Plans: What’s Your Aim?

| November 16, 2018

by Chad Wisler

As we close out the year, it’s a great time to discuss what most of us are doing now — planning for 2019. 2018 is done. It’s in the past. For most of us, it’s been a very good year — but still . . . it’s now in the past. As we all look forward to the new year and are starting fresh, using new or reinforced experiences from 2018 for 2019, one fundamental recommendation is to develop your plan. Plans are interesting because they span such a range of focus and depth.

Whether you have a formal plan or an informal plan — you still have a plan. It all depends upon your professional aptitude and/or capability to set a real target and approach, and most importantly, to incorporate it into execution over the next year. Plans can be much more than the traditional “company business plan”; they can focus on your office/group/team, and most importantly . . . you.

What is a plan? At its essence — an understanding of where you are now, where you want to be, and how you will approach getting there. Since plans are prepared at a specific point in time, using the best available information, things change; therefore, your plans need to be reviewed and adjusted as needed. The check-in process is often viewed as the most important aspect of plan management. When this doesn’t occur, plans get a bad name . . . labeled as something that is done every year . . . sits on a shelf and gets updated annually, rather than being used as a tool to remind, drive, and . . . succeed.

At the company level, your plan is often the easiest. For the next year: What does the company want to do? New markets? New offices? New expertise? Acquisitions or spin-offs? Ownership transition? Bookings? Revenue? Profitability? Coupling these major strategic items with their tactical implementation is where the real work occurs. These business plans often cover the next year and, typically, the next three to five-plus years. If you don’t have a company plan, you could still bob around in the ocean and catch some great waves (in a good year), or you could plan your route and ideally achieve both those good waves and long-term, purposeful fulfillment.

Now the office/group/team level plan for 2019+ has become personal. Now we’re dealing with the day-to-day staffing and expertise that will support your company’s overall plan. This is one of the most challenging plans to generate formally, since you need to know the overall company plan and have a strong understanding of your office/group/team’s capabilities and gaps. Coupling this with the required outlets for baseline operations (rent, equipment, etc.), and investment in marketing, business development, professional development and training against the required revenue requires effort. Since you’re closest to the day-to-day requirements of your projects and, ideally, where you want to bring expertise to your clients, the plan is really where you can make a difference for your company.

Lastly, and ironically on so many levels, the most important aspect of planning comes back to you, not the office/group/team or the company. You have the greatest control of your career and path in your company, in our industry, and of your impact on those around you. What do you need to learn? What skill sets do you need to acquire? How do you want to expand your network? What do you want to do? And how? A relatively quick self-assessment reinforces your focus moving forward and informs how you can communicate it within your firm and with your peers. It’s up to you, and no one else.

Think about it now, plan it, communicate it (and follow up). The more awesome you are, the better your office/group/team will be . . . and the better the company will become. Focus on yourself and the benefits for you, and your company will be magnified.

You need something to aim at; aim high, not only for yourself, but also for those that you’re responsible for.

Now go back to reacting to your emails, texts, etc., and practice complaining about why things never change . . . (or not — it’s up to you).

Cheers!

Chad Wisler

Chad Wisler, PE, LEED AP BD+C, is a managing principal at Vanderweil Engineers.

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