By Nate Medina
Annual strategic planning is critical to your long-term growth.
If I were to hand out a blank piece of paper to each member of your team and then ask everyone to write down their definition of the business winning in three years and how it’ll be measured, and then write down the business’s annual goals, would you bet I’d get back papers with the same answers?
I’m putting my money on no.
Now, imagine I placed your team in a dragon boat racing competition with the objective to win the race, but I never articulated how to win or what milestones needed to be reached to achieve success.
Without direction or clarity on how to win the game (i.e. business), how well do you think your team would do in the competition (i.e. the marketplace)?
I’m guessing …
I had to learn this the hard way when I closed the doors to my personal training business, Fit Culture LLC, on October 12th, 2015.
I realized very quickly that grinding in the business without a strategy informing my execution was a recipe for disaster. Forty-five percent of my recurring revenue was lost in a quarter, and I couldn’t make payroll.
I failed to find balance between Getting it Done (GID) and Getting it Right (GIR).
- If you’re just focused on GID without direction, then you’ll never GIR.
- If you’re just focused on GIR without execution, you’ll never GID.
“Nate, that sucks for you, but I don’t need annual strategic planning.”
Really? The paper exercise, dragon boat analogy, and personal warning weren't enough?
What about the uber-talented employees, investors, advisors, or partners you wish you could attract to your business? Do you think they'll be inspired and motivated by your semi-articulated vision and non-existent strategic planning? Do you think they'll be excited to join the team and go with the flow?
Fun fact: Did you know our CEO, Clate Mask, contributes the success of Infusionsoft’s early capital funding to the execution of strategic planning practices he learned while working on a nonprofit board. You can find those same practices in our 2017 Strategic Planning Kit.
"But Nate, strategic planning is hard and a lot of work plus there's no immediate gratification :'[ "
Welcome to Leadership!
In the Infusionsoft Leadership Model, setting the vision is a key pillar.
A leader’s role when setting the vision is to:
- Visualize the future
- Co-Create plans that align
- Declare goals and inspire commitment
“Okay, I’m bought in, annual strategic planning is important…so how do I do it?”
There are three steps that I’ve learned from my experience at Infusionsoft and involvement with The Elite Forum Program.
Step One: Identify the Vision [Purpose, Mission, & Core Values] of your Business
Business naturally breeds chaos, but your role as a leader is to set the vision to breed confidence. Your vision is the foundation of your strategic planning. At Infusionsoft we use this equation to define vision. Vision = Purpose + Mission + Core Values.
Once you define your vision, you need to create a purpose statement. Your purpose statement is “why” your company exists and is your guiding star. At Infusionsoft, our purpose is “to help small businesses succeed.”
Next, comes your mission statement. It’s “what” you are going to accomplish in the next 3 to 5 years and is in support of your purpose. Infusionsoft uses the acronym BHAG [Big Hairy Audacious Goal], a term coined by Jim Collins. Our 2030 BHAG is composed of five three-year missions. Our current mission [ending at the end of 2018] has five categories that measure our mission’s success:
- Customer Success
- Employee Engagement
- Financial Fitness
- Partner Pride
- Economic Impact
In order to be successful in attaining your vision and mission, you must know your core values. They are “how” you get the work done and represent the core beliefs of your organization. Infusionsoft has nine core values that guide our culture:
- We empower entrepreneurs
- We listen, we care, we serve
- We do what we say we’ll do
- We practice open, real communication
- We face challenges with optimism
- We check our egos at the door
- We innovate and constantly improve
- We do the right thing
- We believe in people and their dreams
Congrats! You now have a vision with a 3-to -5-year mission and core values that guide your culture :]
Step Two: Analyze Past Results to Create Context for Future Annual [or Quarterly] Priorities
Now let's go back to the three components of the Infusionsoft Leadership Model under Set the Vision: visualize the future, co-create plans that align, and declare goals and inspire commitment.
After completing step one, you’ve effectively visualized the future for your team. Now it's time to co-create plans that align. Before we jump into planning mode (Step 3), however, it is crucial to reflect on the businesses past accomplishments, lessons learned, strengths, weaknesses, and upcoming trends in the marketplace.
Why? Strategy is nothing more than how you leverage, capitalize, and or exploit available resources and core competencies to create a sustainable competitive advantage. In order to effectively begin strategy planning, your team must be in alignment to what resources and core competencies the business possesses and which are priorities to leverage, capitalize, and or exploit.
- Accomplishments: What have you accomplished since your last planning? When you reflect on all your accomplishments, you can take confidence into what’s to come. Positive energy from this will set the tone for the rest of your planning.
- Lessons Learned: What Lessons have you learned as a company? There is power in articulating lessons you’ve learned so you don’t have to learn them again.
- Strengths [Internal]: What is the company good at? At Infusionsoft (600+ employees), everyone does the SWOT exercise with their team and that information is compiled for our leadership team to review before they execute on these exercises.
- Weaknesses [Internal]: What are the areas for improvement? Don’t think good vs bad but instead working vs not working.
- Opportunities [External]: What’s happening around you that you could take advantage of?
- Threats [External]: What’s happening around you that you may want to guard against?
- Strategic Issues: What are the most important issues to focus on that will move the needle? Take the information from the previous questions and use the following format to identify your business’ top 3 to 5 strategic issues. Then ask, “How do we achieve X outcome, given Y situation or obstacle?”Example: “How do we improve our lead generation, given our low marketing budget and no clear owner?”
Step Three: Convert Strategic Issues into Annual [or Quarterly] Priorities and Assign Owners
Now that you have your top 3 to 5 strategic issues in question formats, it’s time to convert each issue into an annual [or quarterly] priority statement and assign an owner.
Example: “Build out content marketing machine using partners to grow our marketable list to X# of email subscribers (Owner’s Name)”.
Finally, establish a meeting rhythm to check in with priority owners on progress and challenges.
Now I know what you’re thinking…
“Nate, this is cute, but what would really be useful now are strategic planning worksheets to work through with my team.”
Somethings you just have to opt-in for ;)
Nate Medina is an Infusionsoft Small Business Growth Expert with passion and education in business, education, and wellness. Before small businesses, he was transforming lives as the former owner and coach of Fit Culture LLC. Connect with him at n8medina.com or on LinkedIn.