Strategic planning is especially important for your construction company. The strategic plan will give you the direction and measurement tools you need to be competitive in the industry. Identifying market opportunities, your company’s strengths related to those opportunities, and possible obstacles will give you the information you need to plot a successful year.
Senior management, whether that is the business owner in a small company or the management team in a large company, has the responsibility of strategic planning each year. An effective planning session is best done off-site, away from daily distractions. If time is an issue, consider investing a Saturday. If cost is an issue, find a host who will let you use his or her living room. The point is to set aside dedicated time in an uninterrupted environment.
Plan the day with large chunks of time for discussions on your three main points of market opportunities, company strengths and possible obstacles. Allow small breaks between each main point. Provide nourishing refreshments. Fruit and cheese will provide for more energetic discussions than doughnuts and cookies.
Bring the company mission statement, last year’s strategic plan or an outline for this year’s and marketing data from the current year and previous two years. In today’s changing economy, you may find it helpful to make comparisons with data that reach back five years. Much of the customer analysis may be completed before the start of the strategic planning session. Determine who are your most profitable customers and why they are the most profitable — few change orders, certain industries or project dollar range. Also identify your least profitable customers and related reasons — collections issues, demanding relationships, lack of focus.
Deciding which projects to target is the largest and most significant decision of the session. (See Reference 1) Similar to planning a vacation, you need to decide if you will visit the Grand Canyon or Paris before you can begin effective planning. Pursuing residential opportunities is completely different from chasing military contracts, so these decisions are crucial. To make the best decision for your company, analyze your customer data in relationship to your firm’s mission statement. If your mission statement includes being a profitable company, your management team has the responsibility of ensuring you only pursue projects that give you the opportunity for profit. This may mean telling Aunt May that you can’t build her sunroom this year. More likely, it means carefully allocating marketing resources — staff, time and money — to the projects with the greatest return. However, if your mission is to provide quality services to senior citizens in your town, your marketing efforts will need to be similarly targeted.
While market opportunities may abound, your success depends on matching the strengths of your company with those opportunities. The school district may be planning on building a new science lab, but if your staff does not have experience installing gas lines, you probably will not get the job. Don’t waste your resources. If your profitable projects have been building dentist offices, plan to send a project manager to the monthly meeting of the local chapter of the ADA. Plan a trade show booth for the state ADA convention. Have your office assistant send postcards with tips on building a new office to all of the dentists in your area. The key is to target your resources toward the most profitable projects.
No matter how much you plan, obstacles will arise. Your lease may expire, forcing you to move headquarters. Congress may cut the military budget, resulting in no new construction on the base this year. The county may not do road repairs this year because the state matching funds did not come through. You do not know what the year will bring. Yet, your solid planning skills will allow your company to prosper because you will be prepared with backup plans for these and other scenarios.