ROANOKE, Va. — I have always believed that, to be successful in life, you must have a plan.
I learned this principle at my father’s knee as he would sit down and talk about my future. He didn’t have a plan for me but instead wanted me to develop my own plan. What was I interested in, what did I want to do when I grew up?
Then, he helped me understand if those were my dreams, just what I needed to do to make them happen—what courses I needed to take in high school and college to give me the training I needed to make that dream become a reality.
My original plan never became a reality, not because I didn’t follow the plan but because the jobs in that field were far too few and impossible to get. I had to develop an alternate plan to support my wife and me.
I found myself working temporarily in a healthcare laundry but enjoyed the work. My college degree quickly got me promoted into a management training position, and my boss spent time with me, talking about the wonderful opportunities available for young managers in the industry. I was sold and set out making a list of all the things I needed to master to become truly competent in this new field.
I developed a plan. Every manager needs a self-development plan to improve their skills and stay abreast of the changes in the industry.
Over the years, I learned the value of planning for changes in my laundry. What would we need to do to increase our volume by 25% or more? What would we need to do if our volume decreased by 25%? What action plan should we follow in case of a major breakdown in the ironing department or the washing department? When should we send work out to be processed by other vendors, and when should we extend shifts? What about a major snowstorm or a hurricane?
Plans always need to be developed and refined based on your experience. A manager should never be caught unprepared when a crisis or situation comes his or her way. It is their job to always be looking ahead and training their people in how to handle sudden changes.
Time is our most valuable commodity and it should not be wasted. In the time of a crisis, it is critical that the proper steps be taken as soon as possible. Having a plan allows management to quickly react and meet the needs of their customers.
The key to planning is to do it when everything is running smoothly—to make sure you use your time on those days effectively and not just enjoy the easy day. Opportunities will come your way to show top management your skills as a manager.
When I was working in Memphis, Tenn., my healthcare organization hired a new CEO. I was the manager of an offsite, system-wide central laundry and figured I would never get to meet the man. To my surprise, he showed up in my office during his first week of employment and asked me directly about my management succession plan. What would happen to the laundry operation if I was suddenly lost to the operation?
I carefully reviewed how my management staff was organized, the skills of each manager and their ability to keep the current system in good operational shape. After an hour-long discussion, he thanked me for the information and explained that, in his last job, he had experienced a major problem when the director of the central laundry suddenly died and his staff was not prepared to handle the facility without him. He was not prepared to go through that again and appreciated our management plan.
During my career, I had opportunities to double the workload of my laundry in 60 days. I also had to plan for the complete replacement of the dryers on one of my two tunnel washers while still meeting all my customers’ needs. Careful planning, looking ahead, thinking about the business and the opportunities that may come your way—that is the most valuable work you will ever do as a manager.