Have you ever tried to put together a puzzle without a picture of the completed puzzle? It is necessary to get the right pieces in the right places. In most cases, people will give up trying to fit all the pieces together if they do not know the picture of the final product.

A strategic plan is the picture your team uses to make sure the business has the right resources (pieces of the puzzle) and that they are coordinated and fit together properly.

Without that picture, life at work can be discouraging and frustrating for a team to work together. It is easier to simply do one’s job and ignore how each part fits into all the other pieces.

Having a clear strategic plan ensures everyone is pointed in the right direction, sees the big picture, and knows how the pieces come together!

The Challenge

The question you want to answer by completing the strategic planning process is:

With all the obstacles we face, how can we get our team working together better, with common values so that we can achieve a common goal more effectively, with less risk and while having more fun?

Identifying the Primary Issues

One team we worked with had an owner in his early 40s. One of his goals was to have more time with his family. He typically worked five to six days a week and did so 10 to 12 hours a day. He also wanted a structure that would better accommodate his children coming into the business.

His core team was made up of 15 people, and they were never in the same room together.

The key people were great at their job and had great people working for them, but they were focused primarily on their department and not on any other parts of the business. The owner was the one that absorbed information from all parts of the business and coordinated and realigned people, departments, and resources (labor and equipment) when needed. He did not want to share any financial information regarding profits or business value with any of his people.

They had some recent successes that had substantially grown the business; however, it was requiring cash flow to grow. To reduce the risk of new accounts they had taken on, they needed to add other customers to diversify. The overseas markets they sold to were becoming more demanding. Customers and suppliers wanted to know what the ultimate vision was for the business (i.e., where was the business going over the next 10 years?)

Actions Taken

First, we clarified the core team of people. The owner originally felt that only five of the key people should be involved. Upon analyzing the true needs of the business, the owner decided that 15 key people should be involved.

We reviewed the current situation of the business (competitors, customers, employees, internal issues, owner perspective, and SWOT) with the entire team. This helped to get the team working together and ensured they all had the same basic knowledge of the business. It was a big surprise how little each of them knew about the business in total, and they very much enjoyed the back and forth from a meeting with all of them in the room.

We helped them create a vision of where they wanted to be in 10 years. We identified the top five key goals that needed to be achieved to truly accomplish their “World Series” or “Super Bowl” of achievements. At one extreme was a goal of “$60 million of gross revenue from 100 “A” customers.” At the other extreme was a goal of “Motivated and happy employees with 95% employee retention per year.”

For each goal, we identified the obstacles to the goal, what needed to be controlled to overcome the obstacles, and then what strategies could accomplish controlling the obstacles.

After evaluating the strategies, we identified the top two strategies for each key goal that would most powerfully impact the vision while being the most cost-effective. This resulted in 10 strategies that were each assigned to a member of the core team.

Action plans were built by the entire team along with a plan to communicate the plan to the right audience with the right tools. We set up a monitoring process that would be a monthly check to make sure that the 10 strategies were online and hitting the metrics needed to get the results.

The truly satisfying part of the strategic plan is the monthly monitoring meetings where the team gets together to talk and discuss what needs to happen. The owner talks very little and the team engages each other with strong opinions and ideas. The owner only needs to step in to break a tie vote or to share information he obtained from an industry meeting. It will be interesting to see how far the company goes in the future, now that they have these strategies for success in their pockets.

Bruce Gresham of Applied Vision Works can be contacted at bgresham@appliedvisionworks.com.

This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2022 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.