“Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” –George Patton

We are living in unprecedented times. Or are we? If you study history and business, you will see that our economy has experienced several cycles of growth and contraction. Many successful entrepreneurs and business owners throughout history have experienced prosperity and hardships. Granted, it has been a long time since we have seen something of this magnitude, but one thing that history proves is that the current trend will change. The question is: Will you be ready for the upturn when it comes?

Business owners who strategically prepare for the future will come out ahead. To ensure your long-term success, you need to continuously plan. More specifically, a Harvard Business School study suggests that it is important to have a written plan.

Conducted over the course of 25 years, the study found that of the 1,600 businesses it tracked, 70 percent had no written or verbal plan and 27 percent had only verbal goals. Only 3 percent of the businesses had written plans—and it was that small segment of the business owners who held 98 percent of the wealth.

That study proves the power of strategic planning, but success involves more than just having a written plan. It also comes from the process of developing that plan.

During this process, you must ask three critical questions:

1. Who are we?
2. Where are we going?
3. How are we going to get there?

The business owners who go through the planning process every year and forecast what their business will look like in the next one to five years know whether or not to expand or conserve. Being able to forecast and adjust accordingly gives you an edge against your competitors, who are more than likely just winging it. Obviously, your plan might get thrown off base at times, but having a sense of where you are and where you planned to be will mitigate those circumstances and allow you to adapt.

Strategic planning is probably the most important skill you can acquire as an owner or manager, and if you take the time to set a plan, you will come out ahead in the long run.

David McGarry holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of Florida and an MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas. McGarry also is certified through the NSCA as a certified strength and conditioning specialist and is the owner of www.davemcgarry.com, a fitness consulting company. Previously, he served as the assistant general manager for the Cooper Fitness Center at Craig Ranch. His experience consists of more than 13 years as a personal trainer and fitness manager. McGarry is actively involved with the community as a public speaker and presenter to corporations for health and wellness. His most recent accomplishment is a self-published book for fitness professionals and personal trainers called “Anatomy of Sales,” available at www.anatomyofsales.com.