Perfect planning needs maps AND satellites
In the days before Google Maps and Waze, people used to look at a physical map before setting out on their journey. The inexperienced traveller would begin at their starting position and plot a route in the general direction of where they wanted to go, perhaps making a few notes on a piece of paper or marking points on the map itself. Those who had been on a journey or two before, however, tended towards the reverse-plotting method. These canny travellers would start at their destination and work backwards across the two-dimensional printed landscape before them, looking for the shortest route to the fastest roads.
Whichever old-school pre-GPS method was relied upon to get people to where they wanted to be, they would never set out without a plan. And, even if it was a familiar journey that had been travelled many times before, the urge to check the map and enjoy the winding array of contours and colours, teasing out the adventure ahead, was often too much of a temptation to resist. Oh, how times have changed!
Where are you going?
Do you have a firm route-plan for your business journey? Have you identified a clear destination and the fastest, most scenic or most accessible path to get you there? Do you know where the back roads might be a better option than the motorways, the best places to stop for a refuel, interesting and educational diversions along the way, or what you plan to do if you are waylaid in heavy traffic?
In a business, all these things are worth considering and having a plan in place to help you deal with them is a must. Growing quickly is not always the smartest move for a business; more often, it is better to perfect the process and shore up the gaps before moving into the fast lane. Business environments change and, even if you feel like you’ve got the route sussed or you’ve been down a particular road before, it is always worth checking the map. You never know when there might be an opportunity to take a slight detour and discover an area of outstanding commercial wisdom.
And by starting at the goal, or the big destination, it is far easier to work backwards to where you are now than just setting off and working out the details as you go. It is like the analogy of each international flight path being plotted thousands of times per day. Not one single route follows the most direct heading to its destination for more than 10% of the journey – the pilot (or autopilot) is continually checking, measuring and readjusting the course to compensate for the weather, environment and other aircraft.
Back to the future
Ironically, while the analogy of the map is still by far the best business planning method that I know, the arrival of cloud accounting is more akin to satellite navigation. By using tools like Xero, and the hundreds of time– and effort–saving add-ons that are available, you can see the route so much more clearly and accurately.
The journey distance is still the same, the time it takes will probably be similar, but you can see with laser-like focus exactly where you are today. Cloud computing will give you accurate, real-time projections, show the potential pitfalls or diversions ahead, and help you plot an alternative route, if needed.
So, in your business planning, I would suggest a mixture of old technology and new. Make your plan manually (the map), and execute the plan with technology (GPS) as your co-pilot.