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The Importance of Periodic Strategic Reviews

Be Proactive With Strategic Planning

In this Growth Engine Daily, I’d like you to think about the importance of doing regular strategic reviews.

So, if you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’re going to have some form of plan that’s derived out of some type of strategy.

And what I’d like you to start thinking about is, when should you start your strategy?

Well, ideally quarter-four for the following year would be the ultimate goal.

I know a lot of people take time out over the Christmas period and then get it started a little bit into January, but quarter four is where you really should start doing all your strategic reviews, putting your plans in place ready to go and get a fast track start in Q1.

So assuming that that’s happened, getting your numbers right in the business, monitoring your KPIs each week, day, month by the department, whatever you do, that’s absolutely fine.

Timeout to Measure Progress

What I’m actually talking about in this one is the need to physically sit down, take your timeout, and do, what I call, a comprehensive strategic review of how your track is running.

I’m not talking about taking a day out here, I’m talking about taking two or three hours out, maybe a morning, do a breakfast session with your team, maybe a stopover, and then go for some lunch with a meal afterwards or something like that.

Pro tips for Strategic Reviews

What I like to do with strategic reviews is I like to look at them quarterly.

Doesn’t mean to say I’m not looking at my finance numbers daily, or my sales numbers daily, or monthly, but strategic review, so the actual road, the tarmac that we’re driving on.

So I like to look at them quarterly, and I’ll sit down and I’ll put probably two, two and a half hours in each quarter, and then I’ll split it down by, basically, the fundamentals.

Finance Review

  • Where is the business at the end of the quarter against the forecast?
  • Is the revenue right?
  • Are the direct costs okay?
  • Is the gross margin okay?
  • Are your overheads okay?
  • And where are the variances?

What I do is, on a checklist, I have the finance with the sub-sectors, like revenue, growth margin, then in the columns apply one of the following.

  • On track
  • Behind
  • Ahead

It’s a nice, simple visual that gives you that sort of snapshot.

Use an Excel spreadsheet, a Google Sheet, Apple Numbers, call it whatever you want.

The sheet could be broken down as follows

Finance in column A, the sub-sectors tasks like revenue, what the target was, what the actual is.

Just a quick am I on target, yes or no? Ahead or behind?

If I’m ahead, that’s going to be green.

If I’m behind, that’s going to be red.

If I’m just within five or so per cent, it depends on what the metric is, 10% max, I’ll probably leave that amber.

So I’ve got a nice colour code, representation. So that’s finance from that side.

Operations Review

this is the biggest one to do, so I won’t go through every tip.

You can apply this, but in operations, I would then start with customer services.

  • How many complaints are we receiving?
  • How many reviews did we win… five stars, four-star reviews?
  • Is that what we expected?
  • What’s the percentage of people giving us a positive, neutral or negative review?

We use HubSpot’s NPS tool in service to do that.

But there’s some, you know, SurveyMonkey SurveyGizmo things like that you can use as well.

Then using the same spreadsheet. Just quickly, where are we? And again, that’s going to tell me where I am with customer service.

As an alternative operational example, It could be the manufacturing process.

  • Did we make enough widgets?
  • Did we get enough widgets shipped?
  • Are we delivering on time?
  • Is our logistics right?

If you’re a service-based business, you’re not manufacturing but you still need to track and measure.

  • Are you doing KPIs on your service delivery?
  • Are you getting things out on time?
  • Are you meeting those service deadlines for your clients to keep them moving?

As you know, in operations there are so many things, it could be a supply chain example.

  • Have we bought what we said we would buy?
  • Have we over-purchased, under purchase?
  • Have we paid too much, not enough?
  • Were our payment terms as we expected to manage cashflow?

These are snapshots.

You don’t need a science degree or a NASA degree or be a qualified accountant to do this.

If you’ve got your strategic review right in Q4 for the beginning of the year, you’re going to have a good set of numbers or a good idea of what you want to be doing as a baseline benchmark.

People HR Review

As you move through to people and HR reviews, consider whether

  • Did we recruit to quota?
  • Did we get the right people in the right seats
  • Did we lose anybody? If so, why?
  • What did the exit interviews tell us?
  • Are we doing what we should be doing?
  • Do we have any rotten apples in the barrel?
  • Have we got an empty seat that we need to fill?

Marketing Review

As we then move into marketing. Again, marketing is very similar to operations. It’s so wide and diverse from offline, online, trade shows, traditional mediums.

And then even online, you can split online down into tens, if not hundreds of different avenues.

But the basic things are,

  • Did we meet lead generation quota?
  • Did we bring enough marketing qualified leads into the business?
  • Were they of a substantive quality?
  • What did it cost to bring those leads in?
  • From which channels?
  • Which is performing well?
  • Which is not performing well?
  • Is pay per click on Google working but Facebook down or vice versa?

So that gives you an idea there from that side.

  • Did we get the required amount of leads if you’re still doing trade shows,
  • or did that direct response letter perform?
  • Is that sales page working or converting?
  • Or marketing page should I say, landing page.

Sales Review

Sales reviews can often be elongated, however, it can be super simple to get a snapshot that allows you to see if you are on track, use these questions and update your sheet.

  • Did we hire the right amount of salespeople?
  • Have we trained them?
  • Have we onboarded them right?
  • Are they making the call quota?
  • Are they making the followup quota?
  • Is the pipeline where we would expect it to be?

Because it doesn’t matter if you’re at the end of quarter one, quarter two or quarter three, that’s going to dictate, especially with sales, what’s going to happen the following quarter.

The time of this recording is June 2019 so our strategic review is coming up at the end of this month, and that will then dictate and tell us how far off we’re going to be in quarter three and into quarter four.

It is like a mini crystal ball if you want to call that.

Then look at the close rates.

  • How many leads are we getting through to asking for the decision?
  • How many sales qualified leads, and what % are we closing?
  • Are we closing to quota?

That will highlight if you’ve got any stars in your sales team or any people who maybe need retraining or maybe even need to be gone.

Governance Review

This is often overlooked, assume dot be complex but a few simply check-in can avoid a lot of hassle later

Are we up to date from a regulatory perspective?

  • Annual returns
  • Finance
  • Social responsibility
  • Stakeholder accounts issued to the investors or whatever it would be.
  • Banks MI information Issued
  • Is Everything on track with the HMRC?
  • Did we meet our insurance renewal targets?
  • Did we lower or limit the increase in insurance costs from that side?

Personal Development Review

This is for your own and teams benefit.

  • How many books did you set yourself out and read this quarter to meet the gaps in your knowledge base, Did you do them all?
  • What did you learn?
  • And did you just read them and then move on to the next book, or did you read, learn and then implement, which is the key thing?

You’ve got to implement what you learn, even if you take one thing away from that personal development.

Recap of Your Review

As I covered your strategic review can just be a simple Excel spreadsheet.

What the department is, what the sub-sector of that department is.

As I covered earlier as an example,

In finance, it might be your revenue subtopic or your gross margin

In Sales, It might be your sales calls, sales meetings, sales presentations, gross sales close.

And then, if you want, what was the number, or are you on track or behind?

Then on one sheet, you’ve got a snapshot that you can actually say, how’s my business doing?

So there you have your one-sheet strategic review.

Taking Action Post The Review

I start with what’s important and needs my priority focus.

Reds:

Doesn’t it make sense to sit down with the person in charge of finance, sales, marketing, people? Or you can sit down with yourself in personal development, looking in the mirror session and saying,

  • “We’re behind. We’re not doing what we should be doing.”

Greens:

How far ahead are you?

  • Can you maintain that?
  • Was it an outlier?

Ambers: 

  • “Well that’s not bad, but can we improve?”

The single sheet can be printed out on like an A3 document, you know, collapse them down, and then you can look at it and say,

“Right, what do I need to focus on?”

And that really drives momentum into your management meetings or into your sales leaders, or your marketing teams, or if you’re working with an agency or brand HR recruitment company, it drives those discussions to have meaningful reviews.

I hope you got some value out of that.

I’d love your comments on strategic reviews, and if you’re doing them, yes or no?

What value you’re getting out of them?

Is this a better way of doing them?

And you can really do these, it’s between two and a half and three hours once a quarter, equating to one hour a month, or what’s that? 15 minutes a week.

Allocate a time to do that at the end of the month on a pro-rata basis.

So it’s not as if I’m asking you to take days out, go country weekend retreats when you can’t afford to be away from your business.

And then file it, put it in a Google Drive or a Microsoft OneDrive, and then you’d be able to track it, quarter, on the quarter, on quarter.

And I’ve got some clients who even do these monthly, as a monthly snapshot so they can make additional corrective recommendations.

So I hope you find that value.

Mike Midgley

Mike Midgley is the Strategy Director at 6teen30 Digital and a dynamic digital entrepreneur, nxd, strategist, public speaker and host of TheOpenMike Podcast show & Co-Host at The Inbound Podcast. Mike has achieved successful six and seven-figure exits over a 25-year career, raised in excess of £1.6m [$2.5m] in Venture Capital and highly experienced with franchising.

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