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It’s Planning Season: Be Positive, Pivot and Involve Your Team

July 14, 2022
Predicting the future is truly your best guess of what is to come.

IndustryWeek's elite panel of regular contributors.

What year am I in? A question I ask myself often—because it takes half of the new year to wrap up financial reporting, file taxes and complete the business valuation for the prior year. Then, as soon as Q3 starts, planning for the new year begins as we wrap up the current year. A continuous, annual cycle!

So, here we are, talking about 2023. How will a recession effect our clients’ businesses and in turn our business? Is the current backlog due to clients’ building inventory that will eventually have to be bled off? Or, could we produce more if we had additional talent and supplies could be obtained easily?

A recent LinkedIn poll provided me with some future insight.

Every year there are new questions to ask yourself. And predicting the future is truly your best guess of what is to come. Case in point, no one knew the devasting impact COVID-19 would have in Q3 2019 as the planning process began. Everyone had to pivot quickly in Q1 2020 and change their plans based on new data.

Now, I bet you are thinking, “Why plan at all? We cannot predict the future.” Planning forces you to work on the business, not only in the business. Ultimately, it is not about the plan, but the fact that you have thought about future opportunities and challenges.

Involve the Team

As a leader, you should not develop the plan. Instead, involve your team. I use an annual offsite meeting with the sales team to kickoff our yearly planning process. But a lot of the work is done even before we meet as a team. Each salesman tries to predict how market conditions will affect their clients’ purchasing habits. Then, based on their predictions, we determine what additional resources we may need to meet the demand. All this data leads into the development of the operating and capital expenditure budgets.

Wildly Important Goal

A lot of good ideas will emerge from your team. As the leader, you must choose the most important annual goal the organization has in pursuit of its long-term vision. One wildly important goal allows everyone to focus their efforts on meeting or exceeding expectations. It will be hard to chose just one, but what you will find is each year, you do not lose site of the previous year’s goal. You continue to improve yearly. Goals becoming stepping-stones in your long-term strategic plan.


Just because you made a plan does not ensure it will happen. As the market changes, you will have to pivot. Develop a plan for your best guess at what is to come. Then, develop a plan for how to proceed if everything falls into place. Finally, think about your contingency plan for what you will do if things start falling apart. Having a plan for each scenario will help you make decisions quickly.

Remember to be positive in your outlook. Your team will need you to keep calm as the world around them changes.

I have led through two crises now. Each one very different. You have to quickly make decisions and change course if things do not go as planned. What I can tell you is there is a silver lining in every crisis. Adversity makes us stronger.

Reflection: When you look back in a year’s time, what will you be proud of accomplishing?

Ashleigh Walters is president of Onex and author of Leading with Grit and Grace.

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