“A goal without a plan is just a wish”
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
Sometimes, I have to ponder awhile before I know what Commercial Sense I feel should be placed before you, dear reader. This month, however, it was gifted to me while enjoying a couple of days r&r in Devon with Mr B.
We were in a delightful coffee shop which was very nearly full, when a group of three people came in. The room was long and fairly narrow in shape but there was just room in the middle for two tables of two, one behind the other in a row. One of the two tables was, in fact, meant for four, but the width of the cafe prevented it from being used as such. The trio consisted of a middle-aged couple and elderly parent – a configuration Mr B and I are extremely familiar with, having taken single elderly parents around for more than two decades.
Now, the daughter of the elderly parent did what so many of us do in such a situation … she went into a mild panic. Clearly there was nowhere obvious for them to sit together and mother obviously couldn’t stand for too long. So, seeing the two tables in the middle of the cafe, she began what I can only call a ‘Pickfords Manoeuvre’ and began removing the chairs and shoving the two tables together end to end.
She then placed one chair at one end of the tables and one at the opposite end for her husband and one for her beside her parent. Wonderful. All settled. During this operation, Elderly Parent and Husband looked on, bemused. It was only when they all sat down that the poor woman could see that she and mother were sitting shoulder to shoulder at one corner of the two tables while husband was a good three metres away at the far end. Clearly her strategy hadn’t worked as she hoped it would. I really felt for this lady, because it is just the sort of thing that I, in a moment of acute anxiety for the well-being of an elderly loved one, could so easily have done myself. Had she taken a little time to fully assess the situation, a much easier solution may have come to mind.
Now, the reason that this is appropriate for this column is that in business, we should all do what this poor person couldn’t do … we should take time to plan. Often, a knee-jerk reaction to a problem can leave us in hot water. We all need to be able to adopt a ‘planning head’ which we can use while we are away from the hectic atmosphere of our place of work. In other words, to take time aside from our businesses to look at where we are, where we have come from and where we intend to reach.
This requires clear thought and planning. If this isn’t your strong point, I would suggest seeking advice from a good business planner to act as a wise sounding board for you. If there isn’t one working with your accountant, then ask around for recommendations. Sometimes our aims and aspirations can be clear, but we aren’t entirely sure as to how we reach them. It generally doesn’t help if we spend too much time pondering – because time is money when you own and run your own business. That’s why I suggest seeking help. If you are a natural organiser, you may have no problems at all doing this kind of planning – but you need to make the time to undertake it.
If you ignore future planning, you are likely to find that your company doesn’t make the progress you had hoped for, or perhaps even slips back. Some ideas can be so simple, but without standing back, we just don’t see them – like our poor lady in the coffee shop who could just have borrowed a chair and enabled all three to sit comfortably around one small table. We are sisters under the skin, she and I!
So, in business, as in life, it pays to take a deep breath, stand back and assess the situation around you before diving in with what, at first sight, appears to be such a good idea!
Take care, and good luck with your planning.