It’s a common refrain at PFA, as it is among many leading businesses both within and outside the transportation sector: The end of one year and the start of the next is always a good time to take stock of where you’re at in business. It’s particularly important coming out of the wild year that we’ve just been through and in preparing for economic uncertainty that lies ahead.
The old axiom that failing to plan is planning to fail is embraced by so many simply because they see what happens when organizations don’t spend enough time planning for the mid and long terms.
Planning has only become more important in recent years because so many industries are changing rapidly and not enough of the companies within those sectors are keeping their eyes on the early adopters and change agents. Given what’s going on in the U.S. and around the world, there’s no better year for your company to pay some extra attention to planning, monitoring and assessing trends.
We encourage you to do the things that give you a good feel of where the opportunities exist in the future. Look at industry forecasts and trends (not only here in the U.S. but around the world). Explore how technology is shaping other sectors and identify why and how some of the same changes could come to freight, shipping and cargo. Chart changing demographics – both among your customers and your employees. Consider what your employees need to stay engaged and how team building can be part of making them long-term assets. Part of that is ensuring that your employees feel “part of the team” when it comes to planning, goal-setting and how you choose to measure performance.
Some things to consider so as to ensure you’re planning for success:
- Status check on where you are in your planning process: When was the last time your company – or divisions or departments within your company conducted a strategic planning process? If the answer is more than four years, then your company may be in need of a new round of planning or a refresh;
- Think short, mid and long-term: The best chief executives know how to balance the imperatives of the present – of the here and now – with the visions of the future. They know when to keep things on the “low beam” and when to turn on the “high beam”. The best companies are beginning to ensure they have all three major planning cycles in play. Short-term typically relates to annual planning or operational planning. Mid-term usually refers to four-year or five-year strategic planning. Long-term is essentially horizon planning based on what you want your company to look like 10, 15 or 20 years down the road;
- Use key dates: Being plugged into key dates in the trucking and transportation industry each year is a logical starting point to any annual planning process. Compliance guidelines/deadlines, conferences, seminars, renewal dates and special milestones; they all deserve a place on your 2022 calendar;
- Apply planning tools and software to your goal-setting process: Take advantage of what’s out there in the way of software templates – why not use ready-made planning packages if it saves you time and energy?
- Plan with purpose: If you have done regular strategic planning in recent years, then it might be time to dig deeper on specific aspects of your business. Strategic plans can stay more relevant by doing annual discoveries on core business activities such as marketing, communications, sales, operations, finance and human resources, among others;
- Big rocks first: If you fill up your metaphoric goal-setting jar with the sand of smaller priorities, you won’t have room for the big rocks. The most successful companies – and the most successful people – keep their eyes on the big rocks; the big priorities. From the big rocks, go to the stones, then the gravel and then and only then the sand; Working on your big rocks first will help steer your business in the right direction.
- Make it measurable: The most useful planning is indeed goal-setting. Can it be measured? If the answer is yes, it’s probably helpful to include it in your planning for the new year;
- Provide the right context: Companies that have regular calendar year fiscal reporting – where the fiscal year and calendar year are one and the same – have it much easier when it comes to aligning planning with timelines that make sense for employees, strategic partners and other stakeholders. Companies with April 1st to March 31st fiscal years or July 1st to June 30th, have no fear. Just choose to align your goal-setting in a way that avoids confusion or coronaries in your Accounting Department!
- Build accountability: The best planning builds a clear sense of self in small to mid-size companies. Make sure that corporate and departmental goals are easily understood by the individual employees who make up the teams within the company. Assign clear responsibility so that everyone understands how their efforts and contributions can and will help your freight brokerage or motor carrier company achieve its goals in the planning period ahead;
- Be specific: If you are not up to speed on key performance indicators, check out some of the literature available online on how KPIs turn budgets into financial plans and operational outlooks into departmental success stories;
- Review performance before you review salaries: Most Human Resource consultants recommend that individual performance reviews should happen separately from salary reviews. Moreover, individual performance reviews should happen first. By following this principle, you are placing the emphasis on individual performance first and on financial compensation second.
- Offer incentives: The notion of performance incentives is closely-related to performance indicators. The more successful a company is in the pursuit of its corporate goals, the more that success should be shared with your employees. Most companies that offer performance bonuses or revenue-sharing find that they are rewarded with year-round performance and the resultant growth that comes with it.
- Make it visible: Find ways to remind your employees of your company’s “strategic pillars” every chance that you get; in meetings, in correspondence, on wall posters or screen savers;
- Turn planning into “culture”: The more you plan, the more it will become part of your “modus operandi”; the more it will become infused into your corporate DNA as “culture”. By making planning and goal-setting “cultural”, you’ll be making the most of the invested time and money that you put into it. Why? Because it will provide the blueprint for teamwork, cooperation and collaboration that will define growth strategies in the year 2022 and beyond.
Some smart thinking, solid planning and careful tracking of analytics could make the difference between a so-so year and a great one. A little extra care at the front end can make it the happiest New Year possible.