Strategic Planning Creates Exciting Future

Strategic Planning Creates Exciting Future

Some things in life are actually fun to plan - weddings, vacations, and special celebratory events. The planning that goes into the event usually leads to a happy outcome, even when there are bumps along the way.

Business Planning, however, usually gets a bad rap. Mention business planning to a entrepreneur or a fast high-energy executive and watch their eyes begin to gloss over. So how do we make business planning fun, exciting, and worthwhile for those involved?

Step 1: Dream Big

Franchise concepts, approaches to attracting and developing talent and unique customer acquisition/service initiatives all begin in the greatest nation known to the human race: the imagination.

Here's an interesting fact about "vision": You cannot not have one. The only real question comes down to how big is it. Maybe you want to revolutionize the way your franchise business and/or your industry works. If that's the case, reach into that pinkish gray matter that houses the creative sub-conscious part of the brain and ask yourself some simple questions: If it could be done, what could we (I) do today that would forever change the way we (I) do business?

Netflix asked that question and took over the video business. The Silicon Valley and Washington-based technology giants asked that question and continue to change the acquisition and distribution of information - daily, almost by the hour.

Step 2: Find the right people

Herb Brooks, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team coach, told his assistant that he didn't want the best players - he wanted the right players. People can argue all day long about the difference between the "best" and the "right." Regardless of your position, remember that Herb and the "right" players brought home the gold.

People are essential to putting plans into action, so you're going to want to develop a recruiting and retention strategy that helps make that happen. Part of that strategy includes describing and defining the characteristics of the key people you need for each key position:

  • What is the impact of their behaviors?
  • What are their attitudes?
  • What skill sets do they need?
  • How much industry knowledge is required for them to be effective?
  • How much experience do they need?
  • How fully do they use their talent?

The right players are the people who get inspired by your vision, add value to it, and see working with you as something greater than a means to a living. They see what they're involved in as more than an occupation - that's an important distinction.

Step 3: Engage in Strategic Planning

For an article focused on business planning, you may think this should have been the first step. But without big dreams and good people to carry out the vision, a plan is just a piece of paper.

Strategic planning isn't rocket science, but developing a dynamic and effective plan does depend upon staying committed to doing the right things during the process.

  1. Identify and document your vision and mission. Putting your ideas to paper allows you find clarity and visually see your purpose behind the and investment of building your enterprise.
  2. Communicate your mission/purpose and vision to your planning team, which is made up of key leaders in your organization. If they need to be reworked, then rework them. But if nothing significant is challenged or has changed since the last time you met as a team, then leave them alone.
  3. Give your team about two weeks lead-time to review Strengths and Weaknesses (these are internal conditions impacting the mission/purpose) as well as Opportunities and Threats (external conditions). During the discussion, forget about being politically correct and be practical and realistic. I can't tell you how many times I hear organizations parrot as a strength, "we have great people," and just minutes later talk about "we have no depth, no bench, and our organization is full of entitled misfits."
  4. Devise and prioritize business strategies consistent with your business values so that your people don't wind up with whiplash.
  5. Create strategic long term goals (sometimes, especially in a survival mode, a short term goal becomes important enough to be classified as strategic) and lay them out in a "one bite at a time" format that defines action steps, responsibilities, time lines, resources required, and feedback mechanisms that let people know what they're supposed to be doing and what it's supposed to look like when done.
  6. Update financial projections that show the impact of the strategic goals on operating and capital budgets. An important consideration to remember: the goals precede the budget, not the other way around.
  7. Create talking points that each manager can use to let people know what the plan looks like and what they're supposed to be working on during the months ahead. Communicate early and often. People can get confused when communication is replaced by a cultural belief that everyone has ESP.

Step 4: And in the End

Stay flexible. In a world where change is constant, the planning team is going to need to be nimble.

There are still a few examples of something being "right" or "wrong." For example, in the base 10 number system, 2 + 2 = 5 will always be wrong. In the business world, the research involved in setting out to open an office in Peoria may lead the team to conclude that the office should be in Des Moines instead. The original thought to open in Peoria wasn't wrong; it just turned out that the market conditions worked better in Des Moines than in Peoria.

That's flexibility. And the person or organization with the most flexibility controls the system and makes an exciting future more probable. Carpe momentum!

Dan Schneider, MA, CSP® is a partner/director of The Rawls Group, a business succession planning firm, and a board member of the International Succession Planning Association(ISPA.) For additional information email or visit

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