Your Business Plan Can Be a Tool for Engagement

By: Jesse Wolff, President and CEO, Goodwill Industries of Denver and CWCC Member

When I asked the executive team at Goodwill to work on our business plan for our organization of more than 1,100 employees, I could see the fear (and cynicism) in their eyes.  People often think business plans are incredibly time consuming and are rarely used after you write them.  Business plans don’t have to turn out that way and they are an absolute must if you want to stay focused on achieving your organization’s goals.  After all, employees want to make an impact just as much as they want to collect a paycheck.  A good business plan is the conduit to achieve and display that impact over time.

Business plans don’t have to sit in a drawer or on your hard drive collecting dust.  Instead, they should be a conduit for all employees to evangelize your brand and become ambassadors for your mission.  Best of all, if employees are bought in to the plan, it’s likely to catch on and take effect ensuring all goals are met and tactics are executed.  It takes strategic thinking, time, communication, hard work, and the desire to weave your brand into every aspect of your business.

Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Set your goals. What do you want to accomplish this year? What about next year? The next five or ten years? Take a step back and look at your organization from every possible perspective. Now sit down and start thinking about your goals.
  2. Don’t forget your business school basics. Your goals should be SMART goals. You know the drill. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. But go further than that. Break down goals for every subset of your organization. Now where do they overlap? Is business development working closely with marketing? My guess is that each department will share one or more goals, meaning they should be working together.  If you don’t have large departments, give employees certain sections of the plan to be responsible for.
  3. Set your team free. Now that the leadership team is on the same page, they should go back to their respective teams and get to work on their section of the plan.  How does each department plan to meet their goals? Let them decide as a team. This gives every employee a chance to be invested in the process.  If there’s no specific leadership team or just one or two employees, even better.  Gather everyone together and see who wants to tackle what.
  4. Tie it all together. Make sure departmental goals tie together to form a cohesive unit. Finally, interweave your brand into every single goal. Branding isn’t just for external advertising anymore. Your brand represents you as an organization to every stakeholder in your business, both internal and external. As a platform for your future, your business plan should reflect each aspect of your brand.

So now that you’ve got a business plan, what are you going to do with it? This is where I say you shout it from the rooftops! Yes, some things should be kept confidential. But how are you going to keep your employees invested in hitting their goals if you don’t keep them connected to the plan? Hold a company-wide meeting to discuss the plan and answer questions. Keep a copy of the plan and refer back to it on a weekly/monthly/and quarterly basis. Are you hitting your goals? If not, where can you revamp? If so, make sure to celebrate your achievements. Once your team is excited and invested in your plan, all of that hard work will pay off in spades.

With over 20 years of experience in the investment management and nonprofit industry, Jesse Wolff currently serves as President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Denver. He oversees the community programs that serve more than 36,000 individuals in the Denver metro area, and over 20 retail stores and outlets that operate to support Goodwill’s mission. For more information visit

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