Telling the truth about SME life today

5 year plans in business are outdated

Do you remember being asked the interview classic, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” 

Nowadays, the concept of planning that far ahead seems about as outdated as pagers. We change change careers more often in a lifetime than our parents did, trends change quicker and keeping up gets more difficult. So over the past few years we ve honed the way we map activity and created this five-point – rather than five-year – checklist for running a business.

1. Focus on the numbers, not the admin

Don?t allow yourself to get distracted by making intricate plans. Admin is not going to make you money. All our plans are one-page long. Even our five-year goals. In our plans we simply focus on identifying the numbers we want to get to and then crack on with reaching them.

2. Share and motivate

We d recommend sharing your quarterly plans with staff. It makes the whole process collaborative. For our business, we use the “perfect order” as our key motivator. It’s universally understood by our workforce and ensures they see themselves and the role they play as integral to achieving the number we set as a target. We ve found it’s hugely motivational.

3. Let your plans be your sanity check

The great thing about writing a plan is that you’ve written something down. Research has shown proven that you’re more likely to achieve a plan once it’s been committed to paper. You?ve given yourself some focus and you’ve got your priorities in-line. More than anything it’s a way of making sure you’re heading in the right direction and everything is on track. Sometimes you need that perspective when you’re deep down and dirty, stuck in the everyday nitty gritty.

4. Be flexible

We learned early on that sometimes your ambitions can be, well, too ambitious. We often get to our annual review of targets and realise that next year we ll need to scale the targets down. That doesn’t mean we ve slacked off. It’s just the market’s moved and thrown our anticipated goals.

Be prepared to change your plans.

5. Have a five-year plan but also a quarterly, annual and weekly one too

A five-year plan gives you something to aim for. Without ambition, you’ve already lost. But these grand plans can seem overwhelming when you’re coping with the day-to-day graft of getting a business off the ground.

Therefore we create weekly, quarterly and annual plans too. These allow us to focus on targets that are achievable, while still building towards the greater goals. They also break down the long-term ambitions into bite-sized pieces. And most importantly they provide us with a gauge on whether the ultimate goals are achievable and whether they need to be adjusted on the way.

We are firm believers in the power of a plan but don’t live and breathe by a far-in-the-distance five-year plan. Plan for the immediate, short and medium term and be prepared to change your plans as you go along. Most importantly though keep them simple.

Sean Blanks is marketing director of


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