We are all planning for something in our businesses. Whether we actively create formal business plans or make it up as we go along, there are inherent expectations for the future. But what are those expectations, and how can we increase our chances of seeing them fulfilled?

It is my belief that you get what you plan for, and the better you plan, the greater your odds for success. In fact, simply taking the time to think through what will be required to achieve your goals, coupled with actually writing them down already puts you ahead of much of the rest of the business world.

So back to the title of this column: when you see a car go by with this on the license tag, that’s me. But it’s more than just a vanity tag or a gimmick to get noticed. I am passionate about the role that planning plays in your ability to succeed in the marketplace. The difference between success and failure is the degree to which you have done your homework. Often that homework is simply looking ahead to what can be expected and planning accordingly.

There is no one ‘right’ way to plan. There are probably thousands of templates to follow, many of which are more complicated than you really need. A template can help guide your thinking and arrange the results in an organized way, but the work that goes into answering the right questions is really what you are after.

It’s not the plan but the planning that is important. The goal itself is not a nicely written report. The report is a visible result, but the real value is the process of setting aside time to look at your business, where you are and where you want to be, and determining how you will get there.

So what questions should an effective planning process answer? Start with your performance over the last 12 months. What do those numbers tell you about the health of your business? Are your margins healthy enough? Is your cash reserve growing or shrinking? Are the products and services you offer still performing? Is your close rate improving? Are your marketing efforts generating the results you need to reach your goals?

Analyze your market size and whether it is growing or shrinking. Take a look at your market share and your key competitors. Are they making changes you may have overlooked? Evaluate how well you attract and retain customers. Are your marketing efforts working?

What level of performance do you want? What will be required to achieve that level? What will it cost, and are you prepared to make the necessary investments?

Planning for success is an amazing time of discovery, of shining light on areas that need greater attention, and identifying what will keep you from achieving so you can do something about it.

So what are you planning for?

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Warren Williams is president and founder of Turning Point Business Coaching. He provides coaching to growing businesses in Concord and the Greater Charlotte area. Have a question about this article, or a topic you’d like to see covered here? Contact Warren at info@turningpointbizcoach.com or visit www.TurningPointBizCoach.com.