Successful business owners and industry leaders will tell you that strategic planning is essential to achieving goals. Many strategic plans are created with enthusiasm and good intentions, but sometimes the energy from the strategic planning session quickly fades and there’s failure to execute. The most important part of a firm’s strategic roadmap is to understand the “how” for creating an effective plan – one that can be successfully implemented.
Here are the four keys to creating a successful strategic plan:
- FOCUSED: A strategic plan should state and prioritize goals so there is a clear understanding of what the firm is working toward.
- RELEVANT: Your strategic plan should live in the present and address the future, capturing where the business is today, where it wants to go and how it will get there.
- ALIGNED: Your strategic plan is not a document that exists in a vacuum. It should align with your culture, your values, your mission statement and vision.
- ACTIONABLE: What good is your plan if it lacks steps for accomplishing objectives? The strategic plan should assign responsibilities and have individuals held accountable to predetermined dates for the objectives.
Setting the tone for strategic planning
Strategic planning is going to be the most important meeting that your agency or brokerage will have this year. Don’t treat it like any other meeting. First, consider the meeting location — and rather than a meeting, stage this as a retreat. The purpose is to focus on the plan, and that means getting out of the office and away from daily distractions. Next, select the facilitator. This person is responsible for keeping discussions on track and encouraging productive conversations. Sometimes, there is a person in-house who can effectively take on the facilitator role, but some agencies find value in an outside facilitator leading the discussions. An outside facilitator can serve as an unbiased third party who can redirect discussions that are not related to the plan, and constructively drive conversations that do benefit the plan.
The pre-planning meeting includes an overview of the process, expectations and how objectives will be captured, as well as accountability. Pre-planning also includes determining participants in the strategic planning retreat and engaging those individuals to discuss the upcoming strategic planning process.
You should include key decision-makers, those who hold positions of authority and potentially the management team. Do you have an executive committee or board of directors? If not, this may be a good time to consider establishing those committees and creating formal corporate governance policies and procedures. An adviser can walk you through this process if it’s new territory.
Where is the firm today?
Begin your strategic planning by doing a “Where are we today?” evaluation, assessing the firm from a financial standpoint, competitor standpoint, even cultural standpoint. Start by reviewing your mission statement. Does it still capture the essence of the firm? Is it relevant? Find and review example mission statements from other firms and determine if yours might need revamping. A mission statement defines what you are and keeps you focused on developing, prioritizing and achieving your goals. Language should be concise. All important decisions should be made with the mission statement in mind.
Once the mission statement is firmed up do a SWOT analysis that addresses your firm’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Furthermore, a PEST (Political, Economic, Social & Technological) analysis can unearth outside factors that impact external opportunities and threats.
The SWOT and PEST analyses can be used to create objectives. You’ll assess how consumer needs, competition, rates, industry changes, government policies and the economy impact your firm. What must be done to manage these pressures and succeed? How can the firm capitalize on these external factors to drive profitable growth? Your objectives should be consistent with the company’s mission statement, specific and measurable. Additionally, your objectives should be challenging, stretching the business to move to the next level.
This brings in a critical discussion that should take place during the “Where are we today?” evaluation. What about perpetuation? What are the departing shareholders’ goals and desires for perpetuation? Where does the company stand in this process?
The firm’s financials will also need to be assessed: break out the financial statements and review actual performance as well as projected performance. Compare the organization to benchmarks. You’ll want to identify the growth required to achieve your plan, as well as the reality of achieving planned growth.
Talk about the talent pool. Do you have the right people in the right places? Who is doing what, and why? This is also time to either create an organizational chart, review your current one, and potentially look to create what it might look like in five years. Where are voids in the five-year organizational chart? Leverage these voids to create a five-year hiring plan. Be sure to move into conversations about what talent you’ll need to reach your goals when you address where you want to go in the future.
Creating the plan and executing it
Going through the process of assessing where your company is today is no easy task. But it’s critically important to understand this before moving onto the next step of establishing the goals of your strategic plan and mapping out the process for executing them. The ‘execution’ of the plan is where most strategic plans fall apart.
Read more about the steps required for creating strategic goals and effectively executing all the objectives of a firm’s strategic roadmap here: Reaching The Goals of Your Strategic Plan.
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