7 Strategic Planning Pitfalls to Avoid for 2014

Every year around this time, we have the privilege of doing strategic planning with our clients to ensure the coming year is the best year yet for them and their business, so I thought I would take a few minutes to share some of the common pitfalls that we have encountered in our 25 years experience that prevent these plans from generating the results – and revenues – entrepreneurs would like them to.

1. Dreaming Too Big.

We are the first to encourage you to dream big and create the life and business of your dreams, but when it comes to annual strategic planning, it is important to add a healthy dose of realism about what you can really expect to accomplish in the coming year. Being realistic forces you to choose priorities. Yes, you can have it all – eventually. Trying to do it all this year, however, is likely to result in stress, overwhelm and a lot of half finished projects. In most cases, you and your business will be far better off if you focus on getting significant results in only one or two areas, than if you spread yourself too thin and move ten projects forward by 10%. The most important question to ask yourself is which  is, which achievements will most significantly move your business forward if you have locked and loaded by the end of 2014?

2. Dreaming Too Small.

It is easy to fall into the trap of letting strategy limit your vision. In other words, if you can’t figure out the strategy to get what you really want, you downsize your vision to something that you know how to achieve. Here’s an example: We were hired by a manufacturing client a few years back to help with their annual strategic planning. They had revenues of about $7 million annually and had grown about 12% each year over the last 5 years. Their strategic planning for the coming year was focused on ensuring another 12% growth. By working with them to expand their vision from what they knew how to do (12% growth) to what they really wanted to do (triple their revenues and be a fun, creative and exciting place to work) we helped them design strategies to grow the company to $30 million over the next three years. Where are you holding back from stating what you really want just because you don’t know how to get there?

3. Not Linking Goals to Resources.

Surprise! – all of the things you want to achieve take time, money or both. This seems obvious, but you would be amazed how many small businesses put together strategic plans that are a huge list of audacious goals with no links to the resources required to achieve them. Thinking through the time and money needed to achieve all the goals on your list can be a sobering thought, but it also forces you to come back down to earth and think more realistically about what you actually are going to commit to doing in the coming year. This is a critical step in the prioritization process. You are far better to make sure you have the time and resources to follow through on one major goal, than to start working on ten different ones and not be able to complete any of them. Which goals would represent the biggest return on your time and money investment?

4. Lack of Persistence, Follow-Through & Focus.

Putting a plan in place to achieve your goals is an important first step, but nothing happens if you don’t focus and follow through. Implementing any strategic plan involves doing things in addition to the regular day-to-day duties of running your business. To paraphrase Michael Gerber of E-myth fame, you need to carve out time to work “on” your business or you will always be stuck “in” your business. Most of you are already using various tools such as CRMs, project management systems to keep on top of everything you need to do both in and on your business. This is a great start, but if you are like most entrepreneurs you still need to make huge progress on shifting your focus from efficiently checking things off your to-do list, to consciously setting aside the time to work on the things that matter most for achieving your goals.

Over the years we have noticed that another reason clients stray from the path and the goals we lay out with them at the beginning of the year is something called Bright Shiny Object Syndrome (and her brother Quick Fix Addiction). Here’s how it goes…

You’re ticking along nicely with your plan at the beginning and are very focused. Within the first quarter, however, the excitement of your shiny new goals has begun to wear off and you start to realize that it is going to actually take some concentrated effort and commitment to make them happen. Enter the Bright Shiny Object (BSO). You hear about or see the latest greatest “thing” in a magazine or on TV. Then you see someone else has it. Then you start to worry your competitor will get it. Then Quick Fix Addiction kicks in and tells you that surely the BSO will make it so much faster and easier for you to reach your goals. You buy the BSO, (Which may not be an actual object – it could be a seminar, a new piece of software, the addition of a new social media stream such as twitter or Pinterest, or some new philosophy for managing your team.) and then proceed to spend the next few months neglecting your original plans completely to figure out how to integrate this new promise of ease and profit into the equation. It ends up not being as easy as you thought. Along comes another BSO. The cycle repeats.

We absolutely encourage entrepreneurs to stay open to learning and maintain their ability to change as the market demands. In today’s fast-changing world it is critical to stay tuned in to emerging opportunities in the market that will allow you to grow your business quality, productivity, profitability and sustainability. That said, success depends on staying power. The failing point of many systems is not the systems themselves, it is that the system is not being used. Something can’t work for you if you aren’t working it.

It also can’t work if you don’t persist long enough to see the results. Human beings – and optimistic entrepreneurs especially – are notoriously bad time estimators. It is always going to take longer than you anticipated to achieve your goals. Unfortunately this means that you are prone to switch tracks just when the results are about to start rolling in. Professional support in the strategic planning process (and ongoing coaching) can help to provide confidence in the path that you have set out for yourself, a clear understanding of the time and effort involved to move your plan forward, and the insight and support to help you stay on track long enough to see the results you set out to achieve. Where might you be prone to lack focus and follow through? What do you need to stay on track?

5. “Over-Persistence” (aka Stubbornness).

There are many stories of entrepreneurs who attribute their success to being stubborn enough persist on their path despite what others said to the contrary. While this kind of tenacity can be required to succeed, it is also important to understand that there is a time to stop banging your head against the wall trying to break through and look for a door to walk through elsewhere. Doing more of the same and expecting a different result is not the same as being persistent. Persistence involves fine-tuning and adjusting your approach as you learn what works –and what doesn’t. Sticking to the same approach despite it not working is usually the result of not having enough tools in your tool box. As the old saying goes, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Where have you been struggling for a long time, but persisting with the same approach to resolve the problem? Where could you go to get some perspective on other approaches you could try to resolve this challenge?

6. Blind Spots.

Yet another reason entrepreneurs don’t follow through on their action plans is that they aren’t sure if they are doing the right thing to begin with. The big challenge with this one is that you don’t know what you don’t know. It is difficult to address something if you don’t even know it is an issue. Asking for ideas, opinions and feedback from others both inside and outside of your business can help you to become aware of potential blind spots. Unfortunately those that you ask for feedback might not be either willing or qualified to identify these blind spots for you, so be cautious about who you seek guidance from. While we certainly can’t claim to know everything, over here at Kyosei Consulting we do our best to apply our insight and expertise to shed some light on both the barriers and opportunities to thriving that our clients may not be aware of. Who might you be able to get honest and professional insight from regarding your blind spots?

7. Running Out of Juice.

Not orange juice – energy. All successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common – a genuine passion for their business. This passion is the energy that fuels them to keep going for as long as it takes to realize their vision, no matter how hard it gets. It is the same passion that gets people excited to work with them and buy their products and services. If you are not authentically passionate about your business beyond making money, chances are you will find yourself running out of steam long before you have reached the finish line.

If you have been feeling like your business is a slog, but sticking it out because you can’t figure out what else you would do, you “can’t afford” to quit, or you need to do x, y, and z before you can sell it for the big profit you want, you might want to consider the source to find the solution. Sometimes it involves re-designing your role in the business to allow you more time to do what you love and learning how to delegate the rest. In other cases the implementation of systems that eliminate overload do the trick. In some cases, however, the owner truly has lost (or possibly never had) a passion for their business. This is often very difficult to admit, as most entrepreneurs know in their gut that trying to grow a business without passion is a recipe for misery and stress. If initial attempts to restore your passion do not work quite quickly (and stick), it is critical to make an exit plan as quickly as possible to preserve both your own health and the health of your business. Can you honestly say that you are as passionate now about your business as you ever have been? If not, it might be time to make a plan to address this shortfall.

We’d love to hear your comments on the above and welcome any additional tips you have for entrepreneurs looking to make the most out of their strategic planning in 2014!

The post 7 Strategic Planning Pitfalls to Avoid for 2014 appeared first on Kyosei Coaching.


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