The Game Plan – The Difference Between Small Business Success and Failure

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The Game Plan – the Difference Between Small Business
Success and Failure

It is an American dream to own a business. But sadly,Guest Posting
according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, only 1 in 5
businesses is still in business 5 years after it opens.

A business needs a great business plan, but it doesn’t give
management enough information to have a successful,
profitable business. You dramatically increase your chance
of success with a game plan. According to a
PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey, over half of the fastest
growing firms not only have business plans, but also have
separate game plans to keep them focused on what must be
done day to day.

A business plan gets you in the game. A game plan keeps you
in the game. To use the sports analogy, it’s easy to see how
you are going to win the game in from the locker room. Most
businesses don’t have a working plan that takes into account
what actually happens on the field once play starts.

A business plan is a sales brochure and a game plan is an
instruction manual. You send a business plan to potential
investors and others to excite them about the business. A
business plan is about strategy. You create a business plan
at a management meeting. A game plan is about tactics and is
created by and for the people on the front lines. A game
plan talks openly about the good, the bad, and the ugly in
the business and is used by people in the business to make
decisions every day. It talks about what to do in a crisis.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

The CEO takes a look at his balance sheet and decides that
his company has too much of its cash tied up in inventory,
so he gets his managers together and creates a new corporate
objective for the year – to reduce inventory by 25%. If they
do that they will all be entitled to a bonus. The managers
aren’t stupid – they know the only way to reduce inventory
is to sell what they can and not replace it. So they put on
a special promotion for their hottest selling items, they
reduce the inventory of those to almost nothing, and they
get their bonus. But what has really happened here. The
CEO’s company is now left with the inventory of the items
that weren’t selling, and they don’t have adequate inventory
of their best selling items. The CEO didn’t really lead, the
employees cared more about their bonuses than doing what was
right for the company, and there wasn’t a plan of action
that was tied into a meaningful company objective.

A game plan focuses on these things: creating big goals that
matter, giving individual employees responsibility to carry
out their portion of those goals, creating a budget and a
reward system that supports the goals, and tools to allow
employees to measure their own progress.

Steps in the Game Plan Process

The game plan requires a series of steps, beginning with the
CEO getting in touch with his or her desires for the
business. Then, the management team must delve into what is
real for the business today – understanding the business
model (how the company makes money), having a handle on what
is happening in the market, and finally, knowing what is
happening in the company culture. With all this background
work done, the actual creation of the game plan begins. At
best, it is a facilitated process of discussions matching
what is real today with what is possible tomorrow, in the
long run and in the short run.

A game plan only looks out a year at most, but within the
context of a much longer period of time. The company might
decide where they want to be in five years – the game plan
is just the next series of steps toward that longer-term
goal. There is no point in setting objectives for which
there aren’t adequate resources, so objectives and budget
are discussed in tandem. Another challenge of the game
planning process is to define success for each objective and
decide how it will be measured.

This is a time for healthy argument as sales wants more
resources to increase revenue, product development wants
more of the objectives to be toward R&D for the company’s
future, and the operations manager wants more staff to
improve quality. This is also the time for managers to
consider the implications for all the decisions. And it is
the time for the CEO to create a connection between the
objectives and each of the managers so that there is
personal commitment to the success of the company. If
managers are not committed, they will never be able to
expect commitment from other employees.

Turning Objectives Into Actions

When the company objectives and budget are ironed out, about
half the work is done. A second series of steps takes the
objectives set at a corporate level, and creates specific
action items for each employee that support the department
and then company objectives. Just as the CEO and the
managers hashed out the process of give and take between
what is today and where they would like to be tomorrow, each
manager must go through the same process with the
departments’ employees. Each employee must have a series of
actions, but most importantly, each employee should know
where they stand at any time they wish to check.

For instance, if the objectives for a customer service
employee are to keep call length to an average of 2 minutes,
have sales of an average of $50 per customer who calls, and
to return all calls within 24 hours, then you want that
employee to be able to find the measurements for those
objectives as often as he or she wishes. The goal is for the
employee to have access to just as much information about
his or her performance as the manager. An employee who can
assess his or her own progress real-time will correct
performance deficiencies without a manager’s insistence.

The Plan Isn’t a Secret

The final piece is constant communication about the plan and
the company’s progress to the employees. The game plan is
not only communicated initially, it must be kept alive
throughout the year with meetings focused on measuring
progress toward the goals. Successes should be celebrated

In my own company, we used something we called a Game Plan
Circle to illustrate our plan each year. It was a six-foot
circle with our vision in the middle that radiated out to
cover company objectives, department and individual
objectives. It served as a visual we could refer to in
meetings to keep us on track.

The Bottom Line

Don’t let your business become another failure statistic. A
business plan is a great first step in starting or
fundamentally changing a business. The next step is a game
plan – a translation of that business plan to each
employee’s actions every day.