“Isn’t strategic planning a waste of time?”

In working with business owners for more than a decade, I’ve noticed a common thread: many shun strategic planning in order to attend to more“urgent issues”.

However, neglecting to set aside time for strategic planning is like attempting to grow a garden without watering, feeding or weeding it: pretty soon, you end up with a lot of overwhelm and frustration in the form of weeds and dead plants.

In the world of business, an investment of just 10 percent of your time in strategic activities – (and here’s the important part)leaving you with 90 percent of your time to conduct business as you always have – can deliver remarkable growth and increased control in your organization.

In this issue of the BDC Spotlight, we’ll give you one of our top strategic planning exercises and show how it helped one of our clients turn a “support” division of his organization into a profit center.

“We would have continued to stumble along…”

A few weeks ago I worked with a long-time client to resolve an issue that had been gradually draining his time and attention. Mark Carter is the co-owner and President of Advanced Data Systems (ADS), a Nevada-based company that provides software and support to governmental organizations such as counties and school districts. The company has been in business 25 years, has 14 employees and is a client of Business Design Corporation.

On a recent call, Mark mentioned that he was having trouble figuring out what to do with his Technical Services Division, which was created to provide support for the software his company developed and sold to clients. Over time, clients became so impressed with ADS’s support services that they asked for help with software and hardware that was not developed by Advanced Data Systems. Eager to please, the Technical Services Division provided support to the best of their ability.

The problem that arose, however, is that the division was often asked to help in areas that lay outside of their expertise and they were providing support services at no cost. Over time, the division grew in a haphazard way, to the point where Mark and his managers were unsure of what services they should provide, how to deliver them, how to get paid for them or even what the structure of the department should be.

That’s when they applied the Strategic Target Development exercise to a specific department within their organization. I mention this because the Strategic Target Development exercise is usually done to create a vision for the company as a whole and not just for a division. In this case, Mark used the tool with his team to develop a vision of a specific department within his business – to address questions regarding department size and objectives, consider where their geographic scope and target markets might lie and even contemplate providing technical support services to companies that were not their software customers.

As a result, they have begun to focus on a list of top-priority items, including scope of services, compensation methods, creating a short-term plan and even client notification – to let their clients know in a diplomatic and systematic way that the structure of services and payment for their Technical Services Division will be changing, giving clients ample time to plan for the change as they develop their 2008 budgets.

If we hadn’t worked with BDC on this issue, we would have continued to stumble along,” said Mark Carter, President, Advanced Data Systems. “Once we began working on the Strategic Target Development exercise, new ideas came to mind that we hadn’t considered. As a result, we feel we have more solid prospects for the future and a transition plan that will help everyone – management, employees and clients – adjust to the new structure and integrate the positive changes it will bring.”

Your Turn: The Strategic Target Development Exercise

Before you finish reading this article, schedule time in your calendar to work through the following exercise. The entire process shouldn’t take longer than one to two hours.

If you would like to download the Strategic Target Exercise that Mark followed, in TouchStone, go to the “Strategic Planning” inside of the “Guiding” the Business Process Library.

A study conducted by the Harvard Business School shows that if you complete an exercise like this, document your goals and track your progress, you will have a 300 percent better chance of reaching those goals. Wouldn’t that be worth one to two hours of your time?