by Diane M. Calabrese
Resolve is what it takes to get things done. Among the resolute, determination does not waver with the vagaries of the economy or the whims of nature. It carries the day 24/7/365. Of course, there’s something about the approach of a new year that renews a sense of purpose. As part of renewal, we look backward and forward, as the mythological Janus did, to prepare. That preparation often begins with a recalibration of the business plan. “Each new year is started with a reflection on the previous year,” says Joe Battles, chief financial officer at Etowah Chemical Sales and Service in Gadsden, AL. “We review the financials—high, low, or meets expectations. We look for ways to grow. . .We consider which assets need to be purchased or retired.” Looking for ways to grow means considering the configuration of an individual branch or department, explains Battles, whose company operates with many satellites (branches at different locations). The entire assessment is geared to sustaining growth. “We have started a new analysis of our branches to measure profitability, sustainability, and efficiency,” says Battles. “It is still a work in progress.” The type of analysis that is underway goes beyond looking at overall sales, something that is not difficult to measure. “How does each branch operate?” says Battles. “Is it efficient? Can its processes be carried over to another branch? What are the best practices in the company branch by branch? These are questions we are continually trying to answer, and for 2016, we have modified our reporting to help answer those questions.” As with the process Battles describes, context is everything. A meaningful evaluation builds on what has come before and with good reason. There is a great deal written about risk taking in business. (Risk takers are even celebrated, when they succeed.) Yet established companies do not undertake new ventures without looking at them in the context of the whole of their operation. In large part, then, preparing for 2016 involves beginning with the basics of good business. “Any new projects or plans will come out of our regular planning and budget process,” says Jeffrey Paulding, president of Dirt Killer Pressure Washers, Inc. in Baltimore, MD. “Each year we prepare a business plan for the upcoming year, as well as a budget that supports the plan,” explains Paulding. “After we agree on a plan, we discuss and agree upon goals for each employee.” As for the supporting budget, it is developed in two parts, says Paulding. “One part is the routine expenses that are pretty stable from year to year. The second part is those expenses associated with specific projects.” The new projects can take many forms, explains Paulding. He gives as examples a new website or trade shows that members of the team will attend. All of the projects have one thing in common. They are based upon specific objectives in the business plan. It’s not just the new that’s in focus. “We always review our inventory to see if we are carrying obsolete or unwanted items,” says Paulding. “Those items are then written down or off.” As Paulding and Battles explain, the planning process is an integral part of doing business. The essentials of business, the business plan and business planning, have not changed.
DO In reality, there’s a risk attached to any decision that is made, even with the most exacting planning. It’s the variables beyond our control that make nothing a 100 percent certainty. Planning carefully is really a way to