Every business consultant worth his salt will tell you to start your planning with the end in mind. (See Chris Brogan) “The easiest way to solve a maze,” they say, “is to start at the end.” Truer words were never spoken, but why is it so few people actually start at the end and map their way back to the beginning? Why, because it requires imagining every possible scenario from then until now. Too complicated / time-consuming for most to do. Everyone starts with good intentions, but the shear breadth of what they would have to do is too daunting.
Here is a way to break down this task, and actually have a chance at completing the most important phase of it. No matter what you end goal is (market share; revenue; growth percentage; etc.) there are nine areas that you have to clearly picture to achieve your end game:
- Customers – who are they, how many of them do you need, where are they, how do you segment them, how profitable are they, what’s your average revenue per customer?
- Sales Force – who are they, how many of them do you need, where are they, how are they structured, what’s their average sales per person, what role does online sales provide, what are your anticipated online revenues, what channels are used for online sales?
- Marketing Communications – What channels of communication are most effective in reaching those customers, who is creating your messages, what are the key messages you send, how many customers should receive your messages?
- Branding – What are your brand promises, what is your value proposition, who owns branding at your company, what are the brand extensions you utilize?
- Customer Service – who are your service personnel, how many of them do you need, where are they, how are they structured?
- Operations – Who are your suppliers, how is your product or service produced, how is it distributed, what are the timing parameters for distribution, what is your backup system?
- Accounting – What method(s) of pricing do you use, what are your payment terms, who does your accounting, to what information do you need time-sensitive access, who does your collection, how do you bring customers and vendors on board?
- Legal – Who provides legal guidance, who are your go-to attorneys for problems, what are the requirements and restrictions under which you operate/sell?
- Administration – How is the company structured, who owns the previously discussed functions, how does the company compensate the organization?
Now that you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to march back to the beginning. The easiest route is to clearly picture the environment you’ve created with those answers, and decide how you will go about creating that environment from your starting point. It’s not exactly what the consultants had in mind, but it takes the best part of what they suggest, and gives you a less challenging way to get there.