Archive for the ‘strategic planning’ Category

Dust Covered Strategic Plans Reveal Failed Leadership

The thick dust on most strategic plans is quite common.  Even though strategic plans are a valuable tool for SMB owners, executives and even salespeople, they continue to be filed on shelves collecting dust. Then executive leadership appears to be suddenly confused because results are not being achieved.

Now many SMBs don’t have these forward thinking documents and retreat to some isolated bogus marketing plan which usually ends up creating more misguided decisions resulting in more misdirection. Their excuse is usually “I don’t have time” or “I don’t need one.”

What these leaders fail to realize is the wisdom in the words of President Eisenhower “Plans are worthless, planning is everything.”  The act of planning through intensive thinking provides a competitive advantage because the majority of the competition has also refused to engage in this important act of strategic planning.

What also happens is executive leadership looks for the quick fix to have some outside consulting firm do a survey or a “town hall” meeting. Having this input is part strategic planning process, but should not be the first step.

The first step in creating strategic plans is looking at the goals or results achieved.  Then internal assessments are undertaken. After the values and the vision statements are constructed, the mission statement is created along with the critical success factors or critical goal categories.  Unfortunately some in leadership roles jump to critical success factors that only create more misaligned actions and become an abdication excuse for leadership when results do not materialize.

Dust covered strategic plans reflect a lack of commitment to make real change, to reach higher and achieve what is necessary to stay a viable and thriving businesses. As one of my coaches David Herdlinger said:

“If you don’t have the time to do it right,

when will you have the time to do it over?”

Schedule a time to speak with Leanne about how strategic planning can help your SMB achieve its desired results by CLICKING HERE.



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Don’t Bother With Strategic Planning If…

strategic-planningStrategic planning is essential for any business from the one person solo entrepreneur to the Fortune 50 firms. Yet if you are thinking about engaging in this process, don’t bother if you are seeking:

  • The quick fix
  • A team building activity
  • A feel good; look at me
  • A Weekend off site bonding experience
  • What executive leadership is expected to do

To engage in this planning process executive leadership must realize, it:

  • Is time consuming
  • Demands intentional action
  • Reveals uncomfortable realities
  • Requires alignment throughout the organization
  • Mandates commitment to follow through, monitoring and holding people accountable

General and President Dwight Eisenhower is quoted as saying:

“Plans are worthless, planning is everything.”

The purpose of this executive leadership responsibility is to ensure the sustainable business growth for the organization. Planning is a verb, an action and one to be taken seriously.

Where many in executive leadership roles fail especially is to establish benchmarks before engaging in strategic planning.  These benchmarks help to prioritize what actions to be taken as the team works through this planning process.

Yes strategic planning is a process and not one to be shortchanged or rushed through.  Depending upon the overall size of the organization. , the time commitment is usually a minimum of 20-30 hours of contact time with an outside resource and another 20-30 hours executive leadership work time.  When this sustainable business growth activity is taken to heart, weekly or at least monthly meetings are essential to monitor the progress by:

  • Assessing current progress
  • Clarifying next goals or strategic initiatives
  • Executing actions steps

Download this helpful strategic-planning-schematic

triage-business-planningIf you are in a executive leadership role or even a sales one, consider the already shared words of President Eisenhower and schedule time now and in the next year going forward to engage in this decisive, intentional, authentic continuous improvement process.

Click HERE to schedule a time to speak with Leanne Hoagland-Smith to learn more about her Triage Business Planning especially designed for SMB owners (firms with under 20 employees) and independent sales processionals (real estate agents, CPAs, attorneys, coaches, consultants) who need a solid, basic, goal driven plan.  Total time investment is usually less than 20 hours.

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Make the First Step in Strategic Planning the Right Step

Usually around this time of year, some mid-size to small businesses are beginning to engage in some sort of strategic planning process.  Now some small business coaches to consultants will suggest the first step in this process is data analysis and that is the wrong first step.

strategic-planningData analysis cannot happen until the data is collected.  This means gathering up numerous financial records. To collect those records may also require answering some basic questions.

Unfortunately, those same mid-szie to small businesses probably do not have all those questions answered nor have those documents readily available because they have not invested the time in the past to answer, collect or review them.

Before I engage with any small business coaching client, I provide them a General-Documents-4-Strategic-Planning checklist required for us to engage in either Triage Business Planning (designed to stop the bleeding with less than a 20 hour time commitment) and Strategic Thinking (a more intensive process with a time commitment of 40 hours plus).

This checklist usually takes a couple of days to several weeks for my clients to complete.  Not all documents will be required initially, but eventually all documents will be reviewed during the strategic planning process.

By providing this checklist saves both the client and myself incredible time.  Many strategic planning processes presume the forward thinking leaders have these documents and can answer the basic questions quickly.  From my experience, this is not the case and why I created this checklist.

Data analysis does happen within any solid strategic planning process, but it is not the second step.  The second step will be discussed in the next posting.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Eating Workplace Culture One Bite at a Time – Part 03

The verb plan is one of the four letter dirty words within mid-size to small businesses. Big businesses know the value to plan their strategic direction; not so much for the smaller firms especially when it comes to workplace culture.

workplace-culturePresident Dwight Eisenhower said “Plans are worthless: planning is everything.” Yet far too many mid-size to small businesses still live in the role of Captain Wing-It where they continue to spray their actions all over the place and then pray something will stick.

Strategic planning is a process,  a truly time consuming process and is not the quick fix some like to believe.  A good strategic planning engagement takes usually around 20 hours of facilitation with the executive leadership team plus another 20-40 hours of independent work by the executive leadership and management team.

In speaking with small business owners to those in executive leadership roles who are having challenges in executing their strategic initiatives, there are two questions I always ask with reference to disengaged employees (workplace culture):

#1 – Can everyone in this organization quickly name the top three goals in precisely the same order?

The answer has been 99.9% of the time “No.”  My next question is as follows:

#2 – How many opportunities to how much wasted productivity to profits are you losing?

Workplace culture does not operate in a vacuum.  As the old adage of Parkinson’s Law goes:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

When the employees do not have a clear vision of what the organization will look like in the future or where it is going, the workplace culture will reflect chaos to disorganization creating unneeded stress to more disengaged employees to higher turnover .

Have you ever heard your employees muttering about how tough it is to get things done?

Possibly in exit interviews, some employees shared that those in senior management just wanted them to do their jobs and not ask any questions?

You may not include your employees in your strategic planning process such as organization’s plans, budgets and objectives (though you probably should). However not including them will be reflected within your workplace culture and may lead to further employee disengagement.

Additionally from the strategic planning process, there is greater clarity as to both market and customer focus. The next posting will delve into these areas with a little more depth.

Please feel free to check out this holistic cultural assessment tool that allows even the smallest firms to start identifying the barriers to effective execution of current business growth strategies.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn

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How the Ah $h*ts Surface from the Strategic Planning Process

We all have those “Ah $h*t” moments in business.  Suddenly we recognize the missed opportunities and the financial impact from those events.  No where is this recognition more visible and audible than in the strategic planning process.

strategic-planningCurrently I am facilitating a strategic planning session for three small business owners with sales ranging from $500,000 to $5 million. As we work together and these forward thinking leaders work independently, they have begun to recognize a plethora of missed opportunities.

During our most recent session we where completed reviewing the organizational external and internal appraisals, I lost count of the “Ah $h*ts.”  Many mid size to small businesses view the word plan as a four letter dirty word and maybe that is why I heard all those expletive gasps.

When small business owners began to separate the wheat from the chafe as what happens in a solid strategic planning process, they begin to see the market and more importantly their small business from an entirely different perspective.  What may have been important to them now may no longer be as important.

Identifying what is happening within the market from the organization’s perspective respective to itself and to its competitors is critical. The first section in external appraisal process has has four key elements:

  • Market segments and opportunities
  • Product/service competitive analysis
  • Organizational competitive analysis
  • Trend analysis

This is where the majority of “$h*ts” happened. One small business owner recognized the financial impact of one of his solutions and realized the market for this was larger while the competition was much smaller (Blue Ocean strategy). Another realized he had to change one of his primary solutions because of technology, government trends and changing demographics. This market trend would directly impact his cash flow and this solution would potentially dry up in the next three to seven years.

Upon completion of the external appraisal, the focus is then turned internally to:

  • Structure and function
  • Resources
  • Strengths, limitations, opportunities and threats
  • SLOT analysis

Here is the “Ah $h*ts” are fewer and yet in some cases even more significant.  In this area the small business owners must address capacity for business growth as well as succession planning.

Completing both the external and internal appraisals lays the foundation for the marketing and sales plans.  This is why I bristle when marketing firms engage in what they call a strategic planning process because they fail to do the proper external and internal appraisals.  Their focus is only on marketing. Thorough and complete assessments of what is happening and potentially may be happening must take place first to ensure the marketing is being directed to the right target markets and ideal customers.

Something almost magical happens when thoughts are put down on paper.  New insights are gained.  Old insights may be revised. And in that strategic planning process a lot of “Ah $h*ts” surface that may just keep any small business ahead of the flow.

Download the first steps in a proven Strategic-Planning-Process and learn where you may have some “Ah $h*t” moments.

P.S. If you are wondering why the $ sign in “$h*t, it is because the super majority of those “Ah $h*t” moments cost  small businesses significant dollars from lost profits to lost sales.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.


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Was Failed Strategic Planning Really Behind the UPS Holiday Disaster?

By now, most of those delayed holiday presents shipped via UPS have been delivered.  The media storm surrounding this event has for the most part died down.

strategic-planningNow the analysis from within UPS and from outside observers will take place. One recent article over at suggested this shipping fiasco was due to poor strategic planning and that may indeed be the case.

From my experience, when outcomes happen that are not within the strategic plan, the failure can be traced back not to the strategic planning process, but more to the goal setting and goal achievement process.  Both work together to ensure consistent execution so that the desired results are achieved.

I am not privileged to the UPS strategic plan. However, my sense tells me there are many near and far reaching objectives from short term to long term, revenue, number of shipments, reduction in time and fuel consumption. Strategic plans are big picture thinking.

The goal setting (think planning) is both big picture and little picture when this component is inserted into the process – obstacle identification.  By investing the time to critically identify  known and unknown obstacles that may derail the desired results is critical.

Usually what happens is the goal is written and immediately action steps (little picture) are listed. Successful goal achievement recognizes that action steps come far later within the planning process (big picture thinking).

Imagine a far different outcome for UPS if during the goal setting process, the various teams brainstormed about unknown obstacles such as:

  • Weather?
  • Fuel constraints?
  • Workforce shortage?
  • All the other known and unknown what ifs?

Would one of those unknown what ifs had been around the increase in online buying and hence shipments?  Common sense suggests yes this would have surfaced through any active, brain storming session especially if multiple teams had been engaged in the goal planning process. Business Coaching Tip:  Two heads are always better than just one head when it comes to goal planning.

So often the case is those in executive leadership and management as well as business management experts have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water because their own thinking has already created self imposed limitations.

Let us remember strategic is  from the  Greek word for a general to deceive his enemies.  The enemies for UPS were other competitors who also experienced the same problem of  a significant increase in online buying.  This is why blaming strategic planning may result in having a repeat of a similar problem in the future.

If you or your executive leadership team for your mid size to small business want to avoid instances such as the UPS Holiday disaster, maybe it is time to consider uniting your strategic planning with a proven goal setting process?

If you truly want to increase sales, then scheduled a no risk 20 minute Business Growth Accelerator Session with Leanne Hoagland-Smith at 219.759.5601 CST where you will receive:

#1 – Quick assessment of your current sales process

#2 – One business growth strategy to increase results by 20% in 60 days

Consider giving her a call especially if what you have tried has not worked and you are ready to challenge and then change the current status quo.

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Simplify Strategic Planning With These 3 Critical Business Growth Goals

Strategic planning can be a very daunting task for the small business owners to the C Suite executives. This planning process is time consuming and yes necessary especially when looking to achieve business growth.  For without planning, business professionals are engaged in the role of Captain Wing It and consistent business growth goals are not achieved.


Within the strategic planning process, there are critical business growth goal categories or what some may call critical success factors.  Regardless of what you call these critical elements, their purpose is to be both necessary and sufficient to achieve business growth.

In the past these critical business growth categories ranged from three to five and varied for the clients. However recently when reviewing some past strategic plans I realized all could be placed into three (3) categories:

  • People
  • Process
  • Profit

By simplifying this part of the strategic planning process would save time while providing greater clarity to the client.  Then the more I revisited these strategic plans I recognized there were trends within the business growth goals that appeared to ignore or take for granted the necessary and sufficient criteria.

For example, culture was often ignored as was the intellectual capital residing within the enterprise. For many small businesses, the idea of research and development was for those big companies and yet they failed to recognize research and development was profit exploration.

Finally, I have found the rule of three works with our ability to remember and with speeding up execution. When we can organize items in our memories in groups of three (3), more energy can be devoted to execution instead of remembering.

President Dwight Eisenhower said “Plans are worthless, planning is everything.” Possibly if simplified the strategic planning process more people would hear, see and understand the value of Eisenhower’s words as they endeavor to achieve their business growth goals.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is a heurist who looks to discover new ways to guide and support rapidly growing small businesses or those who wish to grow beyond their current employees as well as executives in chaos.  She can be reached at 219.759.5601 CST.


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Why the Strategic Planning Process Needs to Be Changed for Sustainable Business Growth – Part 1

Having engaged in strategic planning processes with many clients, there were always gaps.  I chocked this up to the client not doing what he or she said. Yet, something told me that I was missing something.


Recently in doing some additional business growth research, I realized that I was beginning the strategic planning process in the wrong place. Of course I had a lot of good company given my place was the same place thousands of others business growth consultants began.

Usually the place to begin after the organizational assessment such as D.I.AL.O.G. is to look to the values statement that being the non-negotiable behaviors all within the organization agreed to live by or the vision statement as to where does the small business owner,  chief executive officer or the entire C-Suite leadership table see the business down the path in the next 3 to 5 years.

This revelation hit me when I realized that the majority of my clients cannot answer these 3 questions:

  1. Do you know how the company makes money with 100% clarity and certainty?
  2. Do you know how the company keeps money with 100% clarity and certainty?
  3. Do you know how the value growth of the company with 100% clarity and certainty?

I would then ask the client if his or her employees can answer yes to the first two questions as well.

So the beginning of the strategic planning process should start with profits. For without profits, no business can stay in business. One may have the best purpose, the best people or the best solution. Yet unless the small business can make and keep profits, the business will join all those others failed efforts in the  Davy Jones business graveyard.

To ensure alignment with future planning initiatives or actions, there probably needs to be a profit model or profit design that goes beyond the usual balance sheet which is part of the answer to question 3.  What is also required is infusing both people and processes into the profit model design to ensure sustainable business growth.

In the days to come I will continue to provide some additional reasons and thoughts behind why the strategic planning process needs to be changed.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is a heurist who looks to discover new ways to guide and support rapidly growing small businesses or those who wish to grow beyond their current employees as well as executives in chaos.  She can be reached at 219.759.5601 CST.

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Shift Your Beliefs About Strategic Planning

Strategy is from its earliest origins all about a general deceiving his enemies. Today strategic planning has become a proven process to deceive or out think the competition.


President Eisenhower said “Plans are worthless; but planning is everything.”

Strategic planning involves strategic thinking and that is where our beliefs may require a re-framing.

Businesses exist to make money even if those enterprises are not for profit.

For without profits they cannot expand or grow.

They cannot pay the bills. This is an indisputable fact no matter what some SMB consultants to executive coaches may say to the contrary.SMB coaching tip:  Just look at the graphic and find the word profit. It is not there.

Success for any enterprise then can be defined as:

  1. The sales you earn
  2. The profits you keep
  3. The growth of your company’s assets or stock

Additionally, since all three of the above factors involve dollars and two of the three involve profits, then doesn’t it make sense to start strategic planning first by establishing your profit model?

If we believe begin with the end in mind, then this approach makes 100% complete logical sense. The problem is somewhere this basic reality has been lost. Maybe because talking about profits is somewhat tainted to just plain evil. Or maybe people fail to understand that profits when constructed through a different belief system are really a way to energize all internal customers as will as external ones?

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is a guide for those forward thinking leaders who want to stop coasting their businesses. She works to remove the silos separating people (talent) from operations (management) to create a high performance and high profit culture. Give her a call at 219.759.5601 CST if you want sustainable results.

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100 Small Businesses with No Strategic Planning

Would you believe 100 small businesses were surveyed and all 100 of them did not engage in strategic planning or thinking?

Karin Bellantoni of Blueprint SMS who conducted the survey found it difficult to believe as well as quite believable given these same companies had poor sales results.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Poor sales are usually the symptom and not the real problem.

President Dwight Eisenhower is quoted as saying “Plans are worthless; planning is everything.” He should know given he was the Supreme Commander for “D-Day” and the founder of the US Interstate Highway System.

Planning or better yet strategic planning is all about thinking and reflecting.  In the book It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small … It’s the Fast that Eat the Slow, the authors revealed from their research the majority of small business owners and executives invest less than 15 minutes per week planning the future because they are so ingrained in working on the problems from yesterday and today.

Yet when looking at how to increase sales, improve bottom line results,

do these activities come from the future or from the past?

If you truly want to increase sales, then schedule time with yourself and your executive team to engage in strategic planning and thinking. This way you will be forward thinking leaders and not those leaders who leave in the Land of the Yesterday with whining winds, the road ruts of regrets and the well known river of “Da Nile.”

Did you know successful strategic planning and thinking is a business process and one that Leanne Hoagland-Smith can walk you through? Give her a call at 219.759.5601 and make tomorrow far better than yesterday.


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