Looking for Land

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I gotta tell you that these comments are tone deaf to the situation we are currently in. I am a CEO and focused on survival. I do not know if there will be demand for our services in 1 month or 6 months from now.

Now is the time to lead through the crisis not dream or imagine what life will be like 5 years from now.

If I were to think 5 years down the road it would be like the captain of the ship on the flag pole looking for land while the boat was on fire. It would be best for the captain to get down and lead the team in extinguishing the fire.

I talk to CEOs every day. I wonder if some will make it, some will not, some are already out of business.

Many states have opened up (with restrictions), but just because regulation has relaxed doesn’t mean the market has returned. I assume most who qualified, applied for PPP and already made work-force decisions. You are likely monitoring sales like a start-up.

If you stand back and look at your competitors, what are the characteristics of those that will be alive in 2021? What did they focus on in the past 60 days? What will they focus on in the next 90 days? What will they focus on, rounding out the year into next?

2 thoughts on “Looking for Land

  1. Brian Gardiner

    Hi Tom,
    We posted a blog on this point a few weeks ago. It bridges the gap between these two perspectives

    Planning Never Stops

    Are you feeling like you’ve been hit by a Covid 19 hurricane? Your business ship took a blow and you’ve been scrambling to get things back under control. Immediate, urgent, short term plans have been devised and executed. Time lines are hourly, daily, weekly. There has been no time to think beyond the current week.

    Planning never stops, it just speeds up and slows down.

    As you start to get things back under control, your crew will be more anxious than ever to know where the company is heading, and how they can help.

    How do you communicate the new direction and focus when you’re not clear yourself. The business leader’s primary function is to set the next destination and chart the course. Wandering aimlessly in a turbulent sea is not an option.

    1) How can I make a plan when the future is so unclear and changing so quickly?

    Yes, the landscape has changed dramatically in the last few weeks and continues to change quickly. But planning is always done in a fluid business landscape. Each time we refresh our business plan, we do so in the context of an ever changing world. We set our goals and determine our best course of action, taking into account the impediments we are facing and the resources we have available.

    Most plans are stale after 90 days, and need to be rewritten. When the pace of change speeds up, this review cycle needs to be adjusted accordingly.

    If our normal practice is to set goals for 1 – 3 years into the future, we may need to be focussed on 3 months to 12 months in the current situation.

    2) Where do I start?

    Start with the big picture, your business plan summary. The structure in the Plan Genie business planning workbook contains five core pieces of information:

    1) Your unique business proposition – a succinct description about what makes your business special and unique
    2) Your purpose – why your business is needed, as seen from the customer’s point of view
    3) Your long term goals. Your destination 3 years from now. (or 1 year)
    4) Short term goals, one year out (3 months)
    5) Strategy/Action steps – A list of the major steps we need to take to reach our goals

    3) Write it down

    Write your plan down in a structured, easy to understand format. Your business plan summary is the foundation for communicating the future direction for your business – where you intend to take business and how you will get there.

    As you go through the process of writing your plan, you will gain clarity and confidence to tackle the challenges head. Others are looking for this – your leadership team, your bank, your board, your suppliers and distribution partners, and your customers.

    For many, this planning discipline looks difficult even when the world is less turbulent. But it is a skill that can be learned quickly with a little effort, not unlike our rapid learning as we move to remote working systems with all the accompanying technology.
    It will become a trusted skill very quickly.

    The act of writing a business plan is a powerful catalyst to self discovery and clarity.

  2. Anonymous

    If people are starving, giving them grain will keep them alive for now. But if no one is planting some of the grain, they won’t be alive for long.


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