The confidence of many has been shaken recently by terrorism, election-year politics and the media’s attention to a possible recession. Establishing priorities along with a strategic plan for your firm will become even more advantageous as we move into less predictable times.My experience suggests that good decisions are made during periods of high confidence, and poor decisions when confidence is low. Firms must be careful over the next year not to lose vision and — just as important — confidence.
Here are some ways your firm can maintain confidence and retain a strategic focus:
* Conduct a firm summit.
* Start all staff meetings with a positive focus.
* Express gratitude.
* Document and distribute a one-page strategic plan to all firm employees.
* Communicate positively on a regular basis.
* Call clients just to see how they are doing.
Practice what you preach
Many clients will increasingly look to firms for strategic planning services and leadership. It is far more convincing if your firm can demonstrate that it follows its own advice. Completing the process within offers partners and staff needed experience and perspective.
Now is the perfect time for a firm summit. (Be careful not to use the term “retreat,” because it gives the wrong connotation during these times.) Offer clients leadership and confidence in the planning process.
We find that starting each session of the Boomer Technology Circles with a discussion of each participant’s positive results since the last meeting significantly increases confidence. Participants express gratitude for their accomplishments and focus on important issues.
First, each Circle participant spends a few minutes listing their biggest achievements since the last session, along with the reasons each accomplishment is important. Writing them down on paper reinforces their importance, as well as providing a record for quick review.
Next, each participant communicates their accomplishments to others. This reinforces confidence even further. We typically break the audience into groups of five or six, and allow five to 10 minutes for discussion. This exercise doesn’t take much time and kicks off a meeting with energy and enthusiasm.
GET A PLAN
Your firm’s strategic plan should be dynamic and updated at least annually. It is typically a product of the firm’s annual summit. We strongly recommend utilizing a one-page format, because it serves well as an executive summary and a communication tool.
It should include:
* A vision statement;
* A mission statement;
* The firm’s core values;
* The firm’s product and service goals;
* Service offerings (current and future);
* Training programs;
* Revenue goals for the next three-to-five years;
* Merger or acquisition plans, if any;
* Resource goals;
* Staff retention goals;
* Capital requirements as a percentage of net fees;
* Technology investments;
* Marketing investments;
* Organization goals;
* Firm ownership; and,
* A Profitability.
While strategic planning can be time-consuming, an outside facilitator and a well-defined process will reduce the time required, as well as expediting achieving consensus. In the ensuing years, your firm will refine its own process and update the plan in considerably less time.
While the strategic plan itself is dynamic and powerful, the planning process offers the most significant strategic advantage. Commit the necessary resources and offer leadership, time and involvement by a majority of the firm.
GET WITH YOUR CLIENTS
Do not take client relationships for granted, especially during uncertain times. Showing interest in each client will produce additional revenue opportunities — regardless of the economic climate.
The biggest challenge for many firms is the absence of a central client database. In fact, many still have upwards of six applications that store client information. Consolidating databases and integrating e-mail will enable you to provide the best possible client service. Customer relationship management software integrates and tracks all client communications (e-mail, voice, documents, etc.) as well as mapping relationships. Consider your options and make a move to incorporate CRM software as soon as possible.
NOW IS THE TIME
The challenges may be great, but so are the opportunities for firms that build confidence and follow a strategic plan.
Gary Boomer, CPA, is the president of Boomer Consulting, in Manhattan, Kan.
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