Strategic Planning - Part 1 - systems

I wrote an article last week about the importance of creating/updating your Strategic Plan for 2021 and the opportunity that is available for those impacted by Covid who have more time on their hands than normally available.

For those of you running a business that is busy coming up to Christmas, setting aside two hours per week should provide you with sufficient time to complete this important activity.

To help you I am going to write a series of articles covering the different areas that I believe should be covered and I will start with processes. Why, because once you analyse your business and map out the different processes you will have a visual representation of what is happening across multiple areas and it will help you spot gaps and make adjustments as necessary.

Those in manufacturing will be familiar with the concept but I seldom see them in professional services or SME businesses. For those of you not familiar with this let me suggest the different areas where they work and give you an example of one to illustrate how simple they can be to create. 

Areas that you may wish to map out may include customer/client journey, project journey, sales, purchasing, lead generation, recruitment - in fact any areas of the business that could benefit from a systemised approach. Each one of these can potentially dovetail into another one so it is handy to break them down for examination purposes and then plug them into each other to ensure a seamless operation.

Let’s look at a simple in-house project journey which will illustrate the concept. We have passed through the lead generation process where we now have a potential client who wants to meet with us to discuss their requirements. What are the various stages of this journey from this starting point?

Discovery meeting - validation of requirements - quotation - acceptance/rejection of proposal - project - completion and close

Discovery meeting - this in itself could be a process where your focus is to fully understand this particular client and their needs, timelines and outcomes. What research have you done on them, who are you meeting, what language do they use (SME, Corporate, C-Suite and which area), questions you have prepared to get the information you need, an appropriate presentation if required and anything else that is relevant to your particular sector.

Validation - I include this particularly when meeting clients for the first time. This is usually my minutes of the meeting and the issues discussed. I send this by email within 24 hours (the client is expecting it) and I finish off by saying, 'if I have misunderstood or omitted anything please let me know’. This has saved a ton of money over the years because too often I have heard of disputes where a simple misunderstanding which could have been avoided at the start of the project surfaced well in to it with significant costs for all concerned. 

Proposal - I will write a separate article about this as there are many variations around this important element. Many organisations have Terms and Conditions ad nauseam but we know people fail to read the fine print, so as well as sending them, include the main points of what you will do, what you will not do and what the client is expected to do. If you are fighting over the small print in the T’s and C’s you are probably heading to court so try and avoid that.

Proposal Acceptance - the proposal is accepted, what process does this plug into to ensure the project runs smoothly. 

The proposal is rejected, what do you do now? What information do you need to help you understand how to increase your success rate.

Close - apart from closing off the project from within its own process what paperwork, files and other areas need to be completed. For example, an examination of the time invested and how it matched your original proposal. An overall postmortem to see what was learned and can be used for future work. Referrals, testimonials sought while the project is fresh in the clients mind. Anything else that is relevant to your sector.

As you can see I have used a simple version and some readers might be saying, I do all of this anyway so I don’t need to have it formalised. Your system may work perfectly for you but as you expand and take on new employees the value of a system comes into its own. Imagine how much easier it is to sit down with your team and analyse the component parts when they are visualised.

Finally, if you have not got a visualised system, why not sit down with your team and create it on paper. You will have a much better buy-in and you may discover issues that you were not aware of before.

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Alec Drew, KBE shares his passion and knowledge around productivity and communications in the professional services sector. A major part of his 40 years in business was spent as Managing Partner of a highly successful branding agency where he worked with a wide range of CEO’s across all sectors. His insightful questioning and straight talking opened up new conversations, giving them fresh insights into their own organisations and uncovering valuable revenue streams that were previously overlooked. One strategy helped his clients achieve €3.23 billion in additional sales over a 5 year period.

He demonstrates the positive effect on shareholder value when all levels of an organisation speak the same language.  


As an international speaker he shows very quickly how a simple shift in mindset can have such a positive impact on the bottom line. He hates waffle, verbose explanations and jargon and his talks get straight to the point in a no nonsense but entertaining way. ’Disconnected in a Connected World’ is a fresh and honest look at the combined effects of technology and communications not just on business but on society as a whole.


He hosts a weekly radio show where business leaders from all sectors share seminal moments in their lives. Asking insightful questions he encourages guests to retrace their steps from the start of their career to where they are now and talk about key influencers that shaped their success. It gives listeners their weekly fix of encouragement to believe in themselves and demonstrates the abundance of resources that are available to help you complete your journey to destination SUCCESS.  


He is Past President of the Professional Speaking Association, Ireland, a member of the PSA and the Global Speaking Federation. 


'The concept of business is simple until you let a human being near it' - Alec Drew