Friday, October 16, 2009

Positioning Your Agency for 2010 Success -- Part 2

As I said in Part 1, it is not too early to start your planning for 2010. In fact, it is never too early to start thinking ahead about where you want your firm to be in the next 3 months, 6 months, year, or even three years.

This is called working “on” your business, not “in” your business. So, here’s my second critical strategy for success in 2010.

Strategy 2: Revisit Your Firm’s Vision and the Strategies to Get There

Once you’ve assessed 2009 and captured critical insights, start thinking about 2010. For me the first step in business planning is to understand how next year’s plan will move the firm toward what you want your agency to become. I’m not talking about meeting financial goals (though that’s obviously a key need), but rather your vision of the firm you want to create.

When you started your firm you had a vision even if you didn’t call it that. What’s happened to that vision? Still valid? Needs to be reassessed? Already achieved it? Not possible?

Having a clear and compelling vision of the firm you want to “become” is the cornerstone of a great agency and the hallmark of great leadership. It is also a vital step in successful and meaningful business planning.

I have conducted visioning sessions and strategy sessions for more than 25 firms and I can assure you unless you have a roadmap – a guide – for where you want to end up and how you will get there, the journey will be so much harder.

“Most companies fail in their growth because they don’t have a vision,” says former Southwest Airlines CEO Howard Putnam. “When you have a vision and someone comes to you with some convoluted idea, you can hold it up to the vision and ask ‘Does it fit? Does it fly? If not, don’t bother me.’”

It worked for Southwest and scores of other major corporations – and it has worked for agencies both large and small.

Here are some criteria for a vision:

• It must be realistic, yet idealistic and cannot be achieved without “stretching”.
• It is aspirational – future-oriented. A vision is not today; it is tomorrow.
• It must be attractive to you your staff. They must want to be a part of it.
• It provides direction for the future in succinct, often competitive terms.
• Most importantly, your vision must be specific enough to become a filter for key decision-making.

Commit to making every major decision in 2010 -- staffing, resources, investments, new business, marketing, etc., -- one that propels your firm towards your vision.

Once you have the vision that excites you and your team, begin to identify the strategies over time to get there. Make it a three-year horizon. As you begin your 2010 planning, review and prioritize these strategies and build in next year’s strategies into your actual business plan.

Finally, identify the barriers to achieving those strategies, specify how you will overcome each and then commit to overcoming them in 2010.

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