Part 1: How to Build a Strategic Plan That Drives Future Growth and Success
In the past, we talked about the seeds of a strategic plan, which includes establishing a shared vision for your firm and team, as well as a mission that brings your vision to fruition. Now it’s time to create the structure of your plan, which is sometimes easier said than done. After all, it can be hard to think strategically when you’re just trying to get through the day.
Before you sit down to develop your plan, let’s talk about what it means to be strategic.
What Does It Mean to Be "Strategic"?
The dictionary defines “strategic” as:
stra·te·gic /strəˈtējik/ adjective: strategic
1. Relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them — of great importance within an integrated whole or to a planned effect
synonyms: planned, calculated, deliberate antonyms: random
2. Carefully designed or planned to serve a particular purpose or advantage
synonyms: essential, key, vital, crucial, critical, important antonyms: unimportant
So, a “strategic” approach has you consider:
What is the long-term aim?
What are the means of achieving this aim?
How does this aim fit in your work, life, or both so you can properly integrate it?
What is the carefully planned sequence of actions you (or your team) will deliberately execute?
You might wonder, who has time for all that thinking!? Strategic planning is an important, but not urgent, activity, otherwise known as quadrant 2, and there is never time for these activities. You have to squeeze them into the schedule. Here’s how you do that.
If you insist on a shortcut, then strategic can be as simple as asking yourself, “What are three non-negotiable things I must accomplish today?” Or, when there’s a lot to do and not enough time, just connect your “why” to help you prioritize what you do right now.
Finding Your "Why"
Strategic planning must start with a vision, a “why,” that drives your execution with motivation. Even Kolbe Corp, famous for creating the most effective productivity assessment, the Kolbe A™ Index, says your best actions are preceded by clear motivation. If you haven’t taken the Kolbe assessment, don’t let another day go by without understanding how to properly manage your limited amount of energy. You can get access to the Kolbe at the wholesale price here.
Answering one or all of the following might help get you to your why:
1. “Ultimately, I want…” 2. “What matters the most to me is…” 3. “I would be stoked, looking back next year, if […] occurred…”
Every day, we are faced with an impossible gauntlet of to-dos. Plus, we're often challenged with squeezing our personal needs into work versus fitting work into life (a competition where our personal needs often lose). Keeping the “why” central to the prioritizing process is essential to helping you commit to the right things, and know when to say no.
So, advisors, what’s your “why”?
You’re Already Creating Strategic Plans for Your Clients — Why Aren’t You Doing It for Yourself?
Good financial advisors already do strategic planning all day for their clients.
1. You help your client think about what they want and need, what they fear, and what they want their life to be like. Perhaps it is “to live a confident, meaningful, comfortable, loving life with family and not worry about money or the children’s future.” This is their motivation — their vision.
2. Once the “why they’re sitting before you” is established, it’s broken down more specifically, such as “spend more time with my kids,” “not run out of money before I die,” and “make sure the kids develop into thriving adults.” These components are your clients’ mission — the “how.” You take over the financial part of your clients’ lives so they can make their vision and mission a reality.
3. When you have laid out the big picture of their “why” and “how,” you then lay out the strategic initiatives required to get them there. These might be repositioning the portfolio to optimize the risk, return and tax management opportunities, creating a spending plan that properly balances a great life now with security in the future, and ensuring the kids get a thorough financial education before they are out of high school.
With this done, when the financial markets go awry, and some of your clients get upset or panic, you bring them back to the “why” and the “how,” and how each piece connects up the hierarchy — essentially their strategic plan. It’s something you bring them back to, because it’s what grounds them. And it gets them back on track.
This breaking-down of ultimate goals comes naturally to you when seated in front of a client, doesn’t it? Are you doing it for yourself?
We’ll show you how to put your strategic plan into action in Part 2 of this blog series. You can subscribe to our Freedom & Growth Chronicles series to be the first to see our latest blog content.