Strategic Planning as a Leader

Strategic planning as a leader is core to your success.

Does your company have a strategic plan? More importantly do you have a plan?

I’m referring to whatever major project you are working on. It could be:

  • Budget
  • Sales targets
  • Production schedule
  • Cost saving
  • Head count
  • Recruitment

It’s All In The Planning

In this example lets look at an overall budget / sales target. First and foremost you need to identity 3 key areas:

  1. Is the budget / sales target achievable?
  2. Do I have the staff/ headcount to achieve it?
  3. How am I going to achieve it?

Now this is where you have to be honest with yourself….no one else…. yourself! Please do not get sucked in to the vacuum of trying to please the board ( or yourself ) as some kind of kudos message that you can achieve everything and anything. Bottom line …..once you comit… cannot quit! Its your strategic plan so make sure you thoroughly understand it and feel free to push back if it’s not realistic. Your finance dept will have a way of almost trying to persuade you that it’s achievable in a number of ways. Though deep down you don’t want to say no as its perceived as your personal weakness. So how do we manage this?


Make an appointment with finance. Understand the schedule sign off dates for the submittal and request from them the constituant parts of the budget: Overall, concentrate on 2 major parts:

  • Sales – determine what the key metric is? Is it turnover, EBITA, gross margin?
  • Cost – What costs can you save? Literally inspect each line of cost. If you don’t need it eliminate it.

Last but not least, look at phasing – how typically is the budget phased. Finance have a lovely way of back loading it to the end of the financial year. Doubled with your personal pride and an easy H1 it looks ok. Never agree until you have completed your due diligence.

Assemble your team. Ensure that they are on board with the data that supports your submission. Can they prove the data with the research they have done? For your top 20 accounts download the customers financial report for the coming year…..what growth do they predict?


Do you have the right people in the team? Are you top heavy on staff? Do you have the allusive individual who is on secondment? Inspect all the staff you have. The wrong people is costly. The right staff are priceless. If you need to recruit ensure you phase in the cost in relation to your budget. If a revenue generating sales person is due to start in H2 always reflect that in your phasing not from the start of the year. You will not catch up. (yes we have all done that). Do not hire from mediocrity. If the candidate is worth an extra £5k per annum….pay it! In the grand scheme of things they will repay you back handsomely.


No longer than 3 slides of powerpoint (in that way your strategic plan is always ready to present if needs be) and easier to update. Scope out each page accordingly:

  • Where you are today – current financial position/sales/headcount
  • Future – What is your forecast? What staff do you need?
  • How you are going to achieve the plan?

You should look to update every month….Because trust me the path will bend and turn. So what is the strategy plan?

The Basis of Strategic Planning

The plan stipulates how you are going to achieve the end result. A typical strategic planning process would include:

  • Routes to market ie. Online / Existing Accounts Growth / New Business
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • Break down the individual targets per individual by week, month and quarter.
  • Ratios – calls makes quotes makes business. Inspect your past results……..the results form the past never lie.
  • Forecast – ensure you and the team forecast continually to ensure you are on the right track. Speak to your customers as on the 80/20 rule this will tell you who is growing and who is not. Point to note – a sales team will always forecast down……never up!
  • Follow the ABC rule – Assume nothing, believe no one, cost everything.

Now, do not go writing war and peace. This is a simple plan not a kindle publishing deal. It’s a simple map to get you to where you want to be. Sure it will flex, sure it will bend and almost 100% it will change……but always, always stick to your ratios and ensure your forecasting is spot on.

What If the Strategic Plan Goes Wrong?

But when will the budget path go off Piste? Surely if I complete my due diligence all will be well?

These are true live examples I have personally witnessed:

  • Material handling equipment that wasn’t used for nearly 3 years as it wasn’t fit for purpose – cost £18k.
  • Recruitment placed in the budget even though we didn’t recruit – yes all the cost none of the revenue -cost £70k.
  • A sales team who never spoke to the customer base at budget time because “customers will not share their growth plans for this year” – cost I’m still fathoming that one out, however, £’s.
  • Subscriptions to trade associations that no one attended or utilised – cost £20k.
  • A sales guy whose mobile phone bill was constantly £250 per month……..but didn’t hit target for 3 years! In fact he contributed $40k of sales in 3 years…..against a target of $1m per annum – cost severe $’s.
  • A credit note of £100k! Who saw that coming? Not me for one – cost £100k
  • A budget forced on the team……..cause “thats what it is and head office expect those numbers“!

The devil is in the detail. Forecast, forecast forecast! Ensure your team are close to the customer base to ensure your revenue base and prediction is true and correct. Then you can concentrate on your new business sales growth. If you have bad news along the way…….report it! Take action…….and re-forecast a realistic recovery.

Understand why your forecast has gone north…….and amend your plan. Otherwise you will suffer the pain of finger pointing – recrimination – job insecurity & then, believe it or not, a resetting of the budget you proposed!

If nothing else remember – always have a strategy plan…….. and a strategic plan B!

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