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What does the future hold for your small business, and what can you do about it? These are questions that every entrepreneur would love to have answered. And the best way to find them is by drawing on the experience and insights of your management team or advisors in an intensive growth planning session.

These sessions provide opportunities to ask tough questions, explore new opportunities, and embrace the changes necessary to realize a growth strategy. I suggest setting aside a day each year when you and your staff focus exclusively on planning. It’s your day to say what if and why not. It’s time to set the course for next year and perhaps realign the vision for the next three to five years.

Here are some outcomes and benefits that a “planning day” can offer any small business:

Fewer Priorities. By thinking bigger and then thinking realistically about what it might take to overcome obstacles, you naturally start eliminating things you should not focus on in an effort to make room for only the highest priorities. As a result, your team narrows the number of priority objectives to three, allowing them to aim higher and stop doing low-priority things.

Embrace Results. Objectives are fine, but what do you get when they’re achieved? By creating a list of ‘what we gain’ if we win, and by contrast ‘what it costs’ if we lose, we create the motivation to overcome constraints and stay focused on results as a team.

Commit to Change. If your stated objectives for the year don’t have you asking what needs to change to achieve your objectives, you are limiting your thinking. All growth involves change. You need to commit to how that’s going to happen, or your objectives will dissolve into frustrating reminders of failure.

Create Owners. Every objective will naturally spin off a list of projects: things that need to be done, new products and positions, or new processes. Part of your planning day must include identifying these projects and assigning someone responsible for moving them forward.

Focus on High Payoff. Identify the highest payoff work for everyone in the organization. This is how you properly assign tasks and stay focused on what matters most. The three or four high payoff tasks will differ for everyone in the organization, but they become a ‘go-to’ as you plan your week.

For more good ideas for shaping the direction of your small business, find a SCORE Mentor today!

About the author: David Inskeep is a retired commercial lender, retired military officer, retired college educator, and longtime SCORE mentor. He can be reached at davidinskeep1@gmail.com.

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