To make a business grow in an organized fashion, a business owner has to establish goals and he has to know why those are his goals. Then he has to decide how to achieve the goals and, finally, he has to decide what has to be done, day by day, to move along the chosen paths. It’s like going on a trip – where are we going; how are we going to get there; and which direction are we going in today.

Many business owners have not thought this through. Is their primary aim to have their business make lots of money and if so, why? Are they passionate about their product and primarily want the best product possible? Do they primarily want a fun work environment, working with friends and family with time off when they want it? These goals will often not be compatible and, without a clear primary goal, it’s like planning to go west and deciding, at each crossing, to take the road which looks the most attractive. The traveller will end up somewhere and it may or may not be where he wants to be. What is certain is that it will not be the best place he could have reached.

Once a business owner knows what he wants to do and why, he can plan the route to get there and he can make every decision count towards achieving the primary goal. The key here is that he can but doesn’t have to. If his primary goal is to make lots of money, and he could save a lot by firing the old guy who’s close to taking a pension, he doesn’t have to do it. He can see the highway which will take him straight to his destination but that doesn’t mean he can’t take the scenic route and spend the night in a small inn overlooking the ocean. He just has to know how to get back to the highway and how much the side trip is going to delay him.

While small excursions off the main plan can be beneficial, sometimes the whole basis for the business changes. Illness, death, natural disasters and even the passage of time can change what the business owner can do and what he wants to do. If the highway is blocked, the business owner can turn around and take the next flight to his destination but if it no longer makes sense to go there, the plan has to be scrapped and a new one put in its place.

A Plan is Just a Piece of Paper