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Planning: Day 1

December 12, 2012 — 2 Comments

magnifyingglassLast week I invited a select group of business owners to my home for a time of teaching, planning, and goal setting for 2013.  This week I am taking some time to walk through this process with my own business; something I do three times each year (every 4 months).

Verne Harnish

Verne Harnish, in his book, Mastering the Rockerfeller Habits, writes about rhythm – one of the three success factors of business alongside priorities and data (access to key metrics he refers to as smart numbers and critical numbers).  The rhythm he speaks about is found in a series of meetings that happen daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly.

Steve Dulen

I recently heard a very successful business man (Steve Dulen) speak on taking sabbaticals.  He said, “I live from one sabbatical to another.”  His point wasn’t that he is just wasting his time waiting for the next one, but that his planning process if built around achieving goals that focus on the next 4 months, and then he’s off measuring and course correcting for the next 4 months.  I’ve done this now for two years and it has proven to be extremely beneficial.

Jack Welch

In Harnish’s book, he recommends following GE’s example of setting a far reaching goal, for instance 25 years out.  This is where you are headed long term (or what I refer to as your long term vision).  Once your vision is in place, you should then turn your attention to 90 days (1 Quarter). Harnish argues that, after 90 days, nothing really matters.  Focus on the short term, execute well, and then regroup for the next quarter.  At each point, make sure you know where you are, and where you need to go.

How My Version of  Rhythm Works

I have chosen to do this every 4 months, rather than 3, but the key here is rhythm.  By getting into a rhythm of every 4 months, I don’t have to think about when to do this.  The time is set, as is the process.  This week I will work through a process I’ve developed that includes reading, listening, reflecting, and brainstorming.  As I go along I am writing down goals and refining where I am headed over the next 4 months.  I’ll consider things that are working, and things that are not.  I’ll look at market conditions, the best use of my time, partners and employees, and key clients.  I also look at my person life, spiritual life, and every factor that affects the important areas of my life.  By establish in routine to work through as I go through the day, I end up using my time efficiently.  I may refine the process, but essentially its the same thing each time.   This cycle repeats as I work through questions I have, past goals I have set, and needs I have identified.  At the end of my planning period I will have refined my vision, set my goals, understood my metrics, and identified those things that need to change.  I will also be refreshed and  ready to take on the next 4 months.

What Does Your Process Look Like?

If you don’t have a process to plan your year, you need one.  Companies that plan well tend to outperform those that don’t.  My process will take me through to Friday – and after spending three solid days on planning and strategy, I should have a pretty clear picture of where to spend my next four months.  (Note: I do this out of the office to reduce disruptions – this also becomes a great time of rejuvenation).

© 2013, David Stelzl

In 1995 I was working with a small group of guys to establish a profitable, strategic business in systems integration, support, and services.  One of the most important investments we ever made became known as the Park Hotel meeting.  At the start of each quarter I set aside an entire day with my leadership team to work on the business (rather than in the business).  As the company grew, it became more and more difficult to set aside this time, but we did it anyway.  We set the date for our next meeting while in the current meeting, picking a date that worked for the group.  This date was written in stone – it was non-optional.  We talked about strategy, personnel, futures, profits, ideas, etc.  Things that would make our business not only work, but work well. Looking back, those four days were worth every minute.  We could bill or sell that day, however the plans we set in motion multiplied the profits of our company.

In 2003, when I started Stelzl Visionary Learning Concepts, the business I run now, I set out to do the same.  My leadership team is just my wife and I, and often I schedule my “Park Hotel Meeting” alone, yet it has the same result.  Fresh ideas, a broader view of where I am headed, and a rest from the daily grind.  This week I am doing something a bit more extravagant.  I’m spending not just one day, but 4.  No vmail, no email, just focused time…

If you’ve never done this sort of thing, I highly recommend it.  One of Rockefeller’s habits includes this sort of planning and strategy time.  In fact, many great leaders did this – why do we have such as hard time stopping our wood cutting to sharpen the saw?