A strategy workshop can be a powerful tool for getting a plan for growth hammered out with your team. However, if you’ve never been involved with a business planning process or never led a strategy workshop before, what really goes into one?
Don’t panic - I’ll talk you through the typical agenda and structure I use with my clients. It's an agenda that always creates space for healthy discussion on the business strategy, where you are headed and delivers a successful set of outcomes for the day.
I’ve broken down each section below, so if you want to DIY you can consider this as your framework for a strategy workshop:
Business Introductions - Sharing the story so far
The opening session of all good strategy workshops should be about business introductions, encouraging participation and setting the scene.
You’ll want to make sure everyone in the room gets a chance to talk early on in the day and a good way to do this is to encourage an open discussion about what you do, why you do it and how you contribute to business growth today.
I like to ask clients to talk about their personal motivations for growing the business and ask why now? - we need to uncover if there is a sense of urgency for reviving growth and driving more sales.
Sometimes this open discussion reveals that a competitor has made a move, or that sales have slowed - all important reasons for us to get to the heart of how we can boost the business and create fresh success.
If you have new people on your team this is also a great point to re-tell the brand history and heritage story so everyone deeply understands the whole company journey, from humble beginnings and why continuing success matters to you as the Founder and CEO.
Section 1 - The Business Diagnostic
The first deep dive session in any strategy workshop usually consists of running some form of business diagnostic. We have to get to grips with exactly what is happening in the business today.
You’ll want to identify:
- where the business is now,
- where you want it to get to,
- determine what gaps exist between the two
- and then carefully reflect on what business you really want to build.
You’ll want to weigh up personal objectives against your scale of ambition - whilst at the same time striking an effective balance. Don't be afraid to share boundaries, especially if one partner or stakeholder is more ambitious than another.
Talk openly about what it would really take if you did make it a global brand. What would that mean in terms of work effort and resources to get there. Is that a journey you really want to go on?
During my strategy workshops that I run with clients, we also use diagnostic tools to get into the heart of functional issues and we identify the clear gaps in the business that we must fix, before we scale up.
The outcome of this section is that you will all have a clear view and be in agreement of where you are today in terms of business performance and capability.
Section 2 - Achieving Sales Growth
The second core part of the strategy workshop should, in my view, look at HOW you’ll achieve growth. In particular I like to focus the main share of time onto the sales growth and customer / user acquisition plans - I want to know which major customers or sales channels will deliver you more sales... where will growth come from and what actions will you need to take to create the kind of profits you really desire.
This means it's time to review in depth all of your sales channels and see what else might be possible for your business - through both traditional methods and online sales channels.
This is a great opportunity to also look at your marketing pillars and work out exactly how to target and acquire new customers to deliver that sales growth. To grow you'll need to make more noise and dedicate more marketing spend to the cause. So you use this space to decide on your marketing promotions and investment priorities.
Finally you’ll also want to use this section to talk about practical matters - how you will scale the business's operations to support more sales. What extra capacity you will need, which resources will you need to acquire and how will you be funding your plans. Do you need more money to accomplish your goals? If so, where will this come from?
Section 3 - Market Visibility and Opportunities
I always like to make sure that our Strategy workshops include some dedicated time for blue sky thinking. For the real out of the box conversations about what might be possible for your business long term.
Looking at market opportunities, potential growth strategies, dynamic bold moves you could make and overall brand visibility is the third and vital part of a good strategy workshop in my view.
Don't forget to look at your competitors and the industry as a whole - what trends are happening and are you playing in that space?
What partners and affiliates do you have? Could you do more and be more strategic in building alliances?
You will also want to examine your long term branding and content creation strategy at this point too. Are they both suitable for what you’re trying to accomplish? Do they need to change or evolve as your business grows?
Section 4 - The Growth Roadmap: Your 3 Year Plan
Use this time to build out a practical roadmap for the next 3 years (or however long your plan is needed for). Break the activities down into bite size chunks that you can tackle each year as you grow towards and reach your goals.
It’s not the easiest thing to do by any means. You are not only planning what you will do but HOW you’ll do something, what exact strategies will you’ll implement, what action will you take and who will do the work? Put together a list of objectives to achieve each year, or each quarter if you prefer, to help drive you towards taking action on your goals.
Capture all of the hard actions and create a tangible output document you can all see as you create your plan together. Share this document later too with other members of your team.
I personally love to complete this 3 year plan process by setting out a wall sized timeline and use post-it notes to fill in the activities. If you like to "see" the big picture as you create it, you'll love this method too.
Section 5 - Immediate 90 Day Plan & Close
This short window of a plan focuses you on what really matters in the next 3 months (a quarter) and will influence what you’ll do for the first 90 days of the overall growth plan. Allocate resources and make your growth plan real with tangible steps that your team can take first thing tomorrow morning.
Make It Happen In Your Business
Creating an effective strategy workshop agenda can be challenging as it MUST be unique to your business and the journey you want to go on. It has to allow time for debates and ideas to flow and new strategies and opportunities to emerge.
Whilst it is a clear investment of your time and energy it is always ultimately worth it if you can come out with hard deliverables to show for your efforts - a 3 Year growth plan you all agree on!
- Carefully consider how best to create your business growth plans.
- You may find that whilst you can do it yourself, actually having an independent business advisor and mentor supporting you in the creation of these plans, helps you prioritise what's best for your business and elevates your thinking and inspiration.
- If you would like to talk about how I can help you create a 3 year business growth plan for your business, then please schedule a call. I have worked across most industries and generated countless business growth plans that are 100% practical and really work. I would love to help you!
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