During the event CFOs explained their approach to game planning, growth and innovation. Carolyn Creswell, founder of Carman’s Fine Foods, shared the fascinating journey of her business’s success.
According to Creswell, “planning is a huge part of how we operate and we have an annual plan that runs over three years. Then we break it down and look at what are we going to execute in the upcoming year. Planning is an enormous part of the culture of the business.”
Economic commentator and journalist Peter Switzer was the MC for the evening. He says that when it comes to putting together the essential elements of a Game Plan, it’s firstly important for the business to visualise what it is trying to achieve and put the growth plan building blocks in place step-by-step.
“You wouldn't build a house by getting a truck and picking up some bricks. You need an architect. It’s the same in business. Visualisation of where you're going is the starting point for all game plans and then you can break it down and look at strengths and weaknesses and pull it all together,” he says.
The importance of a Game Plan for growth
Martin Seward, Vice President and General Manager, Small and Medium Enterprises at American Express, hosted the event and shared insights into the power of planning for CFOs, drawing upon on recent research by American Express into CFO attitudes towards planning, Game Plan for Growth: CFOs’ imperative to fuel innovation.
“There were a number of revelations that were clear from the research. Number one was the need to start with a clear mission and a vision for the organisation. Other components are a plan for people, a plan for technology and a plan for innovation. If you get those three things right, you should be able to drive really good growth for the future,” says Seward.
Andrew Cromie is the CFO of Beaumont Times. He says for game planning to be successful it’s essential to have very specific goals.
“It's not just about a vision, you have to be able to bring it down to tasks, opportunities and objectives you want to achieve for the next month, five years and ten years,” he explains.
Scott Wilkinson, Head of SME, Qantas, says that when he’s planning, one of the things he thinks about is the intended consequences of any actions. “People focus on want they are trying to achieve but they forget about the effects the game plan is going to have.”
He says unexpected events are a natural part of being in business and it’s critical to account for them when planning. “It’s really important right from the outset to think about a number of curve balls that could happen and what your response will be to them.”
Jerry Yohananov, CFO of fintech lender Society One, says planning is absolutely essential in any early stage venture. “For us it's all about growth. We measure things such as the amount of web traffic that comes through the door all the way to what we write, and all that is factored into our plan at the beginning of the year.”
It’s a strategy that has paid off: Yohananov says the business is doubling in size every year. “We have very high growth rates and for us it's about maximising the sales funnel and our capital to provide a great customer service.”
Mirza Juddani, CEO of online travel hub Skiddoo, says for any emerging business planning is all about resources. “You must look at the core strengths of the business, where you want to apply your resources next and where you see quick wins and big wins. That’s how we plan our next move. Every company has a vision and you get there step-by-step.”
Tin Yi Tan, Finance and Administration Manager from Directus Australia, a food services supplier, says in his business growth is innovation.
“We used to be known as a commodities trader but it's all about innovation now. Our company is very flat and non-hierarchical and everybody has a say. Our CEO allows us to fail and no idea is a bad idea. You do it, you innovate, you bring it to the market if it fails, fail fast. That’s how we have grown tremendously in the last two years and how we diversified.”
Yi Tan agrees it’s important to plan into the future, but it’s also necessary to be flexible. “You can have a plan but things change. So you have to be able to be flexible and change when the environment changes. Our company is not very big and everyone is involved in the planning so we reach our goals.”
Mark Pilgram, General Manager of management consulting firm Innture, says growth in his business depends on market trends across the industries it works with such as oil and gas, retail and healthcare.
“We like to get our people involved in planning and we look at emerging trends, particularly around innovation and how we can embark on initiatives that will help multiple customers,” he adds.
According to the research by American Express, 77% of mid-sized businesses have a Game Plan. However, the 50% of respondents who do not, expect no growth for their companies, demonstrating the importance of a plan that helps your company respond to market conditions and plan for growth and innovation in the future.
- Visualising the future should be the start of the planning process.
- A clear organisational mission and vision must back the planning process.
- Plans must be specific and include clear objectives for the short-term and long-term.
- Don’t forget to ensure the plan can account for changes in the business environment.
- It’s also important for the plan to be able to respond to unintended consequences as a result of the planning process.