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Strategic Planning Calls for Peer Support and Advice

Oct 12, 2007
Strategic planning: of course it's something that you should be doing for the good of your company, but actually taking the time and dedicating the resources to make it happen is often difficult. It's like daily exercise - you know you would feel better if you fit it into your schedule and you know that it's good for you, but somehow you just don't get around to it.

However, you really should get around to conducting strategic planning and you can use a business-to-business peer group to help you get there.

How do you use a peer group to help you and what is a peer group? More on that in a minute, but first, let's focus on strategic planning. Strategic planning, whether it's long term such as a 5-year or 10-year plan or shorter term such as a 1-to-3 year plan, accomplishes several results for you:

It forces you to create or rework company goals and objectives, based on current and near-future business and industry trends.

Many business owners fail to undertake strategic planning because to do so effectively forces them to face the way things really are, instead of the way they wish they were. A group of peers who are sincerely interested in each other's well being will help then with this challenge.

It engages you in the process of reviewing budgets and company financial forecasts to predict future earnings. When a group of peers are involved with the business owner, in an atmosphere of confidentially, instead of stakeholders and advisors, honest appraisals are more likely - since their peers will make them justify their projections based on their own experiences.

It helps you to estimate current and future human resources needs as well as capital investment needs for buildings, equipment and other resources.

Honest strategic planning will help the business owner identify skills not present in their core managers and supervisors and, based on the experiences of their peers, offer solutions and options for addressing these shortcomings. Each member of the group is likely to have faced and addressed similar challenges and each person will learn from the successes and mistakes of their peers.

It assists you in conceptually imagining branding and image opportunities as you plan the overall objectives of marketing and public relations campaigns and activities. Every business, no matter how small or unsophisticated, has products or services that are going out of phase and others still in development.

Often it is these soon to be extinct products that are generating the greatest sales and maybe even profits. When strategic planning is done honestly with the help of peers the experiences of each member are brought to bear on the future and the need to focus on the future so product and other decisions are made before they become mandatory for survival.

Best of all, the theory that you've heard before regarding the exercise of documenting something on paper resulting in you following through with it holds true with strategic planning.

Once you've put a plan into writing, you will find, even if you don't take that plan out of your file for six months or a year, that the very act of writing the information down and committing it to a document file, results in you following it, at least to some extent - guaranteed.

Now, what is a peer group and how can you use it for strategic planning? Business to business peer groups provide circular mentoring or reciprocal coaching opportunities (to use the trendy terms), allow you to brainstorm regarding issues, ideas and solutions with people who have dealt with similar problems and situations.

A peer group can function efficiently and effectively via regular telephone conference sessions, creating an advisory council of peers that will become a trusted source of advice, add a measure of accountability to your initiatives and provide a sounding board for the ideas of others and yourself.

When strategic planning becomes a focus of a peer group, planning becomes an accountable activity with periodic goals set to complete tasks and report back to the entire group. The members of the group hold each other accountable to move the planning process along, breaking it into manageable tasks with timeframes set in order to achieve them.

And when you are continually collaborating with your peers, you are developing your strategic vision over a longer period of time - hopefully forever, than you would ever do if you were paying some expert for every hour they spent with you and the member of your business.
About the Author
Do you want to learn more about creating your own peer group? Then visit http://www.TwentyFirstCenturyPeerGroups.com/ and read about our report, published after on a decade of experience with b2b peer groups.

Wayne Messick, co-founder of www.iBizResources.com shows you how to connect with prospects, customers, and the media by putting the Internet to work for you TODAY!
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