Plans, results: How well are they matching up?

By Jim Kendall

This column originally appeared in the March 28, 2016 Daily Herald

                Technically, we’re not quite at the end of the first quarter, but we’re close enough to make at least an initial comparison between the 2016 plans we so carefully created and the results so far.

“How are we doing?” asks Alan Winter, principal at the Alan Winter Group Ltd., Northbrook. “A good, sharp business owner makes plans in October-November-December and looks at first quarter results because the first quarter is the key, the guide to the rest of the year,” Winter says.

“How have our plans measured up? What’s the reality? What’s different? What can we control?”

Both Winter and Tom Caprel, president of Wheaton-based Break Through Results Inc., focus on first quarter results for the simple reason that the year’s first 90 days provide the initial indication of how the rest of a business’ year will go.

“I’m all over my coachees,” Caprel says. “If what we put together hasn’t been accomplished, what’s the reason? Are we not committed? Have there been technical issues?

“I find that if you don’t follow up, then the second quarter may be lagged,” Caprel continues, and, ultimately, much of the year’s goals are lost.

That’s the problem with seeking outside assistance: Accountability. Whether they call themselves coaches, advisors, consultants or something else, they’ll help you work the process of developing a plan intended to help your business reach its goals, but the good ones will be there to check on progress and help make any needed adjustments.

It’s not unlike having your feet held to the fire. Nonetheless, Caprel says, business owners “pay trusted advisors to push them into places they (initially) may be uncomfortable going.”

Not every plan is based on the calendar year, of course: A major customer may unexpectedly go out of business next month. Your number two person may quit. You may have an unexpected but strategic opportunity to buy a business.

Developing a year-long plan tends to force a focused thought process, generally a good thing, but you look for good advice when you need it. Tomorrow could be your day.

There are optional places to look:

* The Small Business Development Centers that I write about a couple of times a year generally are good advice sources – and free. To find the ones closest to you, or to your business, go to www.illinois.gov/dceo/SmallBizAssistance/BeginHere/Pages/SBDC.aspx and follow the prompts.

* SCORE, which older entrepreneurs will remember as the Service Corps of Retired Executives, provides mentoring that draws upon the often valuable experience of retired business executives. Many chapters, especially here, also offer a variety of roundtable discussions, workshops and the like.

Fox Valley SCORE (www.foxvalleyscore.org) has 15 locations that serve businesses in DuPage, Kane, Will, DeKalb, Kendall and McHenry counties. SCORE Chicago (www.scorechicago.org) has about 40 locations and serves businesses in Cook and Lake (Illinois) counties.

In both cases, most programs are free.

 

© 2016 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. Listen to Jim’s Business Owners’ Pod Talk at www.kendallcom.com/podcast.

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