It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan
All businesses should have a plan in place

Dear Editor,

The Omicron variant has been the unwelcome Christmas/new year's gift that you try not to open or wish you could return without offending anyone.

Many people hoped that 2022 would finally see us overcoming the novel coronavirus pandemic, but current projections show that it will be here a while longer.

The impact of COVID-19 has been far-reaching, and the virus's many variants have changed how we do almost everything. Even our vocabulary has not been spared. Depending on who you ask and when you ask, the term new normal may have a significantly different meaning.

As a consequence of the pandemic, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association has estimated that approximately 60 per cent of businesses contemplated closing. This may be very discouraging to aspiring entrepreneurs or existing business owners not only because of the health challenges associated with the virus, but also the high levels of uncertainty that it has created.

One of the main ways to deal with uncertainty is planning.

Over the years business planning has taken on many forms, with the more structured approach leading to the creation of a business plan or a strategic plan, both of which are important to the life of a business.

And business planning isn't just a problem in Jamaica. A previous study conducted by the African Development Bank showed that approximately 52 per cent of businesses had no formal plans in place. Some went as far as to say that creating a plan is pointless.

The pandemic is normally cited as one reason why plans are no longer considered important as no one could have anticipated that we would be experiencing a global health crisis for almost two years. To be fair, the last time the world saw a pandemic of this nature was approximately 100 years ago. Does this then mean that planning is not important?

If starting a business is akin to building a house, then the business plan is the blueprint. Surely some houses have been built without a blueprint, but how well did some of these houses fare when they came up against the elements?

Not many people, including me, would trust a house that was built without the necessary permits in place or approvals granted; similarly, it is more challenging to lead a business that has no plan. How well will the business perform when it encounters external challenges? What is the failsafe that can be activated to prevent it from going under? What can we put in place to ensure that the 60 per cent of those contemplating closing their doors change their collective minds?

And I am not suggesting that businesses that do not do well have no business plans or planned to fail.

What I propose is the next step to business planning called strategic planning. This focus allows companies to not just plan, but use existing circumstances to be better able to survive. It allows companies to respond to what is happening in the wider environment. The pandemic is an example. Had some businesses stuck to their original plans and beliefs about how to interact with customers, they might not have survived the last two years as some businesses had to retool and move from being a face-to-face to a hybrid model that included online delivery. This is an example of strategic decision-making.

As the external environment changes, businesses must also respond. What is even more important is that they respond in a carefully planned and coordinated way. Many people are professionally trained to skilfully diagnose and improve one's business performance.

There are indeed some things that we cannot predict, but there is nothing that we cannot plan or respond to. The best way to do this is through business and strategic planning. As all carefully constructed houses need plans, so do all successful businesses.

Valdimir N Wallace

Manager, Planning and Projects

University of Technology, Jamaica

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