Begin at the end

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Q. How would you prepare a strategic plan for younger owners who may have decades before exiting the business?

A. My first suggestion to any entrepreneur, whether currently in a business or contemplating a start-up is: Always begin with the end in mind. Regardless of your age, a clear end goal is a strategic necessity. Without it, the only advantage youth will provide is more time to wander.

For younger owners, a great approach is to start by asking two questions: “What is your ultimate exit goal for this business?” and  “What would you do next?” By building business goals around the greater perspectives of life, it is much easier to focus on what is important for the owner.

The “What do I do next?” question allows an owner to more easily develop an overall strategic business goal. For instance, if the goal is to buy a condo in South Carolina and golf every day for the next 30 years, a planner can easily lay out the necessary financial requirements.

Clarity of strategic business goals can sometimes be best developed by determining what someone wants to do after they are done running their business. Recognizing the cost of the dream can be just as powerful a focusing technique as any other business-planning exercise.

Outrageous goals are actually very appropriate for owners with longer-term investment horizons. These goals serve to stretch the imagination of an owner and encourage the development of a strategic plan complete with high priority tactics necessary to reach the objective.

Don Davis is an industry consultant who focuses on business and strategic planning, financial and operational management, and mentoring. He can be reached at