As the leaves begin to change, so too should your strategic plan

This post is excerpted from the Kaulkin Ginsberg Q3 2011 M&A Report. To read the full article and learn much more about the current environment for mergers and acquisitions in the outsourced business services (OBS) industry, click here to download the full report now.

Mike Ginsberg

I love the beginning of autumn.  Temperatures start to drop creating crisp, fall mornings.  The leaves on trees are changing colors right before our eyes.  Kids are back in school and, if you’re a sports fan like me, baseball playoffs are underway and football season has begun.  Fall is also the time of year that many management teams begin their strategic planning season.  The arrival of fall is the default timeframe to lay out plans for the coming year.

For many management teams, the current year’s strategic planning means the start of the same old routine.  Someone assigned to take the reins will brush the dust off last year’s plan, assemble the usual suspects among your employees (assuming no turnover), and pick the same location to gather and commence brainstorming.  Is this year’s planning process going to be the same as last year’s effort, or can it be transformed into something different.  Is this the year to rewrite your company’s planning game plan?

We’ve survived 3 years of the worst economic environment most of us have ever lived through.  You and your team have learned how to adapt and survive.  But are you thriving?  Are your revenues and profitability growing at an appealing rate?  Are they growing at all?  Is your team hungry and excited or concerned about the company’s future and individual job security?  Are you ready for new challenges as a result of the upcoming presidential election in 2012?

Here’s the key question:  How do you better position your team for the challenges they are confronting right now or the ones that lie ahead?   I believe the answer is easy to identify but harder to live.

It starts with a real gut check.  Ask yourself the following tough questions:

Are you and your staff really informed about the events that are going on around you, those that have the potential to severely impact your business (positively or negatively)?  Are you reading industry and relevant macro news every day from reliable sources? Are you attending the right conferences and actually listening to the right speakers?  Are you networking every day to gain valuable perspective?  Gut check question #1:  Do you really care enough to spend the time to find out?

Do you believe your own sales reports?  Look at your pipeline and ask your team if they are confident that those leads will convert to revenue and when they expect this to occur.  Hold their feet (and yours) to the fire.  Do they feel at risk telling you the truth?  (If so, that’s another issue altogether.)  I recently read a great article by Jeff Gitomer which suggested that a sales pipeline has to be at least double your revenue goal. That would indicate a closing rate of 50%. The reality of sales is that a 30% closing rate within a specified timeframe is really good. Gut check question #2:  Do you really believe your pipeline report?

How hard are you working?  How about your team?  Those who know me know that I am a big proponent of balance in life, but I am also an advocate for giving it your all in everything you do.  There is no substitute for hard work and real commitment. In a challenging business environment like this one, the best approach starts and ends with a strong work ethic.  What time do you get to your office in the morning? What time do you go home at night?  It doesn’t matter if you work from home or from an office in the busiest city in the world.  What time do you “get in” and how long are you “checked in” to the daily tasks before you?  Are you one who likes to sleep an extra hour or drag your heels in the morning or are you one that gets up early, jumps out of bed and greets each day with the energy to succeed? On the other hand, are you someone who’s out the door at 4:59pm, or do you burn the midnight oil when circumstances call for a non-traditional work day?   Gut check question #3:  How much effort are you really prepared to put in?

What is your mindset?  Do you truly have a positive attitude about life or do you walk around with a chip on your shoulder?  Do you blame others for your shortcomings or do you take responsibility for your actions and put your team’s results on your own shoulders, regardless of title?  It is very easy to find fault in others.  It is a lot harder, but a lot more satisfying, to look at yourself first.  Gut check question #4:  Do you need an attitude adjustment?

Tune in to tomorrow for the second half of this post, where I suggest four practical tips to begin your 2012 strategic planning on the right foot, with familiar examples drawn right from your elementary school days.

And be sure to download your free copy of the Kaulkin Ginsberg Q3 2011 M&A Report today!

Mike Ginsberg is the President and CEO of Kaulkin Ginsberg Company. He spearheads all of Kaulkin Ginsberg’s advisory business services. Mike has been a keynote speaker at every major industry convention, and has lectured on issues such as “How M&A is Reshaping Accounts Receivable Management” and “The Future of the ARM Industry. Follow him on Twitter at @mike_ginsberg.

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