SBJ Article

October 12, 2023

Long-term business planning has new meaning

Significant decisions made during 2020 in response to COVID-19 changed the business landscape forever. It had more to do with mandated lockdowns than it did with COVID.

Besides the multiyear global impact on supply lines, a wrecking of the labor market and inflation brought on by the increased money supply through pandemic relief funds, countless businesses were destroyed because of the decisions made. Much of the damage has proved permanent and, as a result, placed the business climate on edge.

Long-term planning has taken a back seat in many organizations as businesses concentrate on survival in this new, ever-changing business climate. While long-term planning may seem futile, it’s precisely in these uncertain times that it becomes even more critical. However, I believe that long-term planning has changed from “where do we want to be in five to 10 years?” to ensuring we can quickly adjust to the curveballs. Here are some thoughts on how business planning has changed to prepare for the uncertainty of the future.

While long-term plans are essential, a willingness to adapt to the current business climate is more important. We have changed almost every part of our business strategy over the last three years, from managing clients and projects to changing our target market, as well as fundamental changes in our execution model, pricing and marketing strategy. Being able to pivot quickly will be critical in the future.

Those who survived the last few years know that short-term agility is crucial. Implementing agile methodologies to enhance short-term adaptability will help keep those long-term goals intact. A well-thought-out, long-term plan provides a roadmap for adapting to change without losing sight of our ultimate goals.

For our enterprise, there was a hyper-focus on diversifying the business platform in 2019, widening the base so we can grow taller with more stability. That became increasingly important in 2020, so we fast-tracked that initiative even though many questioned our aggressive stance in such trying times. While diversification was a substantial risk, it has better positioned us as we advance. Diversification demonstrates that the business has a vision and is committed to its long-term success. We want options. Our diversification efforts have greatly improved our value proposition.

Data-driven decisions
Top-line revenue seems to be rising everywhere; however, it’s harder to produce a profit today due to the inflationary environment and the upset of the labor market. Utilizing data analytics and market research to stay informed and adjust your long-term strategies is becoming more important than ever. We have transitioned to a very data-driven environment and will continue that effort in the future. We have found great value in making decisions based on hard data and facts over assumptions.

Focus on talent
In my 30-plus years of business, this is the first time I have experienced a labor market like this. While we don’t enter all the “company of the year contests,” we have successfully developed a benefit offering that attracts nationwide talent. We have created an excellent culture and fantastic environments in which people want to participate. How you attract talent will look different in every business, obviously, and that’s an article for another time. Still, we must all figure out a new approach to attracting and retaining top talent as part of our long-term plan.

In conclusion, long-term planning provides the stability, adaptability and resilience businesses need to navigate the unpredictable terrain of today’s world. The idea that we shut the world down and turned it back on 15 days later, as advertised, was just politics. It has changed forever. This new long-term planning is not a rigid set of rules but a strategic compass that helps businesses thrive in calm and stormy waters. Balancing long-term vision with short-term flexibility may be the key to success in this ever-changing environment.

By Donnie Brawner, Partner Colligo Holdings
CEO, Paragon 360 & Paragon Fabrication  

Originally Featured in Springfield Business Journal