Plan to Win

What Matters in Annual Strategy and Planning (part 1 of 3)
By Bill Gallagher

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Every January I get a flurry of calls from business leaders who want to squeeze in last-minute planning sessions. I guess it’s “better late than never,” but creating a strategy – and a plan to execute it successfully over the next 12 months – isn’t something that should be jammed between ski trips and trade shows. It needs to be a deliberate process that leaves time to review, think, discuss, and align.

I should know. I have spent many years working so hard on current-year goals but putting off planning for next year. I’m embarrassed to say that more than once I have let annual planning slip until February or March. There’s no natural break or time out in business. You have to plan for tomorrow (next year) while you work on today (this year). Procrastinating and delaying are mistakes that have cost me lots of money.

There are three phases to proper planning:

1 – Preparation

2 – The Planning Meeting

3 – Follow-Through

In this article I’ll focus on the first item: getting ready to plan, which I can assure you is a critical step in coming up with a meaningful program for your business.

I help clients by calendaring early. In just the last year I’ve gotten dozens of companies to move their annual strategy and planning forward just by booking the time for it. When we start working with a new client, we work to schedule both the annual session, along with three quarterly update meetings. This has real business benefits from making changes earlier and getting payoffs sooner and longer. One CEO client with a highly seasonal business started this practice last year, and in less than one year set records for sales, profit, and CASH. Just by setting aside regular time to do the thinking, planning, and prioritizing with his leadership team.

So what does “planning to plan” look like? Let’s take a look.

  1. Schedule it and calendar your team. Book a creative or inspiring location off-site to meet with your team. Consider booking a facilitator or coach if your budget allows, like our Gazelles Coaches ( The meeting isn’t going to magically schedule itself!
  2. Have everyone do a little pre-work: Review last year’s numbers and projections. Consider your strengths, weaknesses, external threats and opportunities (SWOT). Look around at what’s working and what’s not working – and make some notes. This is more than just a five-minute exercise, but it’s not overwhelming. Plan to spend 1-2 hours doing an honest appraisal of your business.
  3. Know what you want as an outcome of your planning. Decide what the takeaways will be at the end so that your agenda and process can deliver it predictably.

There’s certainly lots more that you could do, but these first steps will ensure that you begin a successful year ahead. In the next piece in this series, I’ll share how to make the meeting itself a success.

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How Fast Growing Companies Do Planning and Strategy - November 23, 2015 Reply

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