Do you feel stuck in this economy or have doubts about the future viability of your business? A lot of contractors don’t—because they’ve had a strategic plan in place that has helped them navigate their companies to a position of lesser vulnerability in today’s environment.
A strategic plan defines a company’s direction. A good strategic plan also sets specific goals and objectives, assigns responsibility and establishes timelines so that the new direction is eventually reached. Smart business owners allocate resources so that the new direction can be reached.
Make no mistake—we are operating in a completely different environment than we did a few years ago. Ignoring margins, inferior salesmanship and lackluster customer service simply will not work in this business environment.
If you’re not diligently working to improve your operating systems, strengthen your brand and diversify your service and/or customer mix, it’s probably time to get started. And even if you have been doing all of these things, a strategic planning meeting is still a highly effective way to regain the support of your staff and identify emerging opportunities for your company.
So assemble your team, find a desirable location, roll up your sleeves and be prepared to completely dissect your business—your very future could depend on it.
Make it an Event
The strategic planning process should occur in a private area, generally off site from your business. It should be attended by key employees and/or selected staff members. If necessary, use a facilitator (maybe someone from your admin staff) to write down comments and keep the meeting moving.
The meeting should be attended by key staff, such as:
- Account managers
- Sales managers
- Office managers
The important point is that you are trying to build a team approach through this process, so include any key staff members that you can spare for the day.
Make the strategic planning process fun, and try to keep it to a half day since all-day marathons tend to be counter-productive. When choosing a location, make it a special morning or afternoon that is comfortable for your staff and on a day that is not conflictive with their work schedule.
You may find that local hotels near your office will offer you reasonable rates for meeting rooms. One of your clients might even have a nice meeting room at their facility. You may want to order in breakfast or lunch to add a special feel for the day. Most hotels offer nice buffets or have it catered.
Bring along visuals and large poster boards to write down and collect data. Make sure everyone’s idea or opinion counts. Remember, if your staff contributes to the process, they are most likely to buy into the plan. A dynamic business is one where everyone works together with a strong sense of purpose while harvesting new ideas.
Define Expectations and Mission Statement
After everyone has slammed a couple cups of coffee and the energy is starting to flow, begin your strategic planning session by defining the purpose of the planning session. You may suggest that you’ve gathered key personnel for the purpose of establishing company goals, focusing your efforts and building a team approach.
Also reach out to your staff, asking each individual what their expectations are for the meeting. This information should be written down and acknowledged. This serves as an ice breaker and will make individuals feel comfortable that their ideas are important and that you value them.
This will lead into developing your company’s mission statement, which simply states your company’s reason for being. A mission statement should communicate a sense of purpose to employees while also illustrating your company’s image to customers.
Here’s an example of a mission statement for a mid-sized diversified landscape company: