Strategic Planning V3.0

The words “strategic planning” send chills down the spine of most reasonable people. That’s due in part to less than positive experiences in a process that was called “strategic planning.” Given the option of watching paint dry or engaging a strategic planning process, most would choose the former. Consultants like me share a significant degree of the blame for this reality. Many of us have made an abomination out of a process that reasonably should invigorate, energize, and inspire leadership teams of nonprofit organizations and businesses alike.

The Problem

The problem, at least in part is that strategic planning has been marketed as an event. You have an offsite kumbaya gathering of the executive leadership to do strategic planning. You meet for a day or perhaps two and at the end of it you emerge with an extensive work of art called a “strategic plan.” Most often it promptly gets forgotten and there is little if any follow through on the conversations, decisions and identified priorities that emerged out of the exercise. Some consultant walks away with a handsome fee, and a group of executive leaders leave naively thinking they’ve made significant progress only to wake up a month or two down the road completely disillusioned with the entire process vowing “never” to do that again! As a result capable, well-meaning executive leaders abandon a process that if done well, can be the very life blood of the organization, injecting, passion, energy, focus and inspiration into the organizations bloodstream! Why? Because strategic planning has been relegated to an event rather than an ongoing process.

Towards a Solution

The term “strategic planning” is really a misnomer. What if you called it “strategic thinking” instead? Now I know that merely changing the name doesn’t necessarily alter the essence of the process, but I’m suggesting in this case that a subtle adjustment can make a profound difference on both the experience and outcome of the process. The format might look very similar. It might be an offsite event facilitated by an external consultant but the dynamics are very different. The purpose is to think strategically about the organization, to take a look back at where you’ve come from, to evaluate where you are, and to then think strategically about where you need to go as an organization given your past and present realities, and the future you envision.

But strategic thinking doesn’t stop when the event ends. The process I’m proposing, incorporates strategic thinking into the organizational DNA where every decision in every department involves a strategic thinking process. Every challenge is viewed as an opportunity to think strategically about how best to address not just the symptom but the root cause. Every request to add programs or services is first evaluated through the lens of strategic thinking. How does this fit with what we’ve identified as our organizational priorities? Every staff hire is filtered through a rigorous grid of strategic thinking to ensure that the person and the role fits with the overall organization priorities.

Strategic Planning 3.0

There’s a need for a software update so to speak when it comes to strategic planning. Strategic Planning v3.0 if you will. My experience in the nonprofit sector is extensive and I’ve observed, developed and utilized a number of strategic planning models. Some of those I’ve developed, I’m embarrassed to put my name to. But I’ve found a model that in my experience addresses the identified problem and radically transforms the outcomes for the organizations who’ve experienced the model. I won’t go into a lot of detail other than to say that two of the four steps to the process involve Strategic Thinking AND Execution Planning. The Execution Planning piece is critical to seeing strategic thinking become an integral DNA molecule in the organization, and if done well it holds every executive leader, every department, every employee accountable to do the harder work of thinking strategically as a way of life, not just during the event. The Execution Planning piece identifies specific, measurable, time-lined outcomes with each outcome assigned to one specific person. That piece dramatically increases the likelihood of translating the strategic thinking into a clear, concise implementation plan. Therein lies the secret.

What Now?

The worst thing you could do is abandon strategic thinking as a key part of your organizations DNA. Strategic thinking done well should send chills down your spine – but for very different reasons! Those chills ought to be chills of excitement as you see the incredible potential of what your organization is capable of when strategic thinking becomes a way of life in the day to day management of your organization, not a kumbaya event! Find someone who has a proven track record of inspiring this kind of life, vitality and energy into nonprofit organizations and then arrange to have them facilitate the process with you and your team! It will be worth EVERY penny you spend on it! But make sure they’re using the Strategic Planning V3.0 operating system! Tech support is no longer offered on Strategic Planning V2.0!

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Ten Major Fears That Scare Small Businesses Away From Strategic Planning

An often offered comment to me when I speak about strategic planning to small business owners and managers is that their company or organization is too small for strategic planning. Or they will offer any number of other excuses why they do not use strategic planning for their business. In my opinion, this is a sad commentary on the thinking of these small business people. They do not realize or comprehend that their business or organization is on their way to the business graveyard without a strategic plan.

Well, I really believe if the truth were told, the real reason they do not do strategic planning is related more to fear than anything else. And so I ask this question: “why are so many of these businesses strategically challenged, strategically averse and/or just plain scared or fearful of strategic planning?” Your Strategic Thinking Business Coach reviewed and reflected upon experiences with this type of small business thinking and offers the following list of ten major fears that drive small businesses away from strategic planning.

Fear #1: Fear of being intimidated and overwhelmed by the strategic planning process.

Many small business owners and leaders have pre-conceived an idea of what strategic planning is and fear that the process of strategic planning will be too overwhelming for them. Therefore, they feel intimidated by the process and do not want to even start the process.

Fear #2: Fear of repeated past bad experiences with strategic planning.

Small business leaders may have had some extremely negative and possibly harmful experiences with strategic planning in the past. They may have had a very poor consultant that was brought in and nearly ruined the business. Maybe they spent weeks in meetings without accomplishing one thing because they did not use a professional facilitator. Or maybe they launched a plan without any means of accountability.

Fear #3: Fear of the amount of anticipated time and commitment to develop a strategic plan.

Small businesses do not have a large corporate staff and are so busy putting out fires and managing day-to-day activities that they believe they will not have time to focus on long-term and strategic thinking. They want to keep working “in the business” but avoid working “on he business.” And this translates to a basic fear that if they divert time to strategic planning, the business will fall apart in the meantime.

Fear #4: Fear of academic or the ivory tower thinking.

Many small business owners are distrustful of theories, systems, generalizations and formulas. There is the fear of “this is fine in theory but I does not work in the real world.”

Fear #5: Fear of the facilitation process.

The most effective strategic planning meetings use the skills of a professional facilitator. Small business owners and mangers may fear that the meetings, no matter how well intended, will end up as gripe sessions or hours of aimless wandering without a clear agenda or purpose.

Fear #6: Fear of commitment.

A benefit of strategic planning is that it leads to decisive action. So, in companies where the owner and management likes to “hold back” or “hedge bets,” work on many things at the same time and “keep all options open,” this can be a real problem. This stems from a fear of making a decision and following through with commitment to carry out that decision.

Fear #7: Fear of accountability.

Most small business owners are only accountable to themselves and many times that really means they are “not accountable to anyone” and are not really held accountable. With strategic planning, there is a system of accountability built into the plan and this causes some real fear and distress to some small business people.

Fear #8: Fear of failure.

In small businesses the cost of failure is high and the personal risks are great. In large companies, the management is really dealing with someone else’s money. In small business and especially with entrepreneurs, one’s livelihood is at stake. A winning strategic plan could help the entrepreneur realize his dream, but a losing plan could result in a nightmare.

Fear #9: Fear of the cost of strategic planning.

This fear arises when there is no strategic thinking used to look at the value of strategic planning to the business compared to the cost. Fear also arises when strategic planning is viewed as an expense rather than as an investment.

Fear #10: Fear of discomfort and confrontation during the strategic planning process.

Many small business owners and managers are very fearful and uncomfortable with “confrontations” and they go to great lengths to avoid them. They are very uncomfortable in any confrontation and are fearful that they will be confronted with some issue or problem during the strategic planning process that they would rather avoid. Therefore, they decide to not engage in the strategic planning process.

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24-7 – That’s Why You Need a Strategic Plan For Business Growth!

24-7.

Are you caught up working 24-7 IN your growing business?

Can’t find the time to get it all done? Not enough hours in the day? No one can do the work right, except you?

Well, then maybe the time is right for you. You’re finally ready to implement a strategic plan for Business Growth.

Let’s review 24 reasons why your business needs a strategic plan for Business Growth.

24 Reasons Why You Need A Strategic Business Growth System

You have no future-oriented vision for your business. In other words, you don’t know where you would like your business to be in 1 year, in 5 years, or even in 10 years from now.

On the other hand, you have some vague notions of where you would like your business to be in the future. But you don’t have any concrete plans established to make your dreams a reality.

Another reason you need to develop a strategic plan for business growth is that you are not sure what it is specifically that YOU want to achieve for yourself personally from your business. A strategic plan for business growth specifically incorporates plans to help you achieve those personal goals you want from working in your business for the next 5 to 10 years.

A strategic plan for business growth includes the balancing of your personal and business values. One should not outweigh the other. A strategic plan asks you to consider your personal values as you develop a plan to grow your business.

One primary reason for developing a strategic plan for business growth is your Cash Flow. Is it unpredictable? Why is that so? A strategic plan for business growth must address your business’ Cash Flow circumstances.

In addition, a strategic plan to grow your business will help you develop your business’ unique methods of generating Cash Flow.

Does your business have a specific “system” developed to generate Cash Flow? How about to manufacture more of it? Your strategic plan should encompass the design of such a Cash Flow “system”.

Any business can suffer from the unfortunate circumstance of having trouble paying bills on time. How can you solve this problem? The answer typically lies in having an organized approach to your business growth that keeps focus on your financial outlook. Your Cash Flow, your sales, your accounts receivables, and your own collections may be underlying reasons for your own financial woes. Your strategic plan should answer these questions and should arrive at workable solutions that you can implement to correct the problem of money, of Cash Flow.

If your business has failed to produce sustainable profits, likely you do not have a strategic plan in place. Your plan must set out actions to produce profits. But must also be focused on sustaining profits once they start to come.

One major reason for designing a strategic plan for your business is because your customer or client base is unstable, not growing, or even dwindling. You need a plan to identify your current customers and clients. And a plan to target your most valuable ones.

What if your customers or clients aren’t sure what it is you do? What steps are you taking to ensure that your customers and clients do know exactly what it is that you do? These steps must be “programmed” into your customer and client contact “system”.

If your customers or clients do not refer business to you, and neither do friends or colleagues, something is wrong. What? You’ve got to strategically analyze your business and come up with reasons for your lack of referrals. Then your plan must include remedies to the referral problem.

Many times, your competition gets the upper hand over your products or services just because you failed to consider them. Your plan to grow takes into account your own competition, their products, and services compared to your own. What steps can be taken to improve your products and services, or to design new ones that are even more competitive in your market? Your plan will have the answers.

What do you love about your business? Your products? Your services? Are you really passionate about your business? Any plan to grow a business must answer this important and fundamental question.

What about your marketing? Have you addressed this issue in your plan to grow? Are you spending too much money on marketing with no specific method, plan, or target? When you implement your strategic plan, you will come up with a specific plan for your marketing and, most important, a specific target to market.

Additionally, it may surprise you but you are in desperate need of a strategic plan to grow your business if your only form of acquiring new customers or clients is word-of-mouth. What is your method of acquiring new customers? What are your specific plans?

Who are your “prized possessions?” I call these your “Ideal Customers and Clients.” Your plan to grow your business must include ways to identify your Ideal Customers and Clients, and ways to acquire even more of them.

Can you state exactly what benefits your products or services provide to your customers or clients? You must be able to as part of your plan to grow your business. Once you arrive at your answers, write them down. These benefits must be constantly, and consistently promoted to your customers and clients as part of your overall plan to grow your business.

Why do you need a strategic plan to grow your business? Because you don’t have enough time in the day to do all you have to do. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Writing it down, and then following your plan is a great strategy for time management and goal achievement

“But I can’t develop a plan.” I’m just too busy putting out of the fires.” That’s a primary reason why a plan that strategically addresses your issues, obstacles, and problems, your IPOs, is urgent. You’ve got to identify what are your IPOs. You do this as part of your strategic plan. Then your plan has got to come up with solutions that you can implement to overcome your IPOs.

A central reason for having a strategic plan in place is so you have a method and steps to follow to achieve your goals. And they’ll be written down. Once they’re written down, then their achievement are merely a matter of executing the steps you have written down. If you want to achieve your goals, then have a strategic plan to do it.

But what if you say you don’t have a plan. That you just do what you have to do each day you come into the office. Having a “system” and a formal process to follow day in and day out leads to consistent action and eventual triumph over the hurdles and obstacles you face in your business. A formal plan will keep you on track taking the actions that you need to achieve your goals.

A necessary part of your business, if you want it to grow, and make money in the process, is to design and implement a “system of operations”. Your strategic plan for your business must establish the key “business operating systems” that will run your business and its component parts, whether you are on the job or not.

If you’ve been keeping track, we’re now at the final reason why you need a strategic plan in place to grow your business. If you’re not sure of definite ways you should grow your business and increase your profits based on your personal goals and business objectives, then you really don’t have a plan. You haven’t thought out how your business is supposed to be the vehicle that gets you to the ultimate destination…, your goal achievement.

But once you take the time to design a strategic plan, you’ll then have a method… a “system” that you can follow daily. You’ll have a plan that sets out definite ways and methods that you can implement… ways that will increase your profits… and that will drive you daily towards the ultimate achievement of your goals and aspirations. Not only for your business…, but for YOU.

There’s 24 reasons why you need to design and implement a strategic business growth system for your business.

“But, how can my business benefit if I design a strategic plan for business growth and increased profits?”

To answer that question, let’s review just 7 benefits of designing and implementing a strategic plan for business growth.

7 BENEFITS OF A STRATEGIC PLAN FOR BUSINESS GROWTH & INCREASED PROFITS

Once you develop a strategic plan to grow your business and increase your profits, you will have:

=> A business that is strategically growing and evolving into the dream enterprise YOU always wanted.

=> More fun and satisfaction by doing the kind of “work” you most enjoy, with the people you most like to work with, and for the kind and quality of customers and clients you dreamed of one day serving.

=> A financially solid business with increasing income for you and your staff.

=> Profit building, with lower overhead costs and reduced expenses.

=> Easier, quicker resolution of customer and client complaints, and staff issues.

=> More time off to spend with family and friends.

=> Less stress.

So, what are you waiting for?

There’s only 24 hours in the day . And only 7 days a week.

24/7.

But that’s enough time to get busy working ON your business.

So, get going. Today. This hour!

You want to make more profits? Achieve all of your goals? Have more time off? Feel fulfilled? Be happier and more passionate about your business?

Then here’s the secret.

You must design, and implement a strategic plan for your business growth.

This article is an excerpt from the MasterMind Business Growth System, as authored by Miguel Mendez, Jr., Esq.

Copyright 2008. Miguel Mendez, Jr. All rights reserved.

The author of this article, Miguel Mendez, Jr., is the Owner of MasterMind Group International. He is an Attorney, noted Business Growth Expert, and Speaker. Miguel Mendez has represented and performed consulting services for start-up and fast-growing businesses for over 22 years.

To learn more about how you can design and implement your own strategic plan for Business Growth and increased profits, check out the MasterMind Business Growth System, a 310 page interactive workbook, with 8 CDs, and easy-to-implement forms and checklists.

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Why a Strategic Plan is Important

As consultants, we work with a variety of businesses across a number of industries as well as non-profit entities. In reviewing the performance of these organizations, it is interesting to note that those businesses that perform at the highest levels usually have some sort of formalized strategic plan in place and have implemented it well.

On the other hand, those businesses that struggle usually have no plan in place and seem to flounder in their attempts to be successful. And many of the organizations that are successful in the implementation of their strategic plans use a simplified strategic planning process to get the plan written and implemented more quickly and efficiently. One of the things that caused some to proclaim that strategic planning had lost it luster was the tendency of some to drag out the process too long and to create more work than necessary. The simplified, rapid development approach has helped immensely in getting good strategic plans developed and implemented.

In order for a business to be successful, there needs to be a road map for success. The development of sound business strategy is a result of the strategic planning process. A significant mistake that is made by businesses large and small is defining critical business strategies without going through this process. A strategic plan helps to provide direction and focus for all employees. It points to specific results that are to be achieved and establishes a course of action for achieving them.

Another common mistake is simply allowing the organization to wander aimlessly without having even generalized goals in place. Having well defined goals, objectives, strategies and tactics reduces the risk of business failure and helps increase the likelihood of solid success. And speaking strictly from the perspective of a manager, owner, director, president, CEO, etc., their own success can be defined by having a well developed strategic plan in place that is well implemented.

A strategic plan helps the various work units within an organization to align themselves with common goals. But perhaps most importantly, the strategic planning process provides managers, owners and entrepreneurs the necessary framework for developing sound business strategy.

Arguably, the leading cause of business failure is not having a strategic plan in place that is implemented effectively. If a business has little idea where it is headed, it will wander aimlessly with priorities changing constantly and employees confused about the purpose of their jobs. And it could chase strategies that have little or no chance of success.

Building a strategic plan is not difficult. It will take some thought and some feedback from customers and others, but businesses should be routinely garnering feedback from appropriate constituent groups on an ongoing basis. The process of developing a strategic plan should be rewarding for all involved and usually helps develop stronger communications between members of the planning team.

Managers and business owners need a well developed strategic plan in order to effectively establish expectations for their employees. Without a plan, expectations are developed in a void and there is little or no alignment with common goals and strategies. A good strategic plan looks out 2 to 5 years and describes clearly what market, product/service, pricing, marketing and other strategies will be followed. In short, it defines how the business will grow and prosper over the defined planning horizon.

Strategic planning does not end once the plan is put on paper. Once developed, the key to making the plan work is a commitment to seeing it through coupled with sound implementation. Unfortunately too many good strategic plans end up on a shelf gathering dust without being even partially implemented. The commitment to not only creating a sound strategic plan, but to its full implementation must be made at the beginning of the planning process.

The strategic plan will contain an action plan that will detail the steps to be taken in order to fully implement the strategies and tactics defined in the plan document. And that action plan will delineate specific deadlines and individuals or teams responsible for completing defined tasks.

Far too many organizations, large and small, fail to develop even basic strategic plans. The absence of a strategic plan is one of the key reasons many businesses struggle or fail. Without that road map provided by a solid strategic plan, decisions are made in a vacuum and/or there is considerable confusion and inconsistency evident within the organization. During tough economic times, the need for a solid strategic direction and plan is even more pronounced because the margin for error generally becomes smaller for most businesses.

All employees need to understand the guiding principles of the business and what everyone should be aiming to achieve. A strategic plan that is well developed, properly communicated, and carefully implemented can launch struggling or underperforming businesses to new heights.

Take a look at your business. Are your critical business strategies well defined? Are they successful? Does there seem to be a lack of focus on where the company is headed? Does everyone clearly understand the goals for the business? Strategically, how will the business achieve those goals? Is your current planning horizon longer than one year? Are you developing annual business/operating plans without a strategic plan in place? Strategic plans should drive or at least help define operating plans and budgets.

Writing a strategic plan isn’t as complicated as some would lead you to believe. Simplified strategic planning has been our focus for some time because too many organizations get caught up in the process and lose sight of what is important. We have found, without exception, that businesses which create and execute sound strategic plans are generally far more successful than those that do not. Remember that successful implementation of the plan is a must. If you write a plan and then allow it to gather dust on a shelf, you might as well have no plan. There must be a commitment to implementing the strategies and tactics detailed in the plan.

Make no mistake about it, if your business or non-profit organization is operating without an effective strategic plan in place, it runs the risk of underperforming or even failure. As mentioned, writing a strategic plan is not difficult and it does not have to be overly time consuming.

The notion that strategic planning has to be a long arduous process to be successful is complete nonsense. In fact, our experience clearly points to a far more successful planning experience and better plans when the plan is completed without a lot of “bureaucracy” and extraneous analyses.

There are certain steps required in the strategic planning process in order to develop a solid and actionable plan. Using a strategic plan template is an effective method of getting a solid plan written and implemented. At the request of our clients, we have created such a template that includes instructions and examples of each step as well as worksheets that can be completed to effectively create your plan.

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