Volume 46, Issue 1 - January/February 2007

Time to Take Action
Does Planning Make a Difference?
by Don Houghton

Having been in business for nearly 37 years, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in developing many plans – strategic plans, long-range plans, territory plans, sales plans and marketing plans. 

One of the things I’ve learned about plans is that they seem to be much easier to develop than to execute. A plan is of no use if there aren’t “action plans” with definite goals, timelines and responsibilities assigned to each item. The other thing that must be recognized is that plans must be updated and modified, as factors affecting the plan change as time marches on.

I served on the Association of Millwork Distributors’ (AMD) board of directors in the early 90s. There was not a lot of emphasis placed on long-term planning because our business environment was relatively stable and the association was adequately serving its members. As time moved on, our environment began to experience dramatic changes. Leaders such as George Lorenz, Brian McIlwee, and AMD executive director Rosalie Leone, saw the need to assess the association’s situation and where it needed to be five years down the road.

I’m so Envious

After taking the position of second vice president of AMD, I became familiar with the plan developed in 2003. I can tell you, without reservation, the strategic plan developed by AMD was excellent, but equally impressive were the action items that were assigned and completed by various working committees of the organization that any business or organization would be envious of.

The plans were turned over to various AMD committees and staff for implementation. Significant progress and changes were made in the areas of: membership/recruitment, education, financing, leadership, influence/advocacy and member services.

AMD now realizes that the dynamics of the organization must adapt, because our business environment continues to change at a very fast pace. As a result, AMD will once again do a strategic plan to be completed in 2007 with 2010 being the focus year. Once again, the Delphi process, which was developed by the Rand Corp. in the 1950s, will be used. I’m quite confident that a living, meaningful plan will be developed and successfully executed.

A Changing Environment

So why should my business develop and execute a business plan? Look at how fast our business environment has changed in recent years and think about what changes may occur in the future.

Here are a few questions to ponder:
• What will the distribution policy of current vendors be?
• Who will the vendors of the future (overseas) be?
• How will customers look versus today (continued consolidation, growth of big-box retailers and large pro yards, big boxes targeting builders, etc.)?
• How will distribution function in the future (role of distribution)?
• What will the economic conditions (interest rates, housing starts, remodeling market, inflation) be?
• What will the geo/political situation (war, terrorism, allies) be?
• What will the source(s) and availability of energy be?

Imagine the significant plans that could be developed in vital areas of your business. We cannot let a lack of foresight and planning lead to what occurred to the United States’ steel industry or what may be occurring to our automobile industry.


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