I published a short blog, The Differences Between Planning vs. Plans, in January of this year which was well received. Several readers asked me how to manage the planning process for a small company. It’s interesting how serendipity works. I was searching for an example to share and my wish was granted when I met Monte Wood, the president of Opus Events Agency. Opus Events Agency is a 100-person event agency located in Portland, Oregon. You may not have heard of them, but you have very likely attended some of the events they produced without knowing it. They are the invisible hand that pulls together well-known large-scale or private events for a lot of big enterprises. This company has been growing over 20% annually for the past eight years, even through the deep recession of 2008. Monte Wood, the president of the company, attributes the growth to thorough planning and great people. By talking to Monte, I was amazed how disciplined this company is when setting its long term vision and short term objectives and goals.
Monte points out that planning never really stops at Opus Events Agency.
A formal process and timeline are in place. Select employees in each department are directly involved in the planning process, in addition to senior managers. The planning follows both a top-down and bottom-up approach. The company focuses its planning on both strategic and operational levels. With the new fiscal year starting on January 1st the upcoming year, management kicks off its strategic planning in March (yes, in March) during which each department will conduct its own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis by gathering industry competitive information. Senior staff will meet in June to review departmental SWOT’s, competitive analysis and other internal and external data to discuss the potential strategic directions for the next year. There are several agenda-driven planning sessions between June and October to finalize both strategic and operation plans. By November, senior staff sets the objectives and strategies, then management works with finance to allocate budgets based on departmental operational plans. By January, senior staff hosts a one-day off-site meeting for all employees at which the company’s direction and strategy for the upcoming year is openly shared and clearly communicated. Every employee understands the company’s direction. This planning cycle ends with a big party to kick off the start of the new fiscal year! In addition, senior management is very transparent about the company’s performance, even though it’s a privately held company.
A quarterly update is held to share the bad, the good and the ugly for that quarter. Every employee knows how the company is doing up-to-date.
Opus Events Agency relies on this planning process to help grow its business. The company fully understands the value of planning and is committed to a disciplined process.
The outcome of planning allows employees and management to come together as individuals and work together as a team to define and achieve common goals.
It’s rare to see this level of dedication from a small business to craft its annual plan. Key take aways:
- Start your planning early. Preferably 3-4 months before the start of a new fiscal year.
- Get employees involved in the planning process. Have them share their proposed plans for their groups or divisions
- Create several agenda-driven planning meetings to allow each division to present its plan and senior staff to finalize the overall plan.
- Allocate the budget and resources 6-8 weeks prior to the start of the year.
- Kick off the new year by clearly communicating the annual objectives and goals.
- Host quarterly updates to keep employees informed. Be transparent.
As Monte graciously points out: “Growth is nurtured through planning.”
Monte, thank you for sharing your company’s planning process with me.