Now is the time to start your strategic planning for next year.

By Henry Clifford

How’s 2018 been so far for your business? Hopefully it’s been one home run after another. No matter where you are, it’s time to start tallying up the scorecard and begin planning for next year.

Also by Henry Clifford: Rapid Improvement Plan

I don’t know about you, but strategic planning didn’t always exist in our company. Every year would come and go, the business would grow, and we thought that was just fine. It was for a good while. Fine, that is. Trouble is, fine doesn’t scale your business or inspire teams to row the boat in the same direction. It took me a long time to realize that being intentional about annual planning should be a critical part of our business. We’ll be kicking off our second annual strategic planning meeting next month. Here are the steps which seem to be working for us:

1. Take It Off-Site: Try to get away from the office to change the scenery. We stayed at a conference center about an hour from Richmond last year. Just the act of getting in the car and going somewhere else made us feel like we weren’t just having another meeting at the office. It definitely paid off, as we all took the commitment to each other more seriously as a result. Our sessions last an entire day and we decided to add another half day this year because we felt rushed.

2. Designate A Facilitator: We’re a bit spoiled here. Our sales manager, Neal Lappe, is one of the best group facilitators in the business. He knows how to guide groups through issues and processes that can become thorny or deviate off-track if not run by an expert. Even if you decide to facilitate your own strategic planning session, make sure someone is specified to run it.

3. Make It Fun: We visited a winery last year and also put on a team dinner after our first session. It’s important to bond beyond just sitting in a conference room together and a social event or team-building activity serves to deepen experiential sharing and engenders trust among colleagues.

4. Focus, Focus, Focus: We mandated a “turn it off” policy during our strategic planning sessions. We had several breaks throughout the day where we encouraged folks to check their emails, texts, etc., but made sure to stress mindfulness during the planning sessions. This policy continues to pay off in all our meetings. The world can wait a few hours.

5. Promote & Measure: It doesn’t do any good to plan if it never sees the light of day. We came away last year with two strategic anchors (resist the urge to set too many goals):

  1. Make Livewire a place where our employees want to stay or are reluctant to leave
  2. Deliver quality of work consistent with our high-end reputation

Also by Henry Clifford: Predicting The Year Ahead After CEDIA 2018

Our team made sure to measure our progress towards accomplishing each of the anchors on a weekly basis. We captured tasks and dates using an app called Todoist to make sure each team member understood their part to play.

I hope your planning for 2019 goes well and your team decides it’s worth onw-to-two days to plan it all out. What do you do in your company to plan for the year ahead?

Stay frosty and see you in the field.

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