Say Goodbye to the One-size-fits-all Strategic Plan
August 9, 2018 | Ryan Burbach, CPA
If I asked a room full of business owners how many of them had undergone a strategic planning process in the past five years, the majority would raise their hand. If I then asked how many were seeing the results they anticipated and were still following through on that plan, the number of hands in the air would be few, if any. Planning comes in many forms, but no matter what type of planning process is undertaken, or how sporadically business teams attempt it, the same holes seem to exist.
Before providing the solution, it is important to understand what business owners are up against. These individuals are the ones creating jobs, driving our economy and have the greatest potential to positively impact the communities in which they reside. But these same business leaders often wear too many hats, assume a great deal of risk, get trapped working in their business instead of on it, and are left with little time to live the lives they originally intended on creating by starting or buying their business in the first place.
The benefits realized from effective strategic planning are numerous. They create or improve systems, empower and develop people, improve profitability, drive value, and ultimately can enhance the well-being of everyone involved. So why aren’t more businesses investing in and prioritizing their planning process? Why do those who attempt it often fall short of their goals and long-term vision? Something that always seems to be missing is the pairing of two words we don’t see together often: strategic accountability.
When the plan is complete and your consultant has vanished to sell his or her next plan, or, if planning is self-lead, you are often back to putting out fires and addressing issues in the same ways you always have. Where is the practical approach to implementation? How will you hold yourselves accountable and consistently monitor your progress? What do you measure to understand if strategies implemented are even working? The approach we use is known as decision support services, and it gets owners back to working on their business and finally saying goodbye to the one-size-fits-all strategic plan.
Your time is valuable, so investing some of it up-front to understand the goals, timeframe and budget will pay dividends through a more efficient planning process. We have all been part of meetings that start off great but then drag on eventually losing our interest. Effective planning requires high energy levels, so understand where to spend it.
Decision support starts by getting input and listing and prioritizing goals, issues and tasks before planning. Using the $COPE model [$ – Financial, C – Customers, O – Operations, P – People, E – End in Mind], your planning team undergoes a high-level discovery process days before the actual session(s), working through a holistic approach that sheds light on where to focus.
Core values, vision and mission are extremely important, but ensuring everyone understands them is not as easy as you may think and can require lots of time and energy. By using decision support’s online pre-planning tools that can help clearly define or lay the groundwork for the company “why,” you can show up to planning ready to build on top of this foundation vs. using up your time and energy laying it.
The impact of planning is only as good as the implementation, accountability and discipline associated with making it happen. Decision support services partners with your CPAs to deliver an ongoing process that clearly defines tasks and their owners, sets realistic due dates visible to everyone, and creates and monitors KPIs (key performance indicators) that give management an unbiased line of sight into the actual impact or return on investment. Pairing a well-designed strategic plan with a process that has third-party accountability, in the form of monthly or quarterly meetings and check-ins, builds an environment of continuous improvement and strategic accountability that only gets stronger over time. This approach allows small business owners—job creators, economy-drivers and community leaders—to finally have the decision support they deserve.