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How to Get the Most Out Of Your Strategic Planning Session

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To ensure long term success, all businesses need to develop a clear methodology to produce sustainable growth and profitability. Many of the advisory firms we work with hold strategic planning sessions to outline initiatives for the coming year. The meetings often leave advisors and leaders with a little voice whispering, “Was the meeting valuable?”

Like all meetings, strategic planning sessions cannot serve as a “once-and-done” meeting of the minds. Intentions and hopes can’t be filed in a desk drawer until the next annual session. Strategic planning doubles as a process and a plan that needs to be monitored and reviewed regularly. The end result will provide identified goals, strategies, and specific action steps for implementation.

Your strategic plan should serve as a blueprint to grow your business. The tips provided below are the compilation of best practices from financial advisory teams we work with.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR STRATEGIC PLANNING SESSION 

Effective meetings have three things in common:

  • Agendas are provided and followed
  • Objectives are achieved
  • Team members feel that time, effort, and sensible processes were followed
     

Select topics that affect the entire team. Team meeting time is expensive and should be used to collaborate and make decisions on issues that are interdependent, or in other words, that matter to the whole team. Interdependent issues are ones in which individuals must coordinate their actions with the rest of the group. Some examples might include: How can we best share resources? How do we eliminate bottlenecks in the office? If the team isn’t actively involved during the meeting discussing interdependent issues, they will become disengaged with the process and feel the meeting was irrelevant to them.

PRIOR TO THE MEETING

It’s vital to specify how your team should prepare for the meeting. Provide ample time so your team is prepared with their thoughts regarding each item on the agenda.

  • Provide an agenda and a clearly-defined three to five year vision of your firm to all attendees. Recommend any information that may be relevant to your planning session such as books, whitepapers, competitive analysis, and/or trends. 
  • Seek input from team members and ask for suggested agenda items.
  • Ask each team member to prepare an overview of department strengths and weaknesses from the prior year along with the top three to five proposed initiatives for the next year. During the meeting, avoid placing too much focus on what didn’t get accomplished. Use this as an opportunity to learn and celebrate the “wins.” 
  • Complete a market analysis to determine how behaviors are changing within your target market and identify strategies your competitors are using. 
  • Invite an outside facilitator if necessary.
     

Your agenda will be based on the amount of time you allow for your strategic session and should include each of the items listed in the sample agenda below.

SAMPLE STRATEGIC PLANNING SESSION AGENDA – DAY 1
 

Strategic Planning Session Sample Agenda Day 1

 

SAMPLE STRATEGIC PLANNING SESSION AGENDA – DAY 2
 

Strategic Planning Session Sample Agenda Day 2

IN CONCLUSION

End the meeting on a high note. Invest a few minutes to discuss what was done well and what needs to be done differently for the next meeting. This enables your team to improve performance, productivity, and relationships. Celebrate your accomplishments – you successfully made it through your strategic planning session!

 

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