Posts Tagged ‘strategic planning’

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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Time to Stop Being Chicken Little in Social Selling

For SMB there have been many changes within the market place.  One of the more far reaching changes has been this concept of social selling where salespeople leverage the Internet through social media sites for everything from marketing to relationships building to targeted prospecting.



Just for clarity social selling in today’s marketplace is defined as when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.” (Source: Hubspot)

I would revised this definition with the following changes in red “when salespeople use social media to interact directly or indirectly with their prospects, colleagues and centers of influence. Salespeople will provide value by:

  • Connecting to their prospects’ value drivers
  • Answering prospect’s questions
  • Offering thoughtful content
  • Facilitating an ongoing emotionally compelling sales conversation

until the prospect is ready to buy because the prospect now knows and trusts the salesperson.

Even though I believe in simplicity, the power of social selling is built upon the existing long held sales tenet that people buy from people. In today’s technology driven world, many sales experts fail to reinforce this long held sales tenet.

Today, many SMB owners and sales professionals have yet to jump into this new marketing and selling channel. Possibly their delay is because they lack ab overall business growth plan (think strategic planning).

And for some who do engage in social selling, their focus in 100% on sales pitches and not on building relationships. As to their content, much is old, rehashed and not emotionally compelling.

Jumping into social selling arena requires some intestinal courage and taking a leap of faith. Of course having a solid marketing plan within the overall strategic plan is a big plus.

Salespeople must never forget people buy from people they know and trust. Engaging in social selling is a natural extension of that first sales buying rule.

What to know the other 2 sales buying rules? Click 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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Clearing the Sales Strategies Clutter

For those familiar with Peter Drucker, they may recognize this term of “abandonment.”  Drucker advocated every three (3) years, executive leadership must abandon everything it was doing by challenging everything it was doing from process to operations including sales strategies.  Today his recommendation just might be every two years or even every one year.



The purpose of abandonment is to simply test all assumptions that either emerged from the strategic planning process or from day to day experiences given how many SMBs are in the role of Captain Wing It*. By challenging current assumptions, executive leadership can answer these essential four questions:

  • Why didn’t this work even though it looked promising 3 to 5 years ago?
  • Is it because we made a mistake?
  • Is it because we did the wrong things?
  • Is it because the right things didn’t work?

Since much of the strategic planning process has to do with marketing and selling, sales strategies are in many instances the first ones to consider abandoning.  For example:

  • Why isn’t our social selling strategies working as well as they did 3 years ago?
  • What mistakes are we making?
  • Did we do the wrong things respective to social selling?
  • Did we do the right things, but they did not work?

When time is invested to clear the deck, the desk and the mind from the accumulation of all that clutter over time, then executive leadership may find those hidden gems that were previously ignored.  These hidden gems might help answer this forward thinking question of “What has happened that will create the future?” instead of the traditional question of “What is most likely to happen?”

*Captain It Wing Its spray their actions all over the place and then pray something will stick. This behavior is called spraying and praying.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver for leaders who desire a Forward Thinking Sales Culture. She supports executive leadership in bridging the sales culture gap of people and processes that restricts SMB sales results. If you want to increase sales, then call Leanne at 219.508.2859 central time USA to solve your disengaged employees and ultimately your disengaged sales culture as well as improve your own sales results. Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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How to Be One of the Few to Avoid Small Business Failure

Why do small businesses fail? The Small Business Administration (SBA) has researched small business failure extensively. Back in 2004, the SBA identified the launch of 580,900 new employer businesses and the closing of 576,200. This report suggests that every minute one business is closing while one is opening.



More current research suggests this small business failure rate is in decline. Yet with over 70% of all businesses here in the US being non-employed (meaning having no employees) and these small businesses included as both full and part time, determining the actual small businesses failure rate today is difficult.

Many business writers to business coaches attribute business failure to a lack of strategic planning, a lack of leadership, a lack of vision, a lack of processes, the list is endless. Dan Kennedy, a renowned marketing and sales expert said that there is no business success or failure, but rather people success and people failure. However, the problem with identifying one reason for small business failure is the problem.

Businesses are complex by their very nature even the SOHO. To believe that only one factor will either make or break a business is foolhardy and contributes to the silo solution mentality. This approach is simply stated like this: If I fix this one problem, then everything else is OK.

Successful businesses harness what I call the dynamic forces of performance – strategic planning, execution and measurement. These forces, much like the forces in nature, act upon each performance field such as profitability, customer service, growth and innovation just to name a few. When all 3 forces are in alignment, the field experiences tremendous energy and improved performance happens. The processes of People, Goal Achievement and Quality unite the forces and close any performance gaps between the forces.

All of these forces and processes operate within the eye of leadership. Effective leadership is necessary to manage each of the forces as well as the processes. If leadership is not present, then the forces fail to maximize their impact upon the field and business failure is the ultimate result.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership 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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Time to Kick Your Social Marketing into High Gear Part 1

Possibly as a SMB owner, solo entrepreneur or sales professional you have been engaging in the common marketing efforts of B2B networking, direct mail, referrals, etc.  These marketing actions are good yet you are missing one significant marketing channel – social marketing.

social-marketingFor clarity,  marketing is all about attracting attention and then beginning to build a relationship. Unless people (your ideal customers) know about you, they will never know about your solutions, your people, or even yourself. And you will remain pocket poor.

To get people to know you does require that you first understand your market place. This understanding evolves from crafting a strategic plan.  The importance of the action is planning (applying critical thinking questions) as the plan will change. President Dwight Eisenhower said “Plans are worthless; planning is everything.” Going forth without a well thought out strategic plan is like taking trip to the grocery store to buy items for an important dinner without having a written grocery list.

With so many businesses in the marketplace vying for the same attention, the SMB and especially the solo entrepreneur must be the Red Jacket in the sea of gray suits.  The question is “How do I do that?”

Social selling which is actually social marketing answers a large part of that question. There is a presumption in social marketing you have a clear and emotionally compelling message.

From your strategic planning process, you have already determined what social marketing channels will deliver you the attraction you want.  For those in B2B, LinkedIn is probably one of the best social marketing channels.

Quality content marketing when infused into LinkedIn using the LinkedIn Pulse publishing platform allows you to expand your marketing presence without leaving the comfort of your office.  There are also other social media channels to share your content marketing whether you are B2B or B2C.

Social marketing works and here is one example.

On January 3, 2016 I published this article on LinkedIn Pulse platform – Putting the How into Employee Engagement.  Two weeks later these were the results

  • One confirmed executive coaching client
  • Three solid qualified sales leads
  • 10 new prospects
  • Increase of followers by 100 (think sales prospect pool)
  • Profile (my) in the top 5% of my 2,277 connection

The competitive advantage of social marketing is spreading your brand.  In this example of LinkedIn Pulse, I responded to all 200 plus people who shared the article. By taking this action, I also looked at over 200 profiles and captured the number of their connections.  Quickly adding up the connections, this article had the potential to be viewed by over 100,000 people on LinkedIn as the super majority of those who shared had over 500 connections.

Another critical piece of information I gathered was the viewing and sharing of this article was not by the over 2,000 firs degree connections I have but mostly through second and third degree connections. Within LinkedIn, the second and third degree connections are where you prospect for new sales leads.

Effective social marketing also requires building communities of like minded people.  Tomorrow’s posting will look at the impact of that intentional action.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership 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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When It Comes to SMB Competition Do Not Confuse Awareness with Obsession

Yesterday in speaking with two executives (Jim Fowler and Luke Christiano) from, I suddenly realize that many in sales confuse awareness with obsession when it comes to SMB competition.

SMB-CompetitionBeing aware of your SMB competition is necessary.  In many more time intensive strategic planning processes, there is time devoted to identifying the competition, looking at them from a comparative competitive advantage such as what does the SMB competition offer than the other SMB does not  offer?

Now being obsessed with your competition is foolhardy. As one of my colleagues, Rick Gosser of Gosser Corporate Sales has said “I am me, no one else is like me.”  Each of us brings a unique perspective and expertise to our interactions as well as solutions.

In listening to many conversations with local SMB owners and sales professionals, there is a great tendency to be overly concerned about their competitors.  Their obsession reminds me of something I learned years ago about life.

SMB competitionWe can control only a very small part of our lives.  We can influence a little more.  However most of what we experience is truly out of our control.  Yet, human beings invest far more time about what they cannot control than what they can control.  The end result is a lot of wasted time, energy, money and emotions.  I always encourage executive coaching clients to direct their attention to what they can control and influence.

Even if you and your SMB competition offer the exactly same solutions, there is still a difference.  People buy from people they know and trust.  Someone may believe he or she knows you better than your competition and conversely another person may believe he or she knows your competition better than you.  Obsessing about your competition is just plain illogical.

If you want to increase sales, be aware of what is happening in your marketplace.  However obsessing over your SMB competition will not increase sales.  Learn how to build upon your knowledge, your expertise and your relationships.  By taking this proactive and abundance approach will increase sales.

P.S. I know this to be true because I belong to a community of 50 sales trainers, sales coaches and sales consultants. Since I have connected with these individuals, my business has grown and I have had the opportunity to establish mutually beneficial relationships.

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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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Why Are You Working Against Your Ideal Customer?

One of my colleagues, Mark Hunter, wrote a great blog about “You Can’t Turn a Wal-Mart Shopper into a Nordstrom Customer.” What Hunter is really talking about is knowing your ideal customer.  Not having that knowledge has salespeople along with SMBs working a whole heck of a lot harder and with far less money in the bank.



The problem for all this wasted sales and marketing activity returns to the lack of planning.  During the last 18 years, I can attest well over 90% of SMBs and sales professionals have not engaged in strategic planning nor have written action plans for marketing and for sales.  The only plan is some dollar figure they want to achieve or a certain level of cash flow.

For some SMBs their ideal customers remain the same while for others they change, they evolve. Right now my ideal customer is an executive, SMB owner or sales professional who is forward thinking and experiencing rapid growth.

This ideal customer profile emerged from my strategic plan where I invested time and continue to invest time.  By investing the time to construct my ideal customer profile I gain greater clarity where to prospect and when to recognize a poor fit.

Download this FREE Ideal-Customer-Profile-Template

The other aspect within Hunter’s blog posting goes to value creation.  Sales people cannot create value if the customer is a Wal-Mart shopper and they are selling upper end products.  The reverse is also true.  Those who buy branded items like a “Polo” shirt probably will not buy a generic shirt.

Value is unique to each buyer. 

I realize this statement could be construed as hearsay and is contrary to many of the sales experts and marketing experts, but then I never considered myself to be an expect.

What I know to be true and what Hunter also knows to be true is salespeople including SMB owners must have clarity as to who are their buyers.  Without this knowledge, there are a lot of Captain Wing Its out there spraying their actions all over the place then praying something will stick as well as far too many sales people using an elephant gun to kill a fly (increase sales).

P.S. Check out Triage Business Action Planning (my answer to strategic planning for SMBs or sales professionals) and receive one hour of executive coaching via the telephone at no charge to you.

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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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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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Workplace Culture Is Perennial Flower Bed of Beliefs

Funny I just read a posting about the myth and reality of organizational or workplace culture and the author wrote “culture is defined by habits.”  Unfortunately, he has only identified part of the reality. Workplace culture is all about beliefs and those beliefs are very much like the flowers that bloom year after year in a perennial flower bed.



  • Habits are  behaviors. 

  • Beliefs drive those behaviors or actions.

  • Until the beliefs are identified, the good or bad habits will continue.

The problem is beliefs are never identified.  What ensues is an emphasis on habits or behaviors.

Then what transpires is the hamster in the wheel or the person on the treadmill living and breathing Einstein’s definition of insanity.

To cultivate a positive organizational culture requires identifying what beliefs are spur organizational growth and what beliefs limit organizational growth.  Note, I did not say what beliefs are good or bad because these two words are viewed differently and quite subjective.  This cultivation begins by assessing the workplace culture.  Such an assessment can be accomplished in small bites.  By taking smaller bites allow for the mid-size to small business to begin taking action and not become paralyzed by the huge elephant in the room.

For most small businesses there are four initial key areas that have embedded beliefs:

  • Leadership
  • Business Results
  • Customer and Market Focus
  • Strategic Planning

After these two areas are assessed, then the next two would be:

  • Human Resource and Talent Management
  • Process Management

Finally assessing these last two areas provides a complete picture of the beliefs held by the employees:

  • Information, Analysis and Knowledge Management
  • Sustainability

If you truly want a dynamic, sustainable workplace culture that continues to thrive and bloom year after year, then invest the time and a few dollars to discover those beliefs that will propel your business forward and those that are restricting strategic business growth.

P.S. Very few organizational culture assessments or surveys are this affordable or have a 20 year proven track record based on Baldrige criteria.

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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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