Part I “Visioning”
It’s often been said in one fashion or another that “if you are failing to plan, then you are planning to fail”. None of us like the idea of failing at something we set out to achieve, and only a select few can afford to financially fail in a business enterprise. Whether we are starting a new business from scratch or simply embarking on a new year, it is wise to look out from where we currently stand and create, as best we can, a vision of where we want to be and a plan for just how we intend to get there. In this five part series, I will review the basic components of the type of business plan that we recommend for our clients.
I. Start with a Vision:
A vision statement, a mission statement and a set of goals and objectives are all part of this vital component of the plan. Though at first glance, they may all seem the same, there are some distinct differences and each requires serious and thoughtful consideration. Contained within them are the long and short term hopes and dreams of each individual with a vested interest in the business. Also included are the nuts and bolts of the operation that serve as a compass, guiding the business to a successful outcome.
Working against the development of this portion of a business plan in the agricultural industry is a whole laundry list of excuses. “Well we can’t do anything about the markets”, “There is nothing we can do about the weather”, “The costs of inputs are out of our control”, “That’s the way we’ve always done it”, “That just won’t work here” and on and on. In spite of these difficulties or perhaps because of them, planning is critical.
The importance of this component cannot be over emphasized. Nor can the importance of including all the affected parties. On a family ranch, the parents, the on-ranch children, the off-ranch children and any long term critical employees should be included. On a company-owned ranch, the stockholders, investors and all levels of management must be present. It is counterproductive to develop a vision that is inconsistent with anyone involved and it will inherently set the business up to fail.
Given the value of this portion of the operational plan, adequate time and resources must be allocated to do it justice. Don’t try to cram it into a regular weekly staff meeting or hammer it out over coffee and desert after Sunday dinner. It is our recommendation that everyone be given adequate notice and information to prepare for the meeting, that prime time be specifically set aside for the purpose at hand and that if at all possible, an independent, third party facilitator be arranged to conduct the meeting and keep it on track. Experienced facilitators will understand the distinctions between the vision, mission and goals and objectives and will assure that they are understandable, achievable and measurable.
If the decision is made to conduct these meetings without the use of a facilitator, it is critical to do the necessary homework to understand the process and the most effective means to achieving the desired result. Brainstorming, open dialogue, and creativity should be part of the process. You will find that two shorter meetings will be better than one marathon session. If this portion of the business plan is not taken seriously, then the remainder of the plan is in jeopardy. The first attempt may seem awkward, uncomfortable and a waste of valuable time. However, if properly prepared and executed, subsequent refinements of this portion of the plan will come easily. In the end, a well executed visioning session will serve as a solid base for the compass pointing toward success.