12 Most Common Excuses Why SMBs
Are Afraid of Strategic Planning

While this is the time of year many SMBs have developed their plans for the new fiscal year, many more used some of the 12 most common excuses not to.

It reminds me of the spittle-prone Sylvester the Cat. If you’re a fan of classic Warner Brothers animation (like I am), you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to the Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn song “You Never Know Where You’re Goin’ Till You Get There”.

No truer words have been spoken about businesses that don’t plan. If there’s no destination, how will you know when you’ve arrived, or at least headed in the right direction?

No time
The workday is filled with the day-to-day business drumbeat and emergencies, both large and small. How is there time to focus on the long-term when the short term needs so much attention? Understand where you’re spending time, and then segment time to work ON the business. You can’t execute all day, every day, nor should you

The culture doesn’t allow it.
“The sky looks the same anywhere you go”, my grandfather would say about his aversion to travel. The same goes for SMBs that say what worked yesterday will work tomorrow.  Change is the only constant. Your customers change, your competition changes.

Marketing is married to an outdated set of tools
If a company says that print advertising is as effective as it ever was, it isn’t looking to divorce old-line thinking. They heyday of mass marketing is gone. Today’s marketing kit is wider and deeper because there are more ways than ever to interact with customers and prospects.

What are we buying?
Consultant speak, academic nomenclature, and business jargon can be off-putting to small business owners. They worry that the theoretical won’t translate into the real world. Be open to the idea of planning, but do not be a pushover on what you’re paying for. Ask for a definition of terms so you and the consultant are speaking the same language.

Too costly
Instead of viewing strategic planning as investment, company leadership will see it as an expense. You invest in people, equipment and technology. There’s no difference in investing to discover a better path forward. An effective plan will produce a pay-off. 

Planning takes away from selling
Daily, weekly, quarterly and annual numbers. No matter the duration, the only thing that is of importance to many companies is growth. Without a plan, the growth will come by luck.  Numbers tell a story, but a numbers-only focus is like putting blinders on a horse. Peripheral vision lets you see more than just straight ahead. 

“Stuff” is easier
While addressing real issues, someone throws out a kernel of an idea and “Boom!”, everyone starts popping down the tactical solution highway.  Ideas based on what you’re already doing are easy; understanding how to plow new paths takes work.

The process is overwhelming
Fear, uncertainty and doubt clouds many smaller business owners and leaders about what strategic planning is about. Intimidation leads to not even starting the process. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is good strategy. Like anything else, chunk the process down into smaller portions that are easier to execute.

Lack of control
Business owners fear that the facilitation process, no matter how well intended, will be rudderless, focusing on past faults and head toward the weeds without a clear purpose. You are a participant in the process; if you don’t understand something, speak up.

Fear of commitment (and failure)
A commitment to anything means taking action. Management that is fearful of change can talk themselves around issues and out of anything, especially when one’s livelihood is on the line. Give yourself some credit. You’ve been flying without a net since you started your business.

No accountability
The reason most small business owners started their firms is because they didn’t want to be accountable to anyone. Therein lies the problem. Strategic planning introduces a layer of accountability into the process, producing fear and anxiety among some owners. Like the smart solo practitioner who toils in near total independence most of the time, move outside your comfort zone and get a different perspective and direction from someone else, sometime.

Past experiences
Previously negative strategic planning experiences produce the “once bitten, twice shy” organization.  An unqualified consultant produced an inferior plan or a poor facilitator spent weeks in meetings without accomplishing anything.  There are the good and the bad at everything. You have the experience to ask the right questions to find the right guide.

Sufferin’ succotash! Are any of these the reasons why strategic planning is the plan of last resort?