Business Archives - TAB Corporate

Key Elements of a ‘Strategy Planning Day’

strategic planning

Is the thought of the strategic planning process too daunting for you to consider? Many small business owners and CEOs are inclined to put this off, thinking that such planning requires extended time away from the workplace, a commitment of additional resources and the risk of falling behind with critical deadlines.

But while it’s true an in-depth strategy planning session may take several days, there are alternatives that make the planning process more feasible for busy executives and their teams.

One such option is what’s called a “strategy planning day”—a single, focused day (at a venue generally offsite) with a schedule of intensive activities that are designed to “generate ideas [and] be done in an environment that stimulates freedom of thought and involve the right people.”

The structure of a strategy planning day may vary, depending on your business needs and other circumstances. But certain elements should be included in order to get the most bang for your buck. These include:

A skilled facilitator. It’s tempting for the CEO or owner to lead a strategy discussion, but that’s not necessarily in the company’s best interests. An objective third-party, skilled in encouraging a free-ranging discussion (but not letting the discussion get out of hand), is generally more effective in getting people involved than a business leader with “skin in the game.”

A clear view of key objectives. A vague goal of “strategy” is unlikely to move the needle in terms of efficient business planning. As part of the preparation phase, it’s vital to outline specifically what goals you intend to achieve by the day’s end—be they new product ideas, ways to enhance customer service, a revamped approach to vendor relations, etc. Knowing the “why” behind the planning session helps everyone involved stay focused on the task at hand.

A request for outside-the-box ideas. At least a brief portion of the strategy planning day should be set aside for brainstorming that adheres to no prescribed limits. Encourage team members to toss out the “craziest” solutions they have for ongoing business problems. The goal is to uncover some kernel of an idea that might lead the way to a genuinely practical solution that’s so far eluded the best minds in your business.

A few constraints. At the same time, introducing some constraints into the strategy discussion may serve to overcome commonly held misperceptions. John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing notes that business leaders “sometimes can’t get past why something won’t work thoroughly enough to get behind any sort of unified plan.” Addressing these constraints, he says, “give everyone a common point to attack when trying to determine strategies that will help eliminate or overcome the hurdles.”

A SWOT analysis. Analyzing your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is always a good idea. When you allocate a set period of time for SWOT analysis, it helps to frame a broader discussion of your company’s place in the marketplace, its standing with respect to competitors, current (and future) forces driving sales, and so on. A strong SWOT analysis also helps to set the baseline for future strategy day sessions.

A list of planned action steps. The end result of a strategy planning day is having concrete action steps to implement upon a return to “business as usual.” Each objective should come with its own list of proposed actions, including specific steps to overcome existing roadblocks to success. Assign action steps to a team or to individual team members, along with a schedule for getting things done. Keep interest alive by promoting the work of these teams and individuals with everyone in the organization.

Following your strategy planning day, it may be time to embark on a broader approach to strategic planning. TAB’s “Strategic Business Leadership” process is designed with small and mid-sized businesses in mind. We invite you to download our free white paper today and learn more about how strategic planning can help guide your business toward greater success.

 

5 Common Business Myths & How to Avoid Them in Your Business

Facts Myths Balance
We all know that drinking skim milk is one of the best ways to keep your weight under control. Or at least we thought we did. NPR recently reported on The Full-Fat Paradox: Whole Milk May Keep us Lean. They cited two different research studies that concluded that people that drink full-fat milk are actually leaner!

OK but we definitely know that getting older means feeling older, getting frail, and decreasing energy. It doesn’t have to be that way. According to this article by Deepak Chopra, lifestyle changes can positively impact each of these areas. I for one found this to be encouraging.

If these long-held beliefs can be reversed, it got me thinking about what in a typical small business is not true – or no longer true – and needs to be challenged.

Here are five things that we commonly hear business owners claim, and a few ideas on how to uncover the truth and correct these common business myths.

#1. )   My employees are the best in the business.

Maybe your employees have great technical skills. But do they also have the attitude, work ethic and interpersonal skills to make your organization shine. If you haven’t done so for a while, you may want to take a really hard look at your staff and ensure that your employees are a great fit for their role and that they have not become complacent.

A TriMetrix assessment is a great place to start. As Jim Collins says in Good to Great, good companies that aspire to be great “start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”

#2.)   Our customers are loyal and would never leave us.

True customer loyalty has always been a hard thing to assess. Will your customers really stay with you if a competitor comes along with an innovation that leapfrogs your offering and creates more value for your market? Will your customers stay with you if someone offers an equivalent product or service that is significantly cheaper?

The good news is that research has shown that there is an objective assessment of customer loyalty called the Net Promoter ScoreSM (NPS). It’s a simple customer satisfaction assessment that can either support your claim of customer loyalty or expose the fact that you need to make some changes.

#3.)   We provide the best quality service in the industry.

Do you have an objective way to assess this? If you are a software company, have you done a Capability Maturity Model (CMM) assessment to determine your quality level? If you are in manufacturing, do you have an ISO certification? Have you considered applying for the Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence Program? Consider TAB Member Terry May who has achieved this prestigious award, not once but twice!

#4.)   We know exactly where we’re going as a business.

Hopefully you have a vision for your business, some goals along the way to get there, strategies to achieve your goals and specific plans to get you there – and that it’s all written down. Is your vision just a  growth vision, or does it also include the culture of your business, new areas that you’d like to expand into and how your role within the business will be balanced with your personal life? As Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

The benefits of creating a strategic plan are clear. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, found that  you are 33% more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down. Learn how to create a strategic plan for your business.

#5.)   Everyone is on the same page and working towards common goals.

We call this alignment. It amazes us how often a business owner thinks the organization understands his or her vision and is working towards this vision – when they really aren’t. They absolutely want to support the owner. But the vision is not as clear as the owner thinks it is, the goals are not spelled out or the way in which an individual’s job can contribute to these goals is just not very clear to them.

The good news is that there are proven techniques for creating alignment in your business so that everyone is working towards a common goal.

For your business, I hope I’m wrong. There are plenty of businesses out there that can legitimately claim that their long-held beliefs are indeed fact and not fiction. There are other claims that give a business owner comfort, but aren’t really true. Be sure that you are challenging yourself to unveil potential business myths in your beliefs. As for me, I’m going to go have a glass of whole milk!

What other common business myths have you observed?