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Fighting Fires: How Strategic and Financial Plans Can Help

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Have you seen more and more news about wildfires?  This is due to an increased trend in acreage being burned by wildfires in the US.  Have you thought about how we fight wildfires?  I started thinking about this in terms of business. I hear frequently from business owners that they spend too much time “putting out fires”.  This is a very common problem in fast-growing businesses of all kinds.

Can we learn how to properly fight fires in business by taking a lesson in common tactics in fighting actual wildfires?  I did a little research on Wikihow.com and discovered there are 3 methods for fighting wildfires:

  • Background Knowledge
  • Tactics
  • Prevention

Background Knowledge

One of the best ways to prevent a fire is education about how they get started. An actual fire gets started with heat, fuel, and oxygen.  In business, a fire is usually started with a bad process (heat), growth (fuel), and chaos (oxygen).  Study the processes that caused the fire to start in the first place, which requires documenting what you are doing now. Do you have a scalable process?  If you are growing fast, your business processes need to be redesigned to meet the growth you are experiencing.  Once you are in a chaotic state in your business, the fire can spread and get worse. You can lose employees and customers, which only makes the situation worse.

Tactics

When fighting a fire, one key tactic is creating a fireline. A fireline is creating a line on the outer perimeter using water or a controlled burn to eliminate the fuel to keep the fire from spreading. In business, I call this putting together a strategic plan and doing financial forecasting.  You can’t fight just today’s problems and not consider the spread of the fire. A good strategic plan will help you keep the fire from spreading. Financial forecasting will show you where you are today and direct your plan for stopping the fire.  I talk more about the mechanics of a good business forecasting model in my post “Flying Blind”.

You have to spend time thinking and being proactive. Don’t live in chaos even if it does excite you and make you feel valued. Your employees and the growth of your business desire structure and improvement.

Prevention

The best way to prevent a fire is to watch for warning signs, ensure proper maintenance, and best practices.

When it is hot and dry, there are increased warnings issued to inform everyone that conditions are favorable for wildfires. In business, key performance indicators (KPIs) are created to warn us of potential business issues. I discussed KPIs in my post “Keeping Score – Why KPIs?” .  It is important to look at trends and metrics related to revenue, expenses, profit, and cash flow.  Create metrics for understanding customer and employee satisfaction. Review trends in client and employee retention and monitor these KPIs on a regular basis. Create a good monthly dashboard of important KPIs that can bring any issue to your attention before the fire gets out of control.

A wildfire can be started by not properly maintaining vehicles or equipment. The same is true for your business.  You need to maintain up-to-date financials and metrics that are accurate and timely.  You should understand your cash flow and where it is forecasted to go in the next few months.  Have a strategic plan and let everyone know where they fit into key company goals.

There are “Best Practices” for how to handle and prevent a fire. There are also many “Best Practices” in business.  I have mentioned many of these such as accurate and timely financials, a forecasting model, and a strategic plan. Another good practice is to have regular employee reviews to ensure that they are growing toward their business and personal goals.  Also, have a good business development plan that is focused, reviewed, and tied to a strategic corporate goal. Continue to focus on the activities that matter and help you meet your plan for growth.

Conclusion

Wildfires are part of life and can easily get out of control if we let them. There are ways to use knowledge, fire fighting tactics, and prevention techniques to fight and minimize fires in your business.  By equipping your business with key teammates, a good strategic and financial plan, and scalable processes, you can be more successful to stay out of the hot zone and enjoy the beauty of new growth.

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