2019 … So What’s The Plan?

By Lyle R. Hill

“Lyle,” the early afternoon caller began, “My name is Art Stewart and while you probably don’t remember me, you used to refer to me as Reader Number 9.”

“Of course I remember you, Art,” I responded. “I sometimes used to confuse you with Reader Number 11, but I always appreciated those chippy little emails you would send me after reading a column you didn’t like or agree with. So what can I do for you, Number 9?”

“Well, Lyle, I’m a little concerned about the new year. I mean, things have been going gang-busters for the last 12 months or so, but I don’t know how long it’s going to last. I read what all the forecasters are saying, but they don’t always agree with each other and some of what is getting thrown around out there just sounds like wishful thinking to me. So I don’t know which way to go with my business or even myself for that matter. Can you help me? I need some good advice.”

“You know, Art, I don’t like to give advice. It’s dangerous and, as I’ve said in the past, one of two things almost always happens when you give advice. First, if a person takes your advice and things don’t work out, it’s all your fault. On the other hand, if a person takes your advice and everything turns out great, they quickly forget that you gave them that good advice and they take all of the credit for whatever success is achieved. So you can’t win … you can only lose. However, because you have been a loyal and faithful reader all these years … and by the way, I am now up to 21 readers … I am willing to listen. How can I help?”

“Can you tell me which way to go?”

“Art, one of my favorite literary pas-sages of all times comes from the Lewis Carroll classic, “Alice in Wonderland.” It goes like this:

“Would you tell me please, which way I should go from here?” said Alice.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t really matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“And I personally think there is a great deal of wisdom in that little ex-change.”

“That story always scared me, Lyle. You know, the flying monkeys and the witch and all. So I’m not sure I get it, Lyle. Explain it, please.”

“Well, Art, there have always been good times in the economy and there have likewise, always been bad ones. Most of the prognosticators I’ve read and have some confidence in are predicting between three to four more years of solid activity. Certainly, 2019 should be strong based on what is spilling over from 2018. You’ll need to watch out for inflation because prices have to go up, if for no other reason than labor costs are going to continue to climb. The demand for labor is outpacing supply so costs have to go up. According to a recent story in USA Today, the Labor Department in August claimed that there were 7.14 million job openings and only 6.2 million people in the potential labor force looking for jobs. This disparity could have only widened with the seasonal hiring that has taken place since then. So the economy is really hot and just about everyone has had an incredible run of late. But we all know that this won’t last forever. It never does!”

“I don’t see what that has to do with Alice and the Cat, Lyle. I just had the best year of my 32 years in business and now I don’t know what to do or which way to go.”

“Art, what do you want to do? Where do you want to go? What’s your plan for your future?”

“I guess I don’t actually have a plan, Lyle. Does this make me a failure?”

“Not at all, Art. I would guess that most businesses don’t really have much in the way of a formal plan. Most companies are reactors and are not really proactive when it comes to guiding their businesses. Individuals are the same way.

“You know, Art, Ben Franklin once said, ‘I have thought that a man of tolerable means may work great changes if he first forms a good plan and makes the execution of that same plan his whole study and business.’”

“Well, Lyle, it’s not so easy to think a lot about the future when you spend your days running around stomping out fires.”

“I know that, Art, and I am not going to lie to you and tell you that I was al-ways a terrific planner. I have known some people who are good planners. They have vision and they have a knack for understanding the environment in which they work. Perhaps most importantly of all, they have an ability to see where things are headed. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have those skills naturally so we have to make ourselves think about these things. And thinking gives some people headaches so they avoid it whenever they can. But you gotta do it. You have to decide where you want to go. Once you know where you want to go, you can start working on a plan to get there. And you gotta put it to paper with a time-line and goals and all the other essential ingredients of a true plan. There are books written about this stuff, Art. Get one and get going. Your future is in your hands, Art.”

“Lyle, you’ve inspired me. I’m going to develop a plan. Then what do I do next?”

“Well, Art, you have to execute and follow the plan and maybe make adjustments to it from time to time, but you can do it. Then there’s one other thing you have to do.”

“What, Lyle?”

“Put together a back-up plan, Art. You know … just in case.”

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