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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

November 29, 2010

Growth Strategies for 2011 and Beyond: Part I

By Carol Frank


Every few months I am lucky enough to get to moderate webinars for members of APPA. A few weeks ago our topic was “Fast Forward Planning: The Impact of Strategic Planning on Your Company’s Growth” with Dr. Jana Matthews. Jana has a PhD from Harvard and is an international expert on entrepreneurial leadership and business growth. She’s a world-renowned author of 50 articles and seven books. I thought it would be informative to share some of the most compelling take home points from the webinar.

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 44 percent of businesses are still in existence after four years. It’s been proven that planning is an important component to sustainable success. Yet so few of us commit the time and resources to implement an effective planning process. The question I asked Jana was, “Why should we bother to plan?” Her top-ten reasons and comments:

1. Chart the Future:  If you don’t know where you are going, it’s like taking off on a cross-country road trip without a map.

2. Filter Opportunities: Not every opportunity that comes your way should be acted upon. Segment them into A, B and C categories. It will make prioritizing your time much easier.

3. Identify Optimal Markets: Without a plan, you’re more likely to fall into the trap of just selling more to the same customers. The development of the plan forces you to think about optimal and new customers and markets.

4. Focus Employees on Customers and Markets: It’s so easy for your employees to become unfocused and lose sight of who the key customers are. As we all know, all customers are not created equal--some are more valuable and demand more attention than others.
5. Reduce Confusion: Confusion is the enemy of growth because it sucks energy out of the system. A plan specifies who, what and when. It will keep a person focused and aligned, which definitely reduces confusion.

6. Consistent Decision Making: A plan provides the framework around how decisions are made. If a team clearly understands the plan and priorities, it allows decisions to be made more quickly and efficiently. Who doesn’t want that?

7. Allocate Scarce Resources: No company has all the resources it needs for growth. In fact, growth is like the shark in “Jaws”--an eating machine, always hungry. Everyone wants and needs more than is available. A plan really helps the owner and team agree on the priorities, the timelines and the resources required. In other words, it’s motivating, profitable and produces strong results.

8. Game Plan for You and Your Team: No professional or college team goes out to play without a game plan. They study the competition, they know their own strengths and weaknesses, and the competition’s strengths and--and try to maneuver to their own benefit. The plan and planning process enables the team to work together to understand their company’s strengths and weaknesses, assess the opportunities and threats, and agree on the goals and strategies that will enable the company to win.

9. Baseline for Measurement: Dick Schultz, the founder of Best Buy once said the difference between amateurs and professionals is that the pros keep score. It’s imperative that you provide baselines, targets and measures of progress. People want to know “how are we doing?” A plan provides a baseline and a goal--and enables you to measure progress.

10. Connect Individual & Company Performance: A plan enables individuals to connect what they do each day with company performance. One of the biggest problems with companies that want to grow and aren’t--or aren’t meeting their potential--is that individual employees don’t understand how their personal performance impacts the overall company performance. They don’t understand how taking long lunch hours, leaving early, chatting with their buddies instead of answering customer’s calls will impact the company’s ability to achieve its goals. The plan enables you to tie all this together--to create a high-performance “engine” that will accelerate company growth.

Part II – Essential Elements of a Plan
To learn more about Jana, visit

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