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Encourage Staff Feedback on Your Business Plan

Employee assessments of your company and its strategic direction are often overlooked measures in a business plan. By listening to the people who actually carry out your plans — from top managers to entry-level hires — you can discover plenty about what’s working and what isn’t.

Encouraging staff input taps a rich vein of ideas about how to revise and refine your business plan to make it even more effective. Some of the ideas you receive may be impossible to implement, and some may be downright wacky. But others are likely to be terrific and even invaluable.

Employees can help you guide your company in the right direction. For instance, employees working on the front line may be the first to notice marketplace trends. They may be able to steer you toward prospective customers or customer groups worth pursuing. They may tip you off about competitors worth keeping an eye on or product problems that are worth analyzing. Employees working behind the scenes may have useful insights.

To solicit feedback from your employees, establish regular procedures that encourage employees to offer their comments and suggestions. Some companies install an old-fashioned suggestion box. Others use their intranets to create virtual suggestion boxes, chat rooms, and online question-and-answer areas.

If your company is small enough, you can employ the best approach of all, which is talking face to face with employees doing the work to find out what’s working, what isn’t, and what the company can do differently.

Actively solicit suggestions and ideas by using memos, company-wide meetings, and employee questionnaires. In addition, invite employees to talk about the business plan during their performance reviews. Whatever methods you decide to use, consider asking for answers to the following questions:

  • Is the company doing enough to communicate its vision, mission, and strategic plan to employees? If not, how would you suggest we do a better job?

  • Are the business goals and objectives outlined in the plan clear and appropriate?

  • Do your duties and responsibilities help support the company’s goals and strategic direction?

  • Can you suggest specific changes in the way you do your work that will help the company better meet its goals?

  • Can you suggest ways to improve the company’s overall operations?

  • Do company procedures get in the way of doing your best job? If so, how do you suggest changing them?

  • Are you aware of changes in the industry — including your customers and your competitors — that your business plan should address?

  • Can you suggest ways we can enhance the value we offer our customers?

  • Can you think of additional ways to market our products and services?

  • If you were in charge of revising the business plan, what other changes would you make?

By soliciting suggestions and ideas from people at every level of your company, you not only collect constructive information, but you also enhance a sense of teamwork and shared mission, which go a long way toward making your business plan work and your business a long-term success.

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