For your business to grow, you need to take action.
But before you take action, you need a plan.
Whatever your goals—business growth, increased profits, or improved product quality—you need to map out specific steps, including timelines and key performance indicators (KPIs), to fulfill your targets.
This is true for all types of businesses, from small to medium, big to globally massive.
However, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for business success. You need to zoom in on your unique needs and objectives so that you can move with intention toward your vision for the future.
And for this to happen, you must hold a strategic planning session for your business.
But what is that exactly, and what does it entail?
- How do you go about holding a session?
- Is there a process to follow?
- Who should you involve in it?
- How do you ensure you’re strategizing correctly and pointing your business in the right direction?
- And most importantly, how do you conduct a session so that your business strategy is defined at the end and you’ve come up with an actionable plan to get things done to hit your goals?
In this episode of Help! My Business Is Growing; Michael Haynes and I have an in-depth chat about strategic planning. Beyond defining what it is, Michael breaks down the entire process step by step, giving helpful tips on ensuring that your session is successful and fruitful.
How do you conduct a strategic planning session?
What needs to happen before, during, or after a session? What are the things you need to prepare? Here’s how Michael outlines the process:
02:30 What is strategic planning?
It’s a roadmap for how you want to take your business forward.
How are you going to achieve those objectives in the context of growth?
It’s the plan that will build and grow your business and take your company forward.
04:17 Schedule your strategic planning session.
Get your CEO and other team members on board. Set the date, send the email, and lock everyone in so they’re sure to be dedicated to this process.
06:27 Identify the participants that should be involved in your strategic planning session.
Ensure you have cross-functional representation from all the critical business units.
- Customer Service and Support
Having cross-functional heads participate is vital because identifying key projects and initiatives requires you to specify the skills and knowledge sets needed to implement the plans. Having every major department represented will ensure that the right people will be assigned to the projects or tasks that best match their skills.
Also, once you’ve identified your priorities and action plans, you can get insights from the various department heads as to what is feasible and what is not and if they notice certain limitations in the plans based on their specialties.
10:04 Do the Pre-Work.
Before your strategic planning session starts, it’s essential to do some pre-work, which includes your company analysis, progress review, and listening summary.
- Company analysis:
Determine your company’s vision, the reason for being, and where you want it to be.
- Progress review: Review your performance.
- How has the business performed overall?
- What industries or what markets are you in?
- What have been your big wins (new clients, new contracts, renewals etc.)?
- What have been the significant losses?
- What’s been happening? Any big customer complaints or issues?
- Listening summary:
- Prepare an overview in terms of the following:
- What is going on in the bigger economic picture; at the global, national, and industry level
- What are the current market conditions?
- Who are your key competitors?
- Have there been any critical competitor movements?
- How are your customers?
- Cultivate a detailed understanding of your customer’s needs, priorities, preferences, and any gaps they might feel with your services/organization – from current and old customers, prospects, and potential customers.
- Assign various people within your team to put this together about a minimum of one week before the session. Send it out to everyone for pre-reading, so they come to the strategic planning session well-informed, up to speed, and on the same page.
14:31 The Session Starts
Some tips before you start:
- It’s highly recommended to have everyone in the same room but if it is virtual sessions, break it up into smaller sessions because it’s harder to hold everyone’s attention via Zoom.
- Aim to plan to the project level: What key initiative projects do you need to start?
- Include lunch breaks because your team will need them; it can get mentally exhausting and overwhelming.
16:37 Nominate a facilitator to guide the discussions.
Nominate a facilitator and assign a second person to take notes or record the session. The facilitator is a crucial piece in your strategic planning session. You can get a third-party facilitator from outside the company to facilitate the session. By doing so, you gain independent objectivity, which can be helpful because they will dive deep into why you plan to pursue a specific activity and ask probing questions regarding your motivations, priorities, and criteria.
You can also choose an internal facilitator, someone with strategic planning experience or strong strategy skills currently working in the organization (e.g. Your interim CFO, Chief Strategy Officer, or Marketing strategy person).
But it makes sense to invest in bringing in a facilitator for the day to drive this process. When done correctly, a sound business strategy will easily bring in 10-20-30x the day rate of bringing someone in to help guide this process and what happens after.
19:29 Perform icebreakers and introductions.
Kick off the session with icebreakers and introductions.
This is important for slightly bigger companies, whose team members might know who everyone is, especially those from other departments. You can also introduce new members to the team or announce staff leadership changes.
20:02 Discuss the day’s schedule.
Give an overview of what is planned for the session, like its program or process flow (what will you discuss? What are the expected outcomes?) to avoid people getting distracted or the session from going off the rails.
20:42 Start with a company overview.
- What’s the vision for the company?
- Where are we going?
- Where are we headed?
This is the best time to set these items if you haven’t done it before. Allocate time into the agenda to work through and discuss them to ensure everyone’s on the page about the vision.
21:31 Present the business overview.
Discuss your company’s performance.
This should be a fairly quick recap of all the pre-work information your team gathered.
22:07 Go over the listening summary piece.
Recap what’s happening in the economy and the industry your business is part of.
- How is the industry performing?
- What are the overall economic conditions?
- Any notable milestones or disruptions?
- What are the implications of these developments in your business?
22:34 Key in on your customers or buyers & discuss them in-depth.
This should be more of a recap because you should already be having regular pulse conversations with your key clients and customers beyond what was needed for your strategic planning session.
- What is their feedback on your business and services?
- What are the revenues you get from your customers? Has it gone up or down?
- What products and services are they focusing on?
- Where do you get your wins from them?
By asking these questions and analyzing their answers, you can see:
- What you need to work on
- What are untapped options for improvement
Then you can identify 3-5 key actions based on these learnings to prioritize moving forward.
24:33 The importance of your Finance department participating in the strategic planning process.
Your finance department has the data and information to help with what the company can prioritize, especially when it’s time to flesh out action plans.
They see the cost and the margins and can highlight what is beneficial to your business. They will have that crucial financial view that will complement this customer view.
25:38 Determine your priorities in terms of business growth and customer needs.
At this point in the session, it’s time to identify some key priorities you will be looking to achieve moving forward.
- What are the different ways you could grow the business?
- What are the priorities for this?
- What are some of those growth options?
- Will you look for new products / new services / new markets?
- Are you going after upsells and cross-sells to customers?
- Are we considering a price increase? Or some combination thereof?
27:06 Identify your overall objectives and the key strategic initiatives to make them happen.
Come up with 3 to 5 action-oriented priorities that you can focus on and the initiatives you can take to get started.
You can break down the initiatives for further clarity and develop specific action plans. You can already choose the ones you like and flesh them out right there, or park some and have individual sessions to work on them.
31:19 Come up with action plans within the context of the five innovation initiatives.
Flesh out how you’re going to achieve these initiatives through Innovation.
- Product innovation
- Service innovation
- Process innovation
- Organizational Innovation
Will you outsource or find partners?
- Marketing innovation
Are there specific marketing strategies that we need to drive growth?
Go through each to see which one your organization will pursue and how you’ll deliver on those priorities.
However, when you innovate, consider how it will affect operations.
- If you introduce new services, will you have to develop a new marketing strategy?
- Are any of these innovations aligned with your company objectives?
- Do you have the internal capabilities for these innovations?
- Will they be easy to implement?
- Will they have an impact on current clients and customers?
- And so on.
33:03 Develop criteria for each innovation/action plan.
You’ll need to develop criteria (which the team should agree on) for each action plan to measure its effectiveness, e.g. potential revenue, length of time, are you bringing in new customers. etc.
36:46 Schedule breakaway sessions for each action plan if needed.
Once you’ve identified the action plans needed and have three to five priorities, the next steps include scheduling breakaway sessions to further flesh out your action plans.
- Who’s going to lead and own the initiative?
- What resources are needed?
- What skill sets are required?
- Who needs to get involved?
39:14 End of Session.
Before you end the session, recap the key priorities, initiatives, and action plans, mention the key outtakes, and outline the action plans that the group may have parked for further study.
40:01 What is the one thing to do that’s actionable in the next week or so to get started on having an excellent framework for strategic planning?
Start listening to get answers for the following:
- Do you know what you’re trying to achieve moving forward?
- How have you been performing?
- Who are your key customers?
- What are your revenues?
- Get a snapshot of how the business is performing.
- Get to know your industry and customers.
- What are their expectations?
- What do they need?
- What are their issues?
Knowing how the company is performing, how you’re doing concerning your customers, what they need, where you’re at, and where you think you want to go will give you clarity on some of the actions you potentially need to take.
If there are a lot of gaps and a lot of unknowns, then you need to start filling those gaps and unknowns.
About guest – Michael Haynes
Founder and Principal Consultant
Listen, Innovate, Grow
Michael Haynes is an SMB Business Growth Specialist and the Founder and Principal Consultant of Listen, Innovate, Grow.
His focus and passion are empowering CEOs of service-based companies to acquire business (B2B) clients and achieve the growth and impact they seek through BUSINESS innovation and sales.
Michael is based in Sydney, Australia, and works with companies globally.
Website – ttps://listeninnovategrow.com/
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelhhaynes/
Michael’s Book | Listen, Innovate, Grow: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F6RQNLX/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
Other Resources Mentioned in the Episode:
Strategy Execution Framework: https://listeninnovategrow.com/resources-b2b-library/
Innovation Initiative Checklist: https://listeninnovategrow.com/resources-b2b-library/
About host – Kathy Svetina
Kathy Svetina is a Fractional CFO for growing women-owned businesses with $1M-$10M in annual revenue.
Clients hire her when they’re unsure about what’s going on in their finances, are stressed out by making financial decisions, or need to structure their finances to keep up with their growth.
She solves their nagging money mysteries and builds a financial structure with a tailored financial strategy. That way they can grow in a financially healthy and sustainable way.
Kathy is based in Chicago, IL and works with clients all over the US.