The summer lull is a good time to begin planning exercises for next year. Yes, now is the time of year when business leaders begin the process of formulating strategic plans for 2014. This process first involves projecting how the current year is likely to finish, followed by the formulation of goals and projections for business growth in 2014. Most business leaders that I talk to are optimistically predicting that the fenestration market will grow by single digits in 2014, but of course most have more aggressive goals in mind for their individual companies!

Indeed, double-digit growth for mature businesses will only occur by growing market share and this cannot happen for everyone! For every winner, there must also be a loser. So, how does your company assure itself that it will come out on the winning side of the equation? A sound strategic plan is necessary to achieve the desired results. A sound plan involves an accurate assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Capitalize on the strengths and opportunities. Try to bridge the gap on the weaknesses in order to minimize the threats. Strategic planning can be somewhat painful. It takes key people away from the business of running their company and therefore it takes a degree of commitment. It can be a demanding task. However, failing to do it can spell doom.

Planning results in change! Maintaining the status quo assures you of one thing – you will take some hits. If you’re not prepared to absorb the impact, you may be knocked off your feet. How do you assess your place in the market? Ask customers. Ask prospects! Call them, survey them!

The best information is not necessarily gained by mailing out multi-page questionnaires. I recently called a major prospect with which I have been unsuccessful in gaining new business. I talked to the chief engineer who I have known for years. There was no long list of survey questions. I simply asked, “Where have we fallen short in terms of getting your business? What could we change in order to stand a better chance? It was amazing how he opened up and told me in an honest and straightforward manner what direction his company was heading and how we could adjust in the future to better compete for their business. I did very little talking … just listened, and I learned a great deal.

Whether you are a component or equipment supplier, a door and window manufacturer or a dealer, setting sales goals for 2014 is the easy part. Everyone wants double-digit growth. Spelling out just how you are going to get there is a bit more difficult. It takes an intimate knowledge of what is happening on the front lines. This information is best gathered by talking to your salespeople and customers. This is your external reflection. But this is only half the battle. You must also look inside your organization to see how well you are functioning and executing to meet customer needs. This is internal reflection. The key to success is adapting what you see internally to the needs that you see externally. This is execution. For regardless of how good the strategic plan may be on paper, it is execution that counts. As we used to say in the tire industry, this is where the “rubber meets the road!”

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