Why do some businesses thrive during challenging economic times while others fail?
“In our business we plan to succeed.” That’s how Denis St. Peter, President of CES, describes his firm’s approach to strategic planning. It is that commitment to planning that positioned CES, an engineering firm headquartered in Brewer, Maine to expand its business to southern Maine and beyond, despite economic conditions that caused other engineering firms to lay-off employees and contract in size.
“The 2008 recession was a real blow to any company associated with the construction industry, and we could easily have decided to keep our heads down and hope for the best,” says St. Peter. “Instead, we launched a comprehensive strategic planning process that sought input from our clients and employees. It resulted in renewed mission, vision, and values statements focused on our clients and employees and in the development of strategies for managing the changing environment, strengthening internal communications, and further enhancing both quality and service.” As a result, CES has not only experienced dramatic growth, but they are a repeat winner of Maine’s annual “Best Places to Work” award.
Strategic planning used to require a lengthy planning process, resulting in detailed multi-year plans that too often were out of date by the time they were completed. Today the pace of change requires that the planning process be done efficiently and with a considerable degree of flexibility. Multiple scenarios can even be built into the planning process to anticipate almost any eventuality.
A plan that is truly strategic in nature will engage key stakeholders—customers, employers, board members—in developing a shared vision for success and the strategies to get there. A strategic planning consultant can help with interviews, discussion groups, and survey development—a process that builds shared ownership for the plan.
“In Brewer, we weren’t sure if the community was ready to invest in upgrading the high school,” explains former Superintendent Dan Lee. “Our strategic planning consultant conducted multiple discussion groups and helped us administer a community-wide, on-line survey that told us what the community cared about and paved the way for funding approval.” The lesson learned was that engaging stakeholders not only resulted in a better plan but also in a solid corps of people who cared about its outcome.
While some organizations say, “we do strategic planning every year,” more often than not they are engaged in “action planning” that responds to the current business environment but fails to forecast and plan for shifts and changes further down the road. Businesses and organizations that succeed and grow see the planning process as an opportunity—an opportunity to forecast the future, to ask the “what if?” questions, and to engage their employees and clients in shaping future success.
Will you wait to see what the future brings and hope for the best? Or will you plan for success? If you are ready to plan for success, visit our Starboard website for additional advice like this blog post by Jeff Wahlstrom: www.starboardleadership.com. If you would like to discuss the support our team might provide to your planning process, use our contact form to begin the conversation.