How Did You Get Here? Where Are You Going?

It sounds like a couple of obvious questions, but when these questions are asked to executives at a convenience store chain, the wide array of answers may surprise you. Most execs generally know how a company arrived at its present state. However, dig deeper and many will tell you they arrived at their current destination with a lot of trial and error and not through any formal strategic planning process. This is likely because the industry was built by entrepreneurs that are high on creativity and typically low on process and structure.

“How did you get here?” is a good exercise to step back for a moment and understand the driving influences which shaped your company’s present form. While you can learn much from the past, you can not change it. The more important question is “where are you going?” followed by “why are you going there?” and, “how are you going to get there?”

Top quartile c-store chains are not the top performers by accident; they are there because they understand the importance of planning. They take a look 5-10 years out and evaluate current trends and how they will likely impact the company in the future. They evaluate trends within the c-store industry, as well as in adjacent retail sectors. Top performing chains also evaluate a variety of other key trends such as consumer behavior, demographic shifts and technology. While the c-store industry has historically been slow in evolving, the pace of change has been accelerated and is unlikely to slow down.

Take a page from the industry’s top performers and schedule some time to rigorously understand your business and plan for a future of success. Make sure you include the right people in your planning process (hint: it’s more than you probably think should be involved). By including a broad group of participants, you benefit from a diversity in perspectives while concurrently enabling more people critical to your success to understand the company’s strategy and what they can do to insure the strategy is effectively executed.

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