This week we're taking the easy road to writing - by re-publishing a piece I provided as a guest blogger two weeks ago for Earl Bell of Island Crest Financial (with an original section added for today). Like me, Earl is a business strategist but with a great deal of experience in the financial side of things. You'll find Earl to be a great resource and someone I find very easy to work with. Now, for today's post, let's get back to planning:
In my client’s world, our execution-focused business culture sometimes makes it hard justify something that does not seem tangible, but execution is always more effective, of higher quality and more agile to react to adversity when it is launched from good planning practices. There are a few ways to “treat yourself as a client” through dedicated planning time that provides lasting benefits for your business, your staff and of course, your customers:
Strategic Planning Every Business Needs:
- Annual Planning – What does your business truly do well? How well does it map to what your stated business purpose is? What service/product offerings are trending among your audience and do you support them? This goes beyond looking at the monthly P&L review you do and should make you rethink how you set objectives for the next fiscal year. If you are not getting focused on what you do best and what really drives your business, you are handicapping your fiscal objectives as well.
- Stakeholder Planning – How well do you really know your customer? Are you focused on the right stakeholder? Does your current best customer profile decline with age? Every year purchase habits evolve based on age, technology use and simple fashion tastes, so it is imperative you take a hard look at your audience and constantly re-examine where you want to go, not where you are.
- Product/Service Planning – do you regularly make a point to review what you are offering to your customers? Are there gaps in the services you provide? Stepping back, taking inventory and re-thinking your offers from the customer’s perspective will always generate a few surprises, which in turn generates productive changes. It might mean that your 37 products resonate better when you present them as 5 categories, or that 8 of them can be discontinued or perhaps even that you need to offer something not yet created.
For any type of planning exercise though, it is important to set aside the time, move offsite if possible (to let you focus on yourself) and allow yourself to think BIG and think honestly. The result is a leaner, more manageable business that is focused on your customer and allows you to focus your time on them as well.
In Practice, What Does This Mean?
Setting aside the time and having the good intentions is one thing, but here are three things I recommend to make these efforts more productive:
- Listen Before Your Leap - does your work environment normally make it easy for people NOT in charge to speak their minds and feel comfortable raising new ideas? If not, then start using special sessions like these to change that. You are missing out in potential innovation you cannot afford to lose.
- Everything In (With?) Moderation - when someone on your own team, especially a manager or leader, is running the meeting, it can reduce their ability to participate creatively or suppress the input of others in the room. While you can never eliminate this entirely, bringing in an outside facilitator takes the burden off of yourself or your team and let's everyone sit back and be part of the process.
- Take the VERY High Road - it's important to remember that this is a time set aside that is intended NOT to be about execution. Be open to spending time at 30,000 feet and leave yourself open to some crazy ideas or unlikely scenarios. Everyone will come back to earth soon enough, but how will you ever get aspirational about your future if you are in the weeds of execution 24/7?
It's not to early to start talking about 2013, and it's not too late to re-examine where you are and where you are headed in 2012. If you need help making something like this happen in your business, or facilitating a workshop or retreat that you may already have been planning, please let me know how I can help by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.