Have we achieved our sales targets?
- What have been the biggest successes with customers? What about the biggest disappointments?
- How have our best customers’ needs and desires changed?
- Have you hit your margin targets?
- If, like many manufacturers, sales and margins are flat, what have we done to change our short-term plans?
- Thinking beyond 2009, what do we hope to achieve in 2010 and beyond?
- Can we identify your three most important priorities for our business in 2010?
- What are we doing to develop your best, customer-facing employees and provide them new skills and knowledge?
Identify Three Priorities for the Rest of 2009
Simply answering these eight questions will provide a useful picture of your current state at mid year 2009. Thinking about the future, beyond the current struggling economy and difficult environment for most companies is critical as well. From past experience, we know that markets will begin to grow again, even the Automotive market will expand again, but it may take longer than some suppliers can afford.
That’s why it’s important to boil down your long to-do list for 2009 into the three most important priorities. By identifying this short list of priorities for the rest of the year you will have a much better chance of keeping your team focused on what must happen for your business to survive and begin to grow again. Some of the areas to consider when you are identifying these priorities, include:
- Look beyond the current crisis at markets and customers that are growing
- Improve your product and market mix
- Free up cash
- Reduce capacity
- Improve productivity for direct and indirect labor
- Reduce raw material costs
- Improve customer knowledge and sales / marketing processes to deliver more value to your best customers
- Find out who your Most Valuable Customers are and decide what you need to do for them to increase sales
Charlie Alter owns Bentbrook Advisors LLC based in Sylvania, Ohio. He specializes in Growth Strategy, Innovation and Coaching and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org visit http://bentbrookadvisors.com/ for more information on his business advisory practice.