Preparing for the New Year

Start on January 1

In just a few days, we will enter the New Year. Indeed, I venture to say that many people think 2020 can’t end fast enough. As much as we would like to put the old year behind us, are you ready for 2021?

As a part of my year end ritual, I begin to think, plan, and strategize enhancements that will improve KTM Solutions’ business situation for the next 12 months. The realities of 2020 really shouldn’t have an impact on forward planning other than influencing our frame of reference.

Whether you are a business owner, manager, line worker, or stay-at-home mother, near-term and longer-term future planning is something we all need to consider. Perhaps the method I use can be helpful to you, regardless of your situation.

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Step one – Measure and understand your current position. When KTM Solutions opened for business in 2005, the first item of business was development of a business plan.

This was a very detailed plan that covered everything, including but not limited to business/technical process development, hiring strategies, marketing and sales plans, product offerings, revenue expectations, five-year/ten-year goals, and eventual business exit strategy.

The process of writing the plan required me to think through the entire business and the preparation necessary to be successful. I used that plan throughout the first year to measure progress and make minor course corrections as I learned from the school of hard knocks that theory and reality weren’t always the same!

However, by the end of the year, I had a great measuring stick to see how far we’d moved and how much had changed. Believe it or not, even after 15 years, annually, I update that original business plan at year end to plan the coming year. As I look at next year’s plan, I will start by looking at the realities of 2020.

Step two – Develop a credible plan that includes realistic and stretch goals. When I was young, my father taught me to sail. When sailing, course adjustments are required to ensure that the sail picks up the wind.

My father taught me to pick a point on the horizon that is close to the destination and continue to head in that general direction. Even as we crisscrossed to catch the wind, by keeping our focus on the end goal we were able to get where we planned to end up.

Like sailing, reaching our annual goals will most likely not be a straight line. We will need to tact and change directions while maintaining focus on the final destination. Accept that we will encounter unexpected challenges throughout the year.

Leave room in the plan to handle the unexpected. Recognize that waypoints should be established to make sure you can stay on the right path. In some cases, as with sailing, the destination may be beyond the horizon.

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Step three – Implement the plan and measure progress. The original business plan had clear milestones at the 3, 6, 9, and 12-month marks as well as a target for the first five years. By setting these interim measures it was easy to see that we were on plan and moving toward the goal.

I would like to tell you that we hit every milestone and that the plan was perfect, but that would be a lie. However, missing the mark doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as we learned from each experience. I will tell you that we missed the mark in 2020.

However, by having interim milestones and measures, we were able to make course corrections and salvage what could have been a disastrous year. In fact, our five-year vision actually shaped decisions we made this year to pivot in a slightly different direction when the aircraft business was devastated by the pandemic.

To some readers, this advice may sound simple and may be a regular part of your year-end routine. For others, this may be a whole new thought. I also imagine there are some who will say, “I couldn’t have predicted what COVID would do to my family/business/retirement (or you fill in the blank), so how can I develop a credible plan?”

In 2020, we all experienced things that none of us would have believed if we haven’t lived through them. For example, I never thought in the US we would see the government shut down businesses. How many people had that experience in their business plans?

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Unfortunately, unplanned events happen. Instead of a government shutdown, you could be impacted by a building fire, earthquake, lightning strike, death of a key employee, or loss of a key business account (like the aircraft business).

These situations are not unique to the business environment. Families are dealing with things like job losses, illnesses, loss of a family member. Life is full of unexpected events.

One year ends, a new year begins. Although this isn’t the only time to take stock in the past and plan for the future, it is a convenient time to reflect and dream. Start by counting your blessings.

Look back over the past year and find the things that went well. Celebrate those things. Consider how those things might shape your plan for the new year. Then look at the things that didn’t go as planned. What could have been done to lessen the impact? What measures and strategies can you put in place to avoid a repeat?

Consider that other events could realistically arise that could create obstacles and disrupt your vision of the future. Decide if there are steps you can take to lessen the impact.

Consider what “milestones” or “markers” you can create to warn you of drift from the original planned course. I like to write these things into a plan so I can refer to it later or share them with my staff. However, the real heavy lifting is thinking through the plan.

As you think this through, I hope that the plan brings encouragement. Thank you for being a reader of this editorial. I send you all my best wishes as you enter the New Year, and I hope that your dreams and plans come true in 2021.

Paul V. Kumler, P.E., is president of KTM Solutions, an engineering company that services the aerospace and large-scale manufacturing industries. In addition to aero structures engineering services, KTM Solutions designs and builds tooling supporting a broad clientele and various industries. ( The company is headquartered in Greer, South Carolina, with remote offices in Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Kumler serves in several volunteer roles including the SC Aerospace Advisory Board. Mr. Kumler, a professional engineer, is licensed in Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington. He is married to Ginger A. Kumler. Together, they have two grown children and three grandchildren.

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