Today, we begin our annual two day business planning meeting. This process, started with another consultant at the height of an internal business crisis in 2005 — long before the most recent economic crisis/recession — is where we bring all of our employees and key contractors together to set the course for the next year.
I feel a combination of deja vu and “difference” between this planning meeting and the 2008 session, just before the recession tore into businesses around the world. In both cases, our business is relatively healthy, at least compared to the much more seriously negative times of 2005-07 and 2009 (after the recession dug in deep). I wouldn’t go so far as to say we are in great shape; as we have far too much business debt to rest on our laurels. More troubling, of course, is that when we become profitable, we need to pay taxes, and these will be substantial, eating into the reserves I thought we were starting to build. Of course, as well, only a fool would believe that the economic recovery (in Canada) we have recently enjoyed is altogether secure, especially if you look at the situation in the U.S. and Europe.
Still, even with careful control of travel and accommodation costs, I’m prepared to spend upwards of $5,000 of company money on a planning meeting where I cannot even begin to predict the results. We are using a new consultant/facilitator this time, and he doesn’t want us to focus on the nuts and bolts, financial statement reviews and problem solving associated with previous meetings. Instead, we will do some visualization exercises, strengths building, and other stuff to engage the employees and contractors and come up with some ideas for the next 12 months and beyond.
A few years ago, I would have thought this process to be “touchy-feely” nonsense, but now I realize that there are merits in shaking things up, asking questions, and exploring different techniques to engage employees and contractors and develop new ideas for the business future. I consider these expenses to be essential in allowing the business to grow and thrive.
As I’ve noted in previous postings, while we can certainly skimp on some things and should be extremely cautious in purchasing business “toys” and non-essential stuff, especially when times appear good but debt levels are higher than they should be, we should never lose touch with the core marketing and business management and development resources. Formal annual planning meetings fit in this category.