“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” -Dwight D. Eisenhower

For many of us, allocating time to plan becomes a significant challenge of priorities. Do we work on the urgent or the important today? Frequently, this becomes the question of the day. In most cases, if we are not thoughtful about it, the urgent can take precedence, can’t it? Here at the UGA SBDC, we believe that the ability of a company to grow long term in today’s economic environment, and to plan for those unexpected emergencies, requires the company leadership to think strategically, to work not only ‘in’ their business but more importantly to work ‘on’ their business. How do you do what you do in your business? Many times the leadership knows the plan, but is it duplicable? If it is not, how do you take it from its current state to a place where you can sit someone down, provide them a copy of the operating systems, the processes, procedures, and the continuity plan and show them what to do and how to do it and they can take it from there? How do you create an environment where the work of the business no longer depends on whether you, as the owner, are present?

Working on your business could be thought of as the work that goes into building, clarifying and writing the processes, systems and plans that operate your business. We believe that you, as a business owner, need to take some time to think through the issues you are currently facing and the issues that you might face in the next couple of years and begin to plan how you are going to handle them. As Eisenhower alluded to, though, it is not necessarily the plan that is of value but the planning process that truly creates the return on the time investment. Questions you had not considered become the idea generators for new solutions. Without the planning process, though, these questions would not have arisen. You must immerse yourself in the planning process and have an environment conducive to growing those questions in order to find the ones of most value. Then, you must test your written processes, procedures and emergency plans to see if what is on paper translates accurately to actual operations.

Our goal here at the UGA SBDC is to provide you a safe and idea-rich environment where you will be able to share with others the lessons you have learned about running your business and, at the same time, introduce yourself to new and innovative ideas that will help you as a person grow and strengthen your ability to lead those within your business. We have created the GrowSmart program to provide structure to the strategic planning process. While within this ten module course over eight to ten weeks, you learn from fellow participants how they deal with similar issues in their business. You hear from speakers that relate the stories of their growth and how they overcame the challenges of building their businesses to the next level. You gain insight from professionals that are brought in to speak to participants about their particular area of specialty, whether they are from an accounting, legal, marketing or other professional disciplines. Our objective is to challenge you to think, to think about the challenges and opportunities you have before you in building your business and how you will realistically deal with a major (or minor) event affecting the continuity of your business… Maybe to ask some different questions or, perhaps, to find some different answers.

This reminds me of a story I heard once, about how a graduate assistant once asked Einstein what test questions he was going to use on an upcoming test. Einstein answered, “Just use this set of questions” and Einstein hands him over some papers. The grad student reviews them and responds, “But, Sir, these are the same questions that we asked last week.” And Einstein responded, “Ah, yes, but the answers are different this week”. What answers might be different to the questions you are asking yourself now?

(Source: Mark Lupo, Area Director, UGA SBDC in Columbus)