New Year's Eve in my house brings four good friends for a night of overeating, under-drinking, and ruminating about goals and resolutions for the year ahead. In essence, we talk about where we are today and what will make the next 12 months successful. The five of us represent a range of philosophies — from “I don't like to plan” to “Planning is key to achieving.” None of us can say what unforeseeable events will befall us, but we do have a sense that defining what we want will improve our chances of surviving them.

Personal Philosophies Bring together five owners of remodeling companies, and you'll probably find the same range of philosophies. As they scan and speculate about the horizon, some remodelers may believe that their fate will be guided by uncontrollable outside influences. Their volume, they surmise, will depend on what walks in the company's door and how strong the economy is. They will work hard and make the most of every opportunity — but they haven't really seen the value of planning in action.

Others in this group may have a plan. They feel they are in the driver's seat. Yes, they know the road may have some potholes, but they feel that by having a plan, a budget, and a set of goals, they'll be much quicker in spotting problems and more nimble in reacting to them.

I have a strong bias toward planning. Undoubtedly I was born with this instinct, but I've learned by working with hundreds of remodelers that your chances of reaching success as you define it are greatly enhanced by determining the steps that will get you there, and planning how and when you will take each step.

Three-Step Strategy To that end, I'm developing a strategic planning process that I want to be user-friendly for my remodeler clients. My goal is to make it simple, short, and easy. Here's the gist:

First, develop a plan for involving your key managers — and at times the whole company — in a relatively sketchy three-year plan and a very precise one-year plan. Second, have each key manager develop a departmental plan (for sales, for production, for administration, etc.) that will support the company plan. Third, have each key manager present their departmental goals to the planning team, finalize their goals per consensus, and then commit to achieving them.

Don't overlook accountability. All companies have problems with accountability — the willingness of an individual to make and follow through on commitments and of their coworkers and supervisor to hold them to those commitments. To strengthen your accountability, create metrics — measurements that objectively show whether you are moving in the right direction and that indicate when you actually achieve your goal.

For instance, you might have the worthy goal of improving client satisfaction. By how much? How will you measure that? Here's an example. If you create a client satisfaction survey that can be scored, your metric might be to receive “excellent” ratings on 90% of surveys, then improve further to 93%.

Have your planning team meet monthly. Team members will keep ongoing tabs on how the company is doing overall, while reporting their department's progress in reaching their goals to support the company's success in the year.

Now, it's time for me to follow through on my commitment to create a system I believe in and can see in my mind. Stay tuned. In the meantime, take my word for it: Strategic planning works. — Linda Case, CRA, is founder of Remodelers Advantage Inc. in Laurel, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. 301.490.5620;;