What’s at stake for you personally if you don’t take the time for Strategic Planning?
Why you SHOULDN’T be planning in a boardroom with whiteboards and laptops – and where to go instead
How do you know when you’ve got a plan that will work vs a pipe dream on paper?
The 3 things you should come away with once you’ve completed your Annual Strategic Plan
The step-by-step process BTA uses when we plan they the next year
The critical moves that happen immediately after your Annual Strategic Plan that ensure momentum
Watch Episode 33 of the Contractor Evolution ShoW
Listen to Episode 33
Read a Summary of Episode 33
Igor here with the latest episode of Contractor Evolution – and I’d like to begin this episode with one of my all time favourite quotes pertaining to today’s topic, Strategic Planning:
“All things are created twice: there is a mental [first] creation, and a physical [second] creation.” – Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
In other words, everything you want – your lifestyle, your revenue, your business size or specific leaders you want on your team – first comes as an idea in your mind and then the reality is created. Strategic planning is a great mechanism to allow this creative process to unfold.
Since the very start of Breakthrough Academy, our annual strategic planning ritual has been our arena to dream, reflect, set goals and targets, and create a path for a brilliant future.
And it’s paid off big time: we’ve consistently been ranked among the country’s fastest growing companies.
But we’re hardly unique.
The more any company grows, the more it needs to be clear on exactly what to do and what not to, who to hire, and where to direct resources. So on today’s program I’m joined by Danny Kerr and James Dale, BTA’s director of assessment and director of training and development, respectively.
Together, we tell you why our strategic planning event has been foundational to our success and give you the step-by-step process on how we prepare for our strategic planning sessions, what happens during our three-day annual strategic planning retreats, and how we communicate our plans to our team (and why it’s your responsibility as an owner to communicate the plan with your team).
First, Why You Can’t Afford To Ignore Strategic Planning
As an entrepreneur you have a vision, and to achieve a common goal, well that requires intense thought and focus. A strategic plan is crucial to build a long-term business.
Danny openly admits he is the kind of person who tends to make decisions on the fly and gets distracted…but he says you can hit some pretty big dead ends doing so.
That’s why strategic planning is essential; it allows you to pull back and assess the viability of your ideas before putting them into action.
Strategic planning also gives you a view of where you’re going in the bigger picture and the ability to make effective decisions, such as what projects to take on the following year.
What Are You Looking To Achieve With Strategic Planning?
Simply, it’s a chance to reflect and give potential problems some thought so that when they come up again, you are prepared. It also gives you clarity for the 365 days ahead: to create a vision and a pathway to get there.
HOW WE GO ABOUT ORGANIZING OUR STRATEGIC PLANNING EVENT
Preparation is essential. Setting the stage for the creative flow of ideas among managers takes considerable thought. Here are some fundamentals:
Set the Date
Consider holding this during your quieter times. We like to hold our event in December, because this is the month when people are naturally inclined to think about what they’ll be doing in the New Year.
Do your Homework
Assessing the year that passed and thinking of your future goals provides content for the event. Danny says some key questions to ask include: “What went well and what didn’t, on both a business and personal level? What were the deliverables? What are our current issues?” Also, consider whether you have lived the life you want to live.
Find the Right Location
This is crucial: the event should be far removed from the office. Find a location where everyone can think calmly and clearly. A secluded log cabin in the mountains with a fire and hot tub is a great example. Incorporate what you love to do and pick a place where you will have the time to focus. Even if it’s just you in the business, get away to give yourself time to think.
Prep The Attendees
You want productivity? Then your attendees will need to know what the itinerary will be. “Send them a document in advance with specific questions to discuss at the event,” James says.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE STRATEGIC PLANNING EVENT?
Okay, you’ve got your location and content, and off you all drive to the mountains. Now comes the tricky part: Balancing mixing business with pleasure (without everything spiraling into a self-indulgent Kumbaya weekend).
Walk & Talk
One great way to enjoy the great outdoors without neglecting business is to simply go hiking. At BTA we have our prep docs and we’ll walk for 7 hours and just talk. Research has shown when you walk and talk you can think and focus better.
Divvy Up the Hours
How much time should you spend discussing what? Danny says, “We spend probably 60% of our time in discussion, just exploring ideas and not trying to commit to anything for a while. From there, we spend about 30% of our time nerding out on an Excel sheet and calculating numbers, seeing what kind of financials work well, what sales metrics should be adjusted to make the business plan make sense, etc. The final 10% is spent summarizing on one sheet what went on.”
Create a One-Page Strategic Plan (OPSP)
This is the key to turning ideas into reality. At BTA we use a modified version of the original OPSP created by Growth Institute co-founder Verne Harnish. “On it we capture the goals for the year, any kind of critical numbers that are really important metrics; the big initiatives or implementation items that we really want to get done, and then what has to happen in quarter one and who will be driving it [accountability],” says James.
The OPSP forces you to summarize what you’ve discussed at the event into something relatively simple that your employees can understand. (A link to an OPSP template is available, as well as an instructional video, here [INSERT LINK]).
By the end of the event you’ll have a great grasp of what you want to achieve, from people planning to a payroll perspective . . .but you’re not done yet.
To make this vision come to fruition, it’s essential you take this next step.
POST-EVENT: SELLING REALITY TO YOUR TEAM
Over the next week, post the Strategic Planning event, you will need to start thinking of those key conversations you will be having with people to initiate things.
Coming up with strategies and ways to implement them during the New Year is one thing, but you need to think through how you’re going to announce them to your team. PowerPoint is one tool that can – if done well – help encourage buy-in rather than pushback.
Remember, your plan is only as good as it is understood by your team.
Staging a follow-up event, this time for team members, is another way in which a strategic plan can be assessed, modified, and finalized (BTA stages a Winter Summit every January).
Remember, your team is looking to you, their leader, for clarity.
AND FINALLY, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Don’t expect to get it right on your first try. We didn’t. During the first few years we were shooting from the hip. But, the more you stage these annual events, the more incredible they will become and the more you will turn into a master tactician: a leader who can pivot during a calamity and come up with new ways to achieve previously set goals instead of changing the goals themselves.
We had to do exactly that when COVID hit. “In January 2020 we built our plan and in March 2020 the world changed. That wasn’t in our plan. We didn’t change our goal, we changed the plan of how we would get to that goal, and the result? We hit within $1,000 of our year-end revenue that we had set in January of 2020,” says Danny.
But when all is said and done, even the best laid strategic planning won’t fly without one vital ingredient: Fun!