Every year, 19 million Christmas puddings are made at the Matthew Walker factory in Derby. That’s an amazing 7,500 tons of plum pudding that serves everyone from the Queen, to soldiers, to school children.

Not only that, but this single factory provides puds for every major High Street retailer and supermarket, with around 70% of all Christmas puddings on sale in the UK being made by the company. But that’s not the most spectacular feat they get up to. What’s rather staggering is that they are currently making next year’s puds.

That’s right, before we’ve even worried about cooking this year’s turkey, Matthew Walker are busy stirring ingredients for Christmas 2009. Just imagine what that means. They needed to think about sourcing those ingredients last Summer – a full 18 months ahead of delivery of their products. They need to be able to predict market trends, flavours in fashion and the demands of fickle supermarket buyers well ahead of schedule.

It’s clearly a mammoth planning project that needs doing – including the recruitment of extra staff towards the autumn when most of the cooking and packing needs doing. Obviously, the business succeeds because of the time and effort they put into long-term planning. A product that has a life of just a day or two in our homes, gets around 18 months of love and attention from the people who have made it.

Which begs the question. How much love and attention do you put into the long-term planning of your web site? The chances are – not much. Few web site owners appear to plan their web sites in advance. For instance, what will your web site be carrying in December 2009. Don’t know? Strange – because Matthew Walker know what kinds of Christmas puddings will be on the shelves.

Yes, I know you might say I’m not comparing like with like. But there is a common thread that runs between successful businesses – detailed plans, target and goals. Not just for the short-term, but for the long-term future as well. So, if you want to get ahead in this online world, here’s a project for you for the days after Christmas, before we all get back into the office: draw up a plan for your web site and how it will develop over the next year, two years and five years.

Reveal your plans by commenting on this article and we’ll be able to see the range of ideas that people come up with.

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