In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, when Alice asks the Cheshire Puss to tell her which way she should go, the Cheshire Puss replies, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice responds, “I don’t much care where…”, to which the Cheshire Puss says, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

The investment recovery function first and foremost is a business. It therefore requires development of a business plan, even if you are a one-person operation. Having no business plan for your investment recovery function is analogous to Alice’s situation. You may make it through the day-to-day onslaught of disposition requests, but where are you really going from here?

Let’s define a business plan as a formal statement of business goals, the reasons they are believed to be attainable, and the plan for reaching those goals.

Business plans tend to vary from simple to complex and from fairly short and concise to lengthy and detailed. The Internet is a rich resource to access and view examples of different kinds of plans to aid in plan writing. Many free or very reasonable templates are available online to work as thought-starters to simplify this task.

Tailoring the format of your IR business plan in the fashion of your company’s corporate or department business plan might be useful and productive as you embark on the process. It is crucial that you make your plan manageable – don’t get too complex or bogged down in the details – and that you make it a team effort in developing the plan.

Suggested key elements of the business plan might include:

  • Executive Summary
  • Vision, Mission Statement, Core Values/Principles
  • Situational Analysis (current vs. desired status)
  • Strategic Plan (moving-forward strategy)
  • Operating Plan
  • Contingency Plan

​The Executive Summary provides an overview of the major points of the business plan, so it should naturally be written last. It would include a discussion of the major assumptions for the plan and critical success factors.

A Vision Statement is meant to be inspirational for employees. It says where you aspire to go or be as an investment recovery company. It does not need to be nor should it be very long. Here is a sample vision statement. “To be recognized as the investment recovery ‘center of excellence’ and to be the investment recovery service provider of choice.”

A Mission Statement, on the other hand, answers the question of why the business exists to the IR employees and the external community. Here is a sample mission statement: “To dispose of surplus assets in a manner that a) maximizes asset utilization and return on investment, b) is based on sound, ethical investment recovery business practices, c) is compliant with all legal, statutory and regulatory requirements, and d) provides optimal customer service to our clients and customers.”

Good resources for Core Values/Principles development might include your company’s published core values and principles, and/or the association’s Certified Manager Investment Recovery Code of Ethics. Here are some basic core-management principles to consider.

1. Investment Recovery is a business, and a business plan is essential. Tactical reactions may get you through the day, but strategic planning is necessary for longterm success.

2. The investment recovery manager must never underestimate the importance of extreme customer focus for internal clients.

3. Core leadership involves strategy, action and results.

4. As a leader, always encourage open, honest, robust and courageous communication.

5. Repeat – everything has its cycle. A successful manager must always be reacting to change through continuous refinement and recalibration of plans, reorganizing as necessary to meet current and future situations, maintaining and sharpening leadership skills, and rewarding staff for successful completion of investment recovery activities.

A Situational Analysis basically looks at where you are versus where you want to be as an investment recovery function. Look at the services provided at present; systematically assess the strengths and weaknesses of each service or program provided today. What makes your investment recovery function competitively advantageous to use as opposed to the client handling the investment recovery function themselves? Then determine a “desired status” with customer/client input. What do your customers/ clients really want and need? Is there a distinction between the wants and needs of various clients? What are the perceived strengths and weaknesses of each of these?

Strategic Plan. Next is the development of a strategic plan, a moving-forward plan for how to achieve the business plan. This step includes setting goals and determining key performance indicators. Goals should be set from the top down, e.g., 5-year, then 1-year, then next quarter. The performance indicators must include management as well as customer/client performance indicators. They may also include other business drivers such as environmental compliance requirements.

An operating plan should include the planned organizational structure, a management plan, revenue forecasts and budget parameters.

And finally, a Contingency Plan is basically a fallback plan. For a computer center it may revolve around having a backup system in a separate building or even a separate town. A common dilemma for the investment recovery professional is too much work, too few resources and not enough time … but that is not your internal client’s problem. Another current trend is imposed reduction in staffing for investment recovery due to budget restrictions. So how can you manage to escalate and de-escalate investment recovery resources to adjust to the work flow when you are, say, “an army of one”? First, set up a simple, streamlined process for managing and reporting disposition efforts. Another way is putting long-term agreements in place to cover recurring disposition activities. The most obvious is long-term scrap agreements. But you can also utilize long-term agreements for sale of surplus, reusable assets. And you can establish and manage agreements with professional investment recovery outsource services.

In Summary: Look upon your IR function as a separate business. As with any business, you are much more likely to succeed if you do the following: Have a plan, work your plan, review your progress, refine your approach. Be especially honest about your situation, your capabilities and your potential for improvement with yourself and your team. And don’t ever lose sight of the critical foundation for building your successful business … long-term client trust and satisfaction.

Additional insight into this topic can be found in Chapter 16: “Planning, Organizing and Staffing for Investment Recovery” in the Investment Recovery Handbook. Get your copy at or save $5 by entering the discount code 3GWQMH6M at 5 “It is crucial that you make your plan manageable – don’t get too complex or bogged down in the details – and that you make it a team effort in developing the plan.”

– Michael Rhodes, CMIR Fellow, Pacific Exchange/Recovery Seeker 804.399.4577