ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Interactive Strategic Planning

Every year more agencies are strategically and tactically planning their futures. This is great because those of us who see the results of Strategic Planning know that businesses who create and implement plans will survive and succeed. Businesses who try to operate "by the seat of their pants" will certainly not succeed and may disappear as conditions in our industry continue to change.

However, creation and reality testing of Strategic (long range) and Tactical (next year) Plans is much like self-analysis and self-diagnosis - they can work if you are qualified and educated in the processes, but you can never rid yourself of the subjectivity of evaluating your own creative ideas. Just as professional therapists go to others for therapy and doctors go to others for medical care, business owners need professional facilitators to maximize the effectiveness of their planning process.

The Agency Consulting Group's Strategic Planning Module is one of its most popular consultations. We prove once and for all that business planning and successful business growth and developments are neither strokes of luck, nor reserved for Fortune 500 companies.

Strategic Planning is a three day process from initiation to completion of the final steps (Monthly Benchmarking). Some agents try to short-cut the process to two days expecting to create the benchmarks after the session ends. Our analysis finds that 75% of the agents who do not create benchmarks during the initial planning session never seem to get to their creation at all. Without benchmarks the plan's success potential diminishes tremendously. And, as you will see in this explanation, benchmarking is like the five cent nut and bolt that hold the airplane together -- minor in detail but critical in the process.

At the beginning of the process we develop a Mission Statement for your agency describing it's desired position in five years. In order to determine how to move your agency from its current position to your end-goal, you need a goal. That Mission Statement is your tentative goal. The reason that it is tentative is because you move it forward each year, changing it as necessary. Your personal goals change as you get older. The industry continues to change and your business goals should change as your priorities change. As your consultants, we ask probing and open-ended questions to the owners and key players in your agency, questioning any vague areas until we achieve an agreed upon set of conditions that describe how your agency should look in five years if it is "successful" by your own definitions. A good consultant will not intrude his or her ideas into your desired Mission Statement. A Mission Statement that is not the convergence of the ideas of the business managers will not be realistic, believable by those managers or successful in its achievement.

We then pull the action statements of your Mission Statement and help you to create Strategies. Strategies are defined as things you have to do differently (than your current behavior) in order to take your business from its current position to that of your Mission Statement. Each Strategy develops one or more long term plans defining interim results in each of the next five years to benchmark that Strategy's success.

The lowest level of long term plans for each Strategy becomes your Objectives for next year. We help you define the annual objectives in realistic, objective and measurable terms and each objective has an owner. The owners of the objectives are assisted in the creation of Action Plans, quarterly methods of achieving the objectives and Monthly Benchmarks. The benchmarks are the measurements by which you, the owners, know that the objectives are being met or missed. The consultant also assists in the integration of the objectives into the agency's annual budget defining the levels of revenue expected (if all objectives are met) and the levels of expenses (required by the Action Plans in order to achieve the objectives).

A primary responsibility of the facilitator at your Strategic Planning process is to reality test every phase of the Plan. Unless all participants agree that the steps, from Mission Statement to Benchmarks, are realistic and achievable (if you implement the Action Plans to which you commit) the Strategic Plan becomes fantasy and hopes rather than a realistic projection of the results of events that you implement.

The use of a consultant as a facilitator at your Strategic Plan is not a luxury. It is the test of your confidence and commitment to your agency's long term future.