Developing a Flight Plan for Your Business

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material first published on the Third Path Initiatives Blog.

Values. Vision. Purpose. Operating Principles. Those are pretty lofty altitudes in your business development process. They are all necessary; just as a solid foundation is necessary if you are going to build a home that lasts. However, with the foundation laid it’s time to begin executing on what you actually want to do.

We call this Flight Planning. It’s part strategic plan and part market plan and part organizational plan and mostly action plan. Over the last 20 years we’ve seen a large number of startups and small businesses achieve amazing results by devising and then doing this simple 3-step process.

Step 1: Set Targets and Objectives

The first step of the Flight Plan is to determine where you actually want to be in the next year (Objectives) and the next three years (Targets). It’s useful to set the information out, as follows.

1. Critical Success Area: Determine the Critical Success Areas in which you need to plan. Usually there are five or fewer: revenue, gross profit, customers, profit, market share, locations.

2. Base Year: Establish where you were at the end of last year with each Critical Success Area.

3. Three Year Targets: Set “approximate targets” for where you’d like to be in each category you deem important in three years. These need not be exact but they do need to be clear and measurable. They are, as on old friend of mine would say, “directionally correct and in the proper order of magnitude.” In other words, they are close enough to guide you.

4. 12 Month Objectives: Set more exact objectives in the same categories but with a 12 month time horizon. While not entirely exact and more aspirational than analytical try to be more “stretch realistic” at this step.

Critical Success Areas Targets and Objectives

Step 2: Pivotal Strategies

Now that you know your destination, it’s time to be thinking about the big things you can do to advance and move your company toward your goals. There should be few of these because, frankly, you probably have few resources to do them. Don’t take on too much or you will accomplish too little. Pivotal or breakthrough strategies represent the major moves or winning moves you want to make.

Examples of Pivotal Strategies may look like this:

  • We will expand into a new country.
  • We will establish a dedicated sales team to present our products to the market.
  • We will merge with another company that accretes to our technology platform or opens new geographic or vertical markets.
  • We will bring in a professional CEO.
Step 3: Quarterly Action Items

This is where the rubber meets the road. What will we actually do for the next 90 days? Spend time brainstorming (no judgement or evaluation) ideas of what we may do. The more ideas the better. List them on a flip chart and hang them all over the room or on a collaborative document if you have a remote team.

Now, determine what you will do. This is best done as a team but you, as the leader, will want to hold the final editorial role.

Finally assign an owner and a due date to each item. This last step is what begins the process of accountability and it is accountability and execution that will ultimately set you and your company apart from the “would be’s.”


Too simple? Not up to Harvard Business School standards? Good. I have no interest in an academically sound but functionally useless plan. As one old military sage put it, “I’d rather have a simple, average plan with great execution than a brilliant plan that is poorly done.”

mike profile

Mike Baer was one of the early leaders in the modern Business as Mission movement. He started his career as a pastor and church planter. After 15 years in the pastorate Mike was led into business where he gradually began to discover the potential for believers in business to bless their communities, evangelize the lost and spread the Kingdom of God, especially among the unreached. Today, Mike is the Chief People Officer of EmployBridge, a $3.2 billion employment company based in the US. He has written 3 books on BAM: Business as Mission, Kingdom Worker, and Gospel Entrepreneur. Mike is a regular contributor to the Third Path Blog. Today Mike and his wife reside in the mountains of North Carolina where they enjoy their 5 grandchildren.