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How to Run an Effective Strategic Planning Meeting

Transcript 

Kathy (host):

Well, hello there and welcome back to Help! My Businesses Growing, a podcast where we explore how to grow and build a business that is healthy and sustainable. I'm your host, Kathy Svetina.

 

Kathy (host):

Strategic planning is an essential part of any business, whatever the size. Because it serves as a roadmap to help you achieve all your business goals and objectives so that the future that you want for your business actually becomes a reality and not just some sort of a pie-in-the-sky sort of thing.

 

Kathy (host):

But the question here is what actually happens during a strategic planning session? Is there a format that you need to follow? Is there a framework that you should follow? How often should you have it? Who should be there? And how do you conduct a successful session where your business strategy is defined and you formulate a tangible and actionable plan to get things done, to hit your goals?

 

Kathy (host):

So these are all the questions that I got for my clients in my business. I looked and I digged into my network of professionals for someone to help me answer all of these questions for you.

Kathy (host):

And just a quick reminder, all of the episodes on this podcast, including this one, come with timestamps for topics that we discuss, and each one has its own blog post as well. You can find all the links and the detailed topics and this episode show notes.

 

Kathy (host):

With that out of the way. Our guest today is Michael Haynes, and he is also a familiar voice on this podcast as well because he was a guest on episode number four with a title, How to Innovate: a Blueprint for Your Business. I highly recommend you check it out.

 

Kathy (host):

He is a small and medium Business Growth Specialist, and his focus and passion is empowering CEOs of service-based companies to acquire business 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.

 

Kathy (host):

Join us.

 

Kathy (host):

Michael, welcome back to the show.

 

Michael (guest):

Thank you for having me. It's great to be here, Kathy, and I'm looking forward for another great conversation with you.

Kathy (host):

I know you know the last time you were here was, I believe it was episode four and it was called How to Innovate: a Blueprint for Your Business. So if you want more Michael after this episode, you can definitely go and check it out. Episode four, and today we're going to be talking about something different. We're going to be talking about strategic planning. How do you actually do that? How to do the workshop? It's going to be very actionable. But before we go into the how's and what I really want to talk about, what exactly is strategic planning and how is it different from different forms of planning? So before we go into that, if we could talk a little bit more about this.

Michael (guest):

Okay, great question, Kathy. Your strategic plan is really the roadmap for your business. We're talking for our small and medium business peeps here. It's your roadmap for how you're going to take your business forward. How are you're going to achieve those objectives?

Michael (guest):

I'm going to be talking today, particularly in the context of growth. So you've got your accounting, IT firm, an engineering firm, and catering business. I'm going to be talking in the context of what's the roadmap. What's a plan that you're going to take your company forward to build and grow that business? And I'm going to be making reference particularly, and this is applicable in both a business-to-business as well as a business-to-consumer context.

 

Michael (guest):

I will make some references for your listeners in B2B because there's some specific things, particularly around the listening, the understanding component, that in terms of some of the information that they want to be aware of. But it's all about your roadmap. What is your roadmap, your plan for how you're going to get there?

 

Kathy (host):

I love that. So let's say that now we have figured out we need a roadmap. We need to figure out how, where we are right now and where we want to be, let's say five years from now. And we have to plan for it. You have to be prepared to do this. So let's figure out and let's walk through how do you actually have a strategic planning session.

Kathy (host):

What does it need to happen before? What does it happen during and what does it have to happen after? So let's talk about before you have this session, what are some of the things that you need to have to.

 

Michael (guest):

Okay, so a couple things. Strategic planning session and I'm talking as because we're talking with a lot of small businesses, small lean teams, the first thing you need to do is to get your CEO, business owner on board, or your board needs to give them the night to say, "We need to put a date in the diary, and plan it out in advance." Okay? Might sound very basic, but very important that you plan and make sure that you've got it locked in on a date where everyone's going to be dedicated.

 

Michael (guest):

Different organizations do it different ways. It could be a one-day workshop, maybe a two-day workshop, which may not be a bad idea to really break things up, but you want to make sure that time is blocked out and it's dedicated. So that's step number one.

 

Michael (guest):

Step number two, then you want to be looking at what is going to be your agenda for this strategic planning session because, Kathy, organizations can be at different stages. There can be some small businesses, that've never had a plan before, or they're taking a major change, dare I say, pivot. They're kinda starting from new. Other folks may be looking to kind of revisit and update. So first, what really they going to talk about for the bulk, talking about that new planning session? I will make reference to doing what I call the quarterly review and reset because that is part of your strategic planning.

 

Michael (guest):

So number one, we need to get the CEO, and business owner on board and get the date in everyone's diary. So send that email out and say, "Mark the date." Different organizations do it differently. You may want to have a full-day workshop. You may want to break it up into two half-day workshops.

 

Michael (guest):

Ideally, if this can be done in person, getting everyone in the room, that is recommend. But because we're in hybrid working environments, you might have virtual teams. You may want to be done remotely, in which case you're probably going to want to break up the sessions and make them smaller, and you're going to need to factor more breaks in between.

 

Michael (guest):

It sounds like a minor component, but when you're having folks engage on a screen all day versus being in a room, it's very, very different. If you're going to do it remote, I would suggest having half-day sessions and maybe more of like two to three-hour sessions and make sure you're factoring some breaks and you're going to have to really break it up, to make it most effective.

 

Michael (guest):

So setting up that mark the date, then it's about setting up the agenda as to, who are the participants that we want involved. I would say that you really typically want to have, and we're, you know, small business are typically small. We want to have all the functional groups represented.

 

Michael (guest):

So by that I mean we need to have marketing. We need to have sales because they are, in my view, key growth drivers of the business.

Kathy (host):

Yeah.

Michael (guest):

You want to have your operations, leader of your operations department. IT, customer service and support. Some IT firms, call them customer success. They should be involved.

 

Michael (guest):

Your head of people and culture, learning and development. You want to have them involved as well, because as we're identifying key projects, key initiatives, part of the things we have to do is identify well, what are the skill and knowledge sets are required. So who's going to be on that new product development project? Who's going to be on the implementation of a new CRM, so we can identify resources and skills required?

 

Michael (guest):

So set the agenda, identify who are your participants. Ideally, it should be cross-functional heads of those various departments. They may nominate to have a key person who often maybe have a lot of the doing and a lot of the smarts to attend. That's fine.

 

Michael (guest):

So to recap, again, you want to have a cross-functional representation from all the key business units. So agenda set, block out the date. Gather up the troops, and cross-functional representation as I discussed.

 

Michael (guest):

Then we need to talk about then setting the agenda of what are some of the things you want to cover off in the meeting. Some of the typical things that you want to be looking to be putting into the agenda is often one, to have a bit of a recap of if you have an existing strategy already. What is that big picture, big picture overview of the business, and where it's going holistically?

 

Michael (guest):

Also, what are the vision and mission? What is the goal of the organization? From the views of the senior leaders. So that's one of the first things that would probably, maybe I would say, be item number one.

 

Michael (guest):

Quickly follow by item number two, what is the overall roadmap strategy, and where the organization is going? If you don't have those things, as a new business or you're taking a massive new pivot, then it is about really trying to figure out then what your key topics will be. What is our vision? What is our reason for being where are we ultimately aiming to if you don't have that?

 

Michael (guest):

Another topic, I think that is useful to have on your strategic planning session is a bit of a progress review. How has the business performed overall? So we kind of get a sense of what industries, what market were in, how were we performing, any kind of big wins in terms of new client, customer contracts, big renewals, any major losses, identifying if there's anything that's been happen from that perspective. So that would be another item to have on your agenda.

 

Michael (guest):

Then what I like to have is we need to have a little bit of what I call a listening summary. My listening summary, for those of you that don't know my business called Listen, Innovate, Grow, listening is about getting that in-depth, understanding on three levels.

 

Michael (guest):

Listening to you, so that's understanding all about where the companies at. So that topic around vision and mission, where the company is going. We'll cover that. Listening to also the business performance in terms of how you're performing, your strengths and weaknesses. So that also could go in as part of that progress review.

 

Michael (guest):

Then we also need to make sure we're doing our listening on the market level, and so having an understanding of what's see up to date in terms of the economic environment, what's going on in our industries, what's going on in our customers. We want to have a bit of a summary of some of the key things that are happening for that. So that's going to be something Kathy, I'm going to be flagging as pre-work, which I'll come back.

 

Michael (guest):

Then there is listening to customers. We want to be making sure we bring together a summary and have a detailed understanding with respect to our customers as to their needs, priorities, their preferences, any gaps in terms of where they have felt your organization hasn't made the mark, and ideally would like to get that from both current customers, prospects who you haven't done business with but you're keen to do business with, and anyone that you have lost. And for those of you operating in B2B, you need to get that buyer-level input. We need to get those insights of needs, priorities, expectations, buying behaviors at a buyer, and decision-making unit level.

 

Michael (guest):

So those are some of the key elements from the initial part of the workshop. So I'm going to take a little bit of step back. In terms of pre-reading and preparation, you may need for your workshop, you may need to be assigning some people to do a bit of that company analysis to say, "How have we been reforming? How have we done in terms of the sales revenues? What are the big wins? What are the big losses? Any key call-out that we need to be aware of? Do we win any awards, any big customer complaints, or any issues that might have been raised by a key client that has been escalated? We want to have that company-level summary prepared and done in advance."

 

Michael (guest):

The second part in terms of pre-work that's quite important is that what I call that listening summary. So you'll need to get, someone could be, if you've got a strategy analyst. Someone in the marketing team to give you that overview in terms of key industry markets and external factors. What's going on right now, two to three weeks out before that work is done, so you have an understanding of dynamics, market conditions, key competitors, and a key competitor movements.

 

Michael (guest):

Putting together a bit of synopsis around your customer, so what's your understanding of your customers, again, around their needs, priorities, expectations, buying requirements, any changes in and of those as well. Any major customer callouts in terms of great things or really bad things. You want to have a summary of those. So you're going to assign that work to various people within your team.

 

Michael (guest):

I would recommend having that done a minimum of one week prior to the workshop because you want to send a good seven days before. The workshop you want to send out pre-reading, which would be the agenda where you're going to talk about, and some of this pre-reading, so everyone's up to speed. And in that pre-read, I would be including that listening summary around the industry markets, the customers, a bit of the company overview. You might even want to share, if there's a one page of your big picture strategy, just so that everyone's coming into the strategy planning session pretty much up to speed because you want to be getting into the detail of things here.

 

Michael (guest):

I'm very a big believer that these strategy planning sessions, people should be well informed and we're really getting into the weeds of what are we going to do? What are we going to not do? And getting everything to an action plan level. So we're getting fairly detailed to what are going to be some of those key next steps of actual doing things. Not just communicating that, but okay, what are the next steps of what initiatives need to have kickoff meetings, what kind of skills we need to round up.

 

Michael (guest):

I am very big, and to make it an effective strategic planning session, we have to be able to get to that detailed level, which requires detailed preparations upfront.

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah, and I like that, too because I cannot tell you how many times I have sit on these strategic meetings where everyone is in the room. They discuss things, but there's really no further action. There's no actionable stuff that needs to happen afterward. It's just, it's this nice meeting. It's great. Maybe we put some of it in our sales, marketing or maybe some of the financials, but eventually it just kind of doesn't go anywhere. And it's almost like this, you've done all this prep work and you've gone through the meeting and they usually are. They last for days, and at the end, it just kind of fizzles down and no one does anything with it. So I really like that, that it's actionable and that it's useful to the business because as a small business, you do not have time to waste. It takes a lot of resources because all this prep work and all the time that you're spending in the meeting, that takes a lot of resources away from serving the customers, from doing the stuff in the business. So make sure that you are using this time wisely and that you actually come up with some product once you get out of this meeting.

Michael (guest):

So during in the session now, so in terms of the actual session itself, you can do it a variety of ways. I highly recommend if you can be doing it, getting everyone in the room that is best to do so. I believe with small meeting businesses in particular, now we're talking about our people. You often can do it in person. If you are organized and you've done the preparation, you can have a good one-day session. It might end up being a lengthy nine-to-five session if you're getting right down into the detail that you're coming out with. "Okay. We've identified right down to project level, what are those key three or five key initiative projects you need to get started." It may take the full day, but if you're organized an in-person session, for a small, or medium business, I believe it can easily be done in one day with the adequate preparation. So that's my recommendation and preference and many other thought leaders, and experts will also agree. That's a way to do it.

Michael (guest):

If you have to do it virtually because of various circumstances, location, that's fine. Then you probably will need to break up some of these sessions that I'm talking about and break up into smaller size components. Yeah, you'll want to break them up and I'll talk a bit about where those junctures might be if you're doing it online because it's very hard even with a small team.

 

Kathy (host):

Yep.

Michael (guest):

ou can't just go through, in this platform, going to have a nine to five virtual strategy planning. The dynamics are just different. It sounds silly, but when you actually try to do it, there's a big difference of trying to keep people on a zoom all day to be thinking, work, shopping, prioritizing when they're at this for seven, eight hours, even with an hour lunch break thrown in.

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah. I mean, we're human. We can only hold attention to at a certain level, right?

Michael (guest):

Yeah.

 

Kathy (host):

And having those breaks, it's really important. I think we've all been in those meetings or at last four hours and hours and hours, and at the end it's just, you're just completely wiped out and exhausted. So having those little breaks really does make a difference.

 

Michael (guest):

Okay, so let's start with the actual strategic planning session itself. I'm going to make the assumption we're making it. We brought everyone together and make it. We're going to have it in the room. And so, first thing you want to be doing. So you definitely want to need to nominate someone as a facilitator to really guide through the discussion.

 

Michael (guest):

So you should have someone to kind of guide through the session to get, to have a second person to be making lots of notes in terms of identifying what are going to be the key actions. So you might even have a, if we're talking whiteboard or on your mirror board, you might have your actions page sheet that you're capturing, what are going to be all the key next actions because it's really, that's the kind of the really big deliverable. That's really what's the outcome we're driving for that we know specifically what has to be done.

 

Kathy (host):

And let's talk a little bit before we go into that, let's talk a little bit of a facilitator. Who do you think would be a good facilitator? Could it be someone from the company or is it better to have someone outside of the company that can guide these types of conversations?

Michael (guest):

Ideally having someone outside of the organization who can come in and help organize and can be quite useful, and having a bit of that third party, that independent objectivity can be useful. Particularly when some of the discussion starts happening. When we start talking about, "Okay, are we going to work on an initiative X versus Y or what's a different growth path?" Having that third party view can bring some additional independent thinking as to other considerations or other steps that you might want to consider. "Okay, well you're if you're not quite clear whether you're going to go on Project X or Project Y, let's. Do you have your criteria? Let's review your prioritization criteria. Have you thought about X, Y, and Z?" So if you can get facilitators, someone that's got experience in strategy planning to facilitate that session, that can be quite often useful.

 

Michael (guest):

If not, then hopefully you'll have someone internally. Who has got those skills in around strategic planning and facilitating, which might come from if you've got an interim CSO track strategy officer? Many small, and medium businesses have an interim strategy, lead strategy person. They could be quite appropriate to do so. You may want to have the marketing strategy person to do so. The attention they could be quite well. Although depending in some organizations, marketing is not looked so if they do, they need to have strong skills in strategy. You need someone with strong strategic skills.

 

Michael (guest):

So I would say ideally you want that strategy lead who heads up be strategy function overall, or bringing in a facilitator for the day to really drive this process. It is really worth making the investment to get someone who sees an in-business strategy and can do workshops and help you with all of that. It is worth making the investment. This is your roadmap to how are you going to build, grow, get into new markets. Done well, a good strategy. You'll easily 10, 20, or 30x the day rate of bringing someone in to help guide this process and what happens after.

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah, that makes sense to make that investment.

 

Michael (guest):

Okay, so our workshop now, day one, the first thing you want to do is you want to kick off. I mean, you'll have your introductions and icebreakers and hopefully being a small-medium business, everyone does know each other, but I have come in cases with some of my larger, small, medium business clients, I've got 100, 150 staff that are getting a bit bigger. They may not maybe meeting a bit early for breakfast and people going to have some casual discussions and get to know each other, because to kinda warm people up as to who's who will be useful when we start getting into discussions.

 

Michael (guest):

Okay, so we're going to kick off the session now. First thing on the agenda should be an overview of the day. Where are we going? What are the things we're going to be talking about and working on? What's the outcome? So you want to give people a bit of a roadmap so they know where they're going, that this is not just a chat fest from the day, but there are going to be specific things that are going to be happening. So that would be agenda item number one.

 

Michael (guest):

You may also want to take that time to introduce any new members to the team and new members and to the staff leadership team. You may want to do that as well because sometimes that's often the juncture where the up-and-coming new head of marketing is sales that's not starting for two months. We've brought them in for the day to get up to speed. So make sure those introductions occur as well.

 

Michael (guest):

Then starting off and giving a bit of an overview in terms of, "Okay, what's vision for the company? Where are we going?" So having a bit of discussion around that overall vision, where the company's been, where we're going to be headed. I think having an overview of discussion of that so everyone is clear on that. There may be a few issues, questions that may be raised, but this is a good time because we want to make sure everyone's on the same page as to at a very blue sky level. Where are we headed? And if you haven't set that, then if that's unclear, then that's something that needs to be a allocate time into your agenda to kind of work through and discuss, to make sure everyone's on the page as to what the vision should be. Hopefully, that is clear, but if not, allocate some time to make sure that there is clarity. If there has been a little bit of ambiguity around.

 

Michael (guest):

Then spending some time. I recommend, again, having that kind of business overview in terms of the performance, so you know, how is the company done? Quick recap. That was in the pre-work as pre-reading, so there shouldn't be, it shouldn't be new to anyone, so it shouldn't be kind of recap. We're just setting the scene and kind of letting folks know how we performed in terms of our customers' markets. Yeah, that kind of big-picture overview. What are some of the key milestones that we're looking for that we've achieved? So kind of going over, kind of going at where we've been and how we've been performing. So that's some of the first things that you want to be covering off.

 

Michael (guest):

Then I suggest you have what I call is that listening summary, so that summary of recap, what's happening in those industries and customers that have been occurred. Industry the market. I would have that as one kind of sub-session and let's have a bit of a debrief and discussion. What's been happening in terms of how the industry's been forming overall economic conditions, any notable milestones, or disruptions? Have a discussion around that because that could have some implications.

Michael (guest):

And then you want to have a discussion in terms of your customers slash buyers that we want to have a recap because as part of overall regular operations, you should be checking in and having regular pulse conversations with your key clients and customers at a minimum. Ideally, you want to have a full market view, so you'll have been throughout the year, hopefully, having a bit of discussion with prospects, having discussions with your current client customers and potentially those that you've lost, but at a minimum, you want to be looking at what has been the feedback, you know, how have your current customers been doing? So looking at it from terms of their actual behaviors in terms of the kinds of revenues you've been getting from them. Where it's gone up. Where it's gone down. What kind of product and services, where are they focusing, where are you getting your wins, and where your products and services as well. Feedback from a customer service and support level as well. Any feedback from your client management, key account teams in terms of things you're looking for, things that are working, not working.

Michael (guest):

So you really want to have a robust discussion so you're very clear on and making sure, identifying us well story, who are recapping again, who are our target audience, who are we looking to focus on? In terms of the kinds of clients that are really core to our business. A bit of a recap of that, as well as some of those key insights that I've talked about, because from that, there could be some key learnings in terms of, because you want to draw out what are some key, are there two to three areas of focus from a customer level that we need to be working on? Is it around service and support, overall engagement? Having that recap, like I said, ideally if we can get a full market view, because then we can look at untapped opportunities. But at a minimum you want to have some discussion around those current client customers you have and identify what are, I would say, three to five key actions based on some of those learning that we need to be very mindful of and potentially prioritizing as to how we move forward.

Kathy (host):

Yep, that makes sense. And especially finance can help with that as well too because they have that data, they have that information, they can actually unhide certain things that is relevant.

 

Michael (guest):

Absolutely.

 

Kathy (host):

They can see the margins, they can see the cost that we have. So it's, it's really important that finance sits on these conversations too, because they will have, accept different type of view to compliment this customer view.

 

Michael (guest):

Yeah. And so this is a section that you really want to have that's a fairly robust discussion. Because it's around their behaviors in terms of what are they doing in terms of where are they spending, how much are they spending, where are we getting the profitability? Are there complaints? Things that have been identified as weaknesses from operational service support. So you're getting into the weeds and then we want to identify, what are potentially some of those key areas we need to be working on.

 

Michael (guest):

This might be a good juncture that you may want to have a bit of a break, because you know, we've kind of had a bit of an overview and we've starting to get into some discussion. So you may want to have a bit of a break there to kinda let people have some tea, coffee, some snacks, what have you, stretch for legs. And then let's come into the second part now where we're going to be starting now. So after the break, kind of section B of the planning session.

 

Michael (guest):

Is where are we starting to get into talking about prioritization? So where is the company? So you know, first of all, where is the company going to be going? What are some of the key priorities that we're going to be looking to achieve and moving forward? So you want to be thinking of that at a high level. What are kind of the overall business priorities? For many other companies, many of the small business companies I deal with, growth is a big thing. So we also want to be thinking about what are the different ways in which how we might want to be growing the business. So you want to be talking about what are some of these priorities and what are some of those growth options? How we want to move forward? Are we going to be looking to come up with new products and services? Are we going after new markets? Are we going after an increase in upsells and cross-sells to customers? Are we looking at price that increases, combination thereof? So exploring some of those, looking at what are some of our business priorities overall, and then where growth is a key objective. Having some discussions now initially about what are those different growth pathways and those options that we may be looking to pursue? So you're going to have some discussion on that.

 

Michael (guest):

Again, you'll probably be reflecting back on some of the that pre-reading, that work around based on how the industry, the markets are, where we're seeing opportunities, what customers sort of saying. So that's why having that, all of that listening work, that prep work is so important because this is where you're going to start getting into discussions now.

 

Michael (guest):

And there might be some fairly clear views as to what are our business priorities and make sure we set those out and have those documented clearly. And let's recap. Our priorities are going to be A, B, or C. I often, typically like to operate in the number three. We're small and medium businesses. I believe in making everything we do quiet have the ability to focus and be very action-oriented. I've worked in big corporate where we have these, you know, pages and pages of our priorities are our ones to 12. We're small and meeting business companies. We're SMBs, SMEs and they call them here in Australia. We have some clarity and focus.

 

Michael (guest):

So what are going to be, those clear priorities? What are some of the growth pathways that we're considering? And there'll be some discussion referencing some of the data, etc., to get to that point. Then that's where we're going to be then be coming to. And that this discussion, Kathy, can take a bit of time to go through it, depending on where the companies at, and how the leadership is aligned.

 

Michael (guest):

I've got some SMEs, and they're very dialed in and very switched on. So this discussion, there's a lot of clarity already in terms of priorities, and growth pathways. They've already identified what they're going to be doing. It's depend on how long this will take. I've got a couple of clients I know we can go through this section fairly quickly. Other that can take quite a while in and of itself, but you want to get that clarity as to the priorities of the business and like I said, try to make it two or three.

 

Kathy (host):

And should you have this timed or if you have a good discussion if you see that people are having a good, productive discussion? Should you extend it? So my question is, if, let's say that we have a dedicated two hours for this portion of the meeting and you see that at the end of two hours people are still having a good conversation about it, do you stop it or do you continue doing it? What, how you should treat this?

 

Michael (guest):

You may want to continue a bit more, because at the end of the day, Kathy, you want to come out with a list of what are our priorities. So what are our overall objectives, and let's say it is around, for example, I've got a small-medium business that is looking to gain. One of my clients is looking to gain further penetration in the UK market. Priority expansion into the UK market, for example, is a key strategic imperative.

 

Michael (guest):

So you, you might have all this session and get to that, but then ultimately what we want to do is that we want to have some discussion to break down what are the initiatives. What we need to do in order to deliver to that? You may want to continue the discussion a bit to get some further clarity around your priorities or those potential ones that are kind of the top candidates per se.

 

Michael (guest):

So you may want to continue it to a point and kind of flush that out right there. Or you may want to say, "Okay, let's park this." And as part of our action plan, our next step is to identify criteria further work out what exactly those specific initiatives are going to be. So it can vary if you can extend a little bit longer to kind of get that clarity. We agree these are the priorities in terms of overall what we're trying to achieve, and you can get there in, let's say another half hour, 40 minutes or so, a reasonable time. Then definitely I think it's worth doing so. If it's something where we really have to. It has to be a workshop in itself. Then you may make park and say, as an action item, we need to have a session on X. Does that make sense?

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah, it does. I like that. So now we are at another break so people can stretch along.

 

Michael (guest):

Yeah, and you don't have to, but I just find it's good to kind of break up after you had some of these in depth discussions.

 

Kathy (host):

Yep. It can be intense.

 

Michael (guest):

Yeah. Yeah. It can be intense. It can be intense. You might want to break it up. This might be a good juncture to have, maybe lunch, perhaps. Then the next section then that we want to come back to is we're going to get into that whole action prioritization. Now, we're getting now into that initiative. We're getting a bit into the detail now.

 

Michael (guest):

So you know, you're overarching priorities. We know kind of what our priorities are for the business and which will include if we're looking at growth, what are going to be some of those growth pathways, for example, we're going to be pursuing.

 

Michael (guest):

Now, we're going to be getting into the weeds as to how we're actually going to be achieving this. So then that's where you're going to have some discussions. You want to be saying, "Well, what exactly are we going to be doing?" And this is where innovate. My models, listen, innovate, grow. This is where the innovation comes in, where we're going to be looking at how are, in order to meet those business market customer needs, how are we going to achieve that? And so this is where you're going to be looking at what are the different innovation initiatives, things you're going to be doing. So you're going to be, you're going to be thinking about thing and there's really, at a broad level, you're going to be thinking from five categories from innovation in terms of what things you might be doing.

Michael (guest):

Are you going to be looking at new products or modifications and new products or services? So you might look at new products, new services. What are we going to be looking at in order to achieve your objectives? Is it going to be around potentially the likes of some kinds of organizational innovation? So are we going to be looking at outsourcing or potentially partnering? Are there specific marketing strategies that we need to be undertaking to help drive the growth? And what are some of those going to be? Here and now you're going to be looking at what are some of those potential initiatives, and innovations that you're going to be doing.

 

Michael (guest):

So you want to be identifying those and then seeing how you can prioritize those. So this is where we're going to be start looking at and starting to identify what are those specific initiatives, actions, and based around business innovation because business innovation, making those new introductions and or improvements. That's how you win.

 

Michael (guest):

So you've got those five kinds of innovation that I just talked about. Product innovations, service innovations, process innovations, organizational innovations like joint ventures, outsourcing, collaborations your marketing innovations. So you're going to be going through those and identifying to see which ones are your organization going to be wanting to pursue to deliver on those priorities.

 

Michael (guest):

Now here is where often sometimes if they're disagreement or there's like, "Well, we should be looking at developing new service offerings as opposed to when we need some a whole new marketing strategy." This is where you may need to come up with some criteria as to how we are going to assess what initiatives we're going to undertake.

 

Michael (guest):

I think I've got an innovation checklist, which we can include in the show notes, but this will be things like how is it an alignment to your company objectives. Do you have the internal capabilities, and ease of implementation? What is the impact with respect to your current clients and customers? So is this something that is going to be fixing a gaping hole that is a key requirement to our customers? And in terms of B2B? We must think at a decision-maker level. So is there something that we're missing in terms of what we are delivering to our customers or how we're engaging that's missing? How important?

Michael (guest):

So you'll want to have a number of criteria which you want your team to have an agreement on that you're going to work through to assess whether, developing, let's say for example, we're going to develop a new comprehensive combined marketing, IT solution for our cyber security clients. I'm going to make that as an example. We'll have a number of criteria for this combined comprehensive solution. Have a number of criteria to assess, you know, what's potential impact of revenue, how many customers are these, the key kind of customers we need to have, length of time. So you have a number of criteria, which ideally all your leaders should be aligned with, and you'll use that to determine whether that initiative of that new solution development is a one, two, or three, where it's going to sit.

 

Michael (guest):

So Kathy, this is where sometimes that may be done right in the actual meeting or sometimes I've also seen companies will often, "Let's park, We've got three or four initiatives that are potential. Let's move and we'll schedule to have a separate session to go through and evaluate based on some aligned criteria and making sure we have the right people in the room."

 

Kathy (host):

So now that, let's say you have three or four things that you identify that came out of the meeting. What do you go straight into the action items and you delegate it out to appropriate people? How does that work? So I'm guessing that at this point we're almost at the wrapping up of the meeting, or is there still any more pieces that need to happen?

 

Michael (guest):

Okay. Well if you've gotten to that stage where you identified and ideally want to identify three to five key initiatives and we've gotten to that stage, then we want to get into action planning stage, and that's where we're going to get action plans to say, Well, what needs to happen next?

 

Michael (guest):

Let's say what needs to happen next. So what is the next step, Which might typically be first, we need to identify, well, who's going to lead and own the initiative? So who needs to who's going to be that initiative owner, initiative leader? We need to identify, what are the resources. Who are we going to need to have involved potentially?

 

Michael (guest):

So we're going to, if we go back to the new product solution for the cyber security company, we may need to have some people from marketing, from operations, from it. There could be some that may need to be involved from finance. So we'll identify who those people are, some of the resources required.

 

Michael (guest):

And then what's that immediate next step, which typically may be some kind of kickoff meeting to round up the project's troops for that particular initiative? So if you're going to start going through and identifying what is required, in some cases, yeah, identifying what are appropriate, what are those immediate, who needs to lead it, who needs to lead it, what are the skill sets you're going to be involved, and what's that next immediate step?

 

Kathy (host):

So I think what is really important to hear too, is once you identify the project, then you identify who is going to be involved in it, and then you have a separate meeting when it comes to the details of that particular project.

 

Michael (guest):

Yeah.

 

Kathy (host):

You're not exactly hashing out all the details behind that project in the strategy session. Correct?

Michael (guest):

That's correct. That's correct. Because often when we're getting into those specific initiatives, like another initiative might be we need to do new customer research because there's potential new market opportunities for our growth strategy, but we don't have an understanding of. So then one of the key items might be to, and it might be signed to your head of marketing to discuss research requirements for research to be commenced this quarter.

 

Michael (guest):

So that could be another key priority action item. We're not going to get into the details of what customer read, that all stems from what happens, pulls out. But we want to make sure we have very clear actions. My view, the aim is to be, and this is, I find it can take a fair bit of work, but with SMEs in our strategy session, I'm very big on pushing us to the point. We come out these meetings and we have got a clear set of actions that we're going to be doing, which might be further research, assembling the kickoff meeting. We might need further assessment. There might be debate as to, well, whether we should be going into the UK market versus the US market. And there still hasn't been enough due diligence in terms of listening and understanding the market to really understand what those opportunities are.

 

Michael (guest):

So that next action might be we're going to sign it to the head of customer and marketing. You need to initiate market analysis for the US market. And so that'll be assigned to that person that they've gotta initiate that analysis, which needs to be done in three weeks' time. And it's all about coming up with very clear actions so that we know what are the next steps being taken, what are the priorities.

 

Michael (guest):

So what are we looking to be focusing on? I would say three to five is plenty because often there's a lot of detail involved with those initiatives. So three to five max, but we know what the next steps are in turn and by whom? By when. And having an idea of some of the resources that are going to be required, because that will help in terms of potentially identifying further steps and actions that have to be taken.

 

Kathy (host):

So I would assume that after we've identified that we got the action plan, we know who's doing what, and we have three to five priorities, is that the end of the meeting or does anything else need to happen in this particular meeting setting?

 

Michael (guest):

In this section, you might kind of have a wrap-up, bit of a wrapup, and a recap, and then you do want to make sure that there is, All of this has been kind of captured and documented in terms of key priorities, and key outtakes. If there's any items that may have been parked, like things that have to be looked at. For example, potential legalities of going into Market X to deliver a such solution that things have to be. Any potential risk, and yet all of that has been captured and documented so that you can share that outpost these sessions.

 

Kathy (host):

So, Michael, this is, this is absolutely great information, but if the company that, you know, we work with a lot of small companies that have never done this before. This could be probably one of the first strategic planning sessions that they're planning to have. What is the one thing that you think it's really important for them to do and something that's actionable in the next week or so to get them to this real good structure of the strategic planning? Where can they start? 

Michael (guest):

Okay. Well, I think the first thing comes with the listening part. You know, me and Kathy, it's always going to go back to the listening.

 

Michael (guest):

So first of all, what are our objectives? Do you know what you're trying to achieve moving forward? Let's talk, we're in 2022 here, 2023. What are our objectives? What are we trying to achieve? How have we been performing? So, you know, who have been our key customers? What's our revenues? Are we making money? Are we making money? Are we losing money? If so, from which customers? For which products and services, which industries and which markets? So let's get a snapshot of how the business is performing.

 

Michael (guest):

And then what do we know about our industry and our customers? What are our customers? What are their expectations? What do they need? What are there any issues? What? What do we know about that at this point in time? If you were to have a meeting, a strategy planning meeting tomorrow, what do you know about their current needs priorities, and behaviors? What do you know, what you're able to round up that is, is the first, I would say, is the first starting point. Because that in and of itself, from just knowing how the company's performing, how you're doing with respect to your customers, what they need, where they're at, that in and of itself, and given where you think you want to go, that in and of itself is going to give you some clarity as to some of the actions you're potentially lightly going to have to undertake, which may be doing a bit more, taking time to talk to more customers to get a better understanding of where the market opportunities are.

 

Michael (guest):

So just getting an understanding of where you're at snapshot right now with company performance and with your current clients and customers. That should be a starting point. Because that in and of itself will lead to actions as to what you need to do. If there are a lot of gaps and a lot of unknowns, then you need to start filling those gaps and unknowns.

Kathy (host):

Great. Michael, this is absolutely great information and I love how actionable you were in this episode. Where can people find you if they want to get in contact you?

 

Michael (guest):

People like to get in touch with me. I'm at listeninnovategrow.com, and there I will have a whole raft of assets and I'm in fact developing a few checklists and strategy planning materials, which hopefully I'll be able to share with you to put in the show notes.

Michael (guest):

But listeninnovategrow.com, is the repository of all the things around strategic plan and building and growing your business. So if you go to listen,innovategrow.com/grow, that's where a lot of the goodies will be there, and you'll be able to get lots of tools and guidance and the framework to help guide you in what you need to be doing to conduct your strategic planning workshop.

Michael (guest):

One quick thing I'd like to add, Kathy, really quickly. We've talked a lot about doing that big planning workshop to really get things kicked off for the year. You do this throughout the year, I recommend at least quarterly have what I call review and reset sessions. Conditions are moving too quickly now. It's not a one-and-done set. Reset the strategy now in September, and we'll look at it for 12 months now. Each quarter you should be having a short mini, which could be one hour, 90-minute session, review and reset. How is the business performing? What's going on with customers? What's going on in the industry? Have there been any new developments that we may need to make any changes? And where do we need to make those changes? Is it around what we deliver to our clients and customers? Is it how we deliver to our clients and customers in terms of service, support, etc? Is it how, when we promote and engage with them, which of those three areas do we need to make some modifications? So you want to do your big planning session, but then you're regular. What I call the quarterly review and reset, that should be done as well. That's an important part of your overall planning process.

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah, and I would agree with that too. It's not just once a year, you have to look at it periodically. Make sure that it's still right. That it's still correct. Yeah. Thank you so much for coming to the show, Michael. This has been an absolute pleasure.

 

Michael (guest):

Thank you. It's been great to speak with you and have this discussion once again,

Kathy (host):

Thanks so much for joining us, and I hope that today's episode has given you insights into how to actually conduct a strategic planning session for your company so that you don't have to worry about, "Oh, I have to do this, but I have no idea how to do that." This episode was really there for you to give you this framework, and the details on how to actually conduct this in a successful way.

 

Kathy (host):

And if you thought that there might have been things that you might have missed or you want to have some details around it, you can always go on newcastlefinance.us/podcast. Look at the podcast and you will find all the timestamps, all the show notes, the blog post, and the links that are associated with this podcast. You can also find all of this in the show notes as well.

 

Kathy (host):

So before I go, as always, I do have a favor to ask. If you are listening to this on the Apple podcast, you could please go to the show and tap the number of stars that you think the show deserves, because this helps to kickstart the algorithm and it helps other people find it as well. Thanks so much. Until next time.