I’ve helped many companies of different sizes and types to create meaningful and practical strategic plans. I’ve found the best way to start is to hold a strategic planning day with the owners and top management team. Set aside an entire day and locate it away from your office so there are no interruptions or distractions. A hotel with good conference and catering facilitates is often an ideal place. Furthermore make sure all mobile phones are switched off while discussions take place.
Appoint a good facilitator to manage the meeting who is independent from your business but is someone you trust with good business acumen. Their role is to guide you through the process and where appropriate ask difficult questions that are sometimes overlooked.
There needs to be some preparation beforehand but it should not be onerous. Typically it includes your latest accounts, management figures and a breakdown of your total sales by category. Avoid over preparing as it can easily make a strategic discussion become an over detailed specifics discussion.
Napoleon Hill, one of the pioneers of successful business planning said “Having a definite plan greatly simplifies the process of making hundreds of daily decisions that affect your ultimate success. When you know where you want to go, you can quickly decide if your actions are moving you towards your goal or away from it. Without definite and precise goals and a plan for their achievement, each decision must be considered in a vacuum.”
Start the day by giving everyone a chance to individually express their personal and business objectives prior to any interactive discussion taking place. Let your facilitator then guide you to decide your collective and overall principal objectives that will decide your future strategy and success.
Thereafter, discuss the main components of your business and how they can be improved and expanded. These will typically be:
- Services and products you sell – currently and new ones for the future, plus how you source, purchase and produce them.
- Sales and marketing plans – so you have a clear focus about how you will acquire the customers you want for the future.
- Management and information systems including your key performance indicators.
- People – roles and responsibilities.
- Financial forecasts up to 5 years.
- Action plans.
- Review systems.
Leave the financials forecasts to near the end so they can reflect all your earlier plans and ideas.
Minute the meeting to ensure that all the most salient points discussed and agreed can be incorporated within a written strategy and action plan. Thereafter, communicate this plan to everyone in your organisation so they know where you’re going and how you intend to get there.
If you create your strategic plan in this way it will become a living document that will successfully drive your business forward.
By Andrew Rhodes