Build Business Recap: New Rules for Strategic Planning

    Ann Thompson, Co-Founder & Chief Engagement Officer at The Garage Group, shared a case story of how her firm assisted Messer Construction with their strategic planning. Their strategic plan steps were as follows:

    Step One: Define the Opportunities
    Messer Construction started the process with Creating a Learning Plan - focused on customers, industries and what is happening in the world.

    With most firms, Step 1 did not include establishing the financial goal. Most firms discuss the amount they would like their firm to achieve in the upcoming year(s). While there is a set amount that needs to be met in order for a firm to continue existing, the goal is to figure out what works best for your team, without trying to hit a certain financial goal. 

    The Garage Group then equipped the team with the knowledge to conduct their own research among top clients, industry publications/desk research, thought leaders, etc. Not only did this give them a better understanding of these areas, but also the team became more invested in the process. The Garage Group provided tools including a discussion guide, note taking template, and master document to capture learning. 

    Step Two: Articulate the Goals and Strategies
    The Garage Group then brought the team together for a working session to identify key opportunities and needs. They equipped the team with a “where to play and how to win” framework for strategy articulation. Where to play involved choices about what market sectors or geographical areas they should be in, and how to win involved choices on how to best meet that need. The team was provided tools and frameworks like a strategy canvas, compress time limits and multifunctional collaboration

    Step Three: Prioritize and Choose
    Step three is where the team was given with prioritization framework. Ideas from Step Two had to be prioritized in what best made sense to the firm. 

    Step Four: Build out the Tactics
    The identified core leadership team were then give a strategy template to build key tactics for each area:

    • Measures
    • Timing
    • Ownership
    • Next steps
    • Rolled up financials

    Step Five: Let the Financials Follow
    Now that the firm understood where they want their focus to be and how they were going to accomplish their goals, then they discussed what financial goals they thought could be achieved. 

    Rules for Your Strategic Planning Sessions

    1. Involve the team:

      • Give folks a role to play
      • Consider multiple levels and roles across your team
      • Communicate throughout the process
      • Benefits: buy-in, engagement levels/loyalty, understanding

    2. Look at the market broadly:

      • Three tiers of exploration: your own industry, your customers’ industries, adjacent industries
      • Look for: competitive/comparative activity with peer firms in your geography and others
      • Startup activity - directly related to industry or trades related to your industry
      • New technology - innovation funds / accelerator programs
      • Financial and Space Related Trends - especially around your customers’ industries

    3. Talk to your customer:

      • Start with your most loyal customers
      • Consider who are the right stakeholders - financial decision makers, project owners, leadership.
      • Goal of the conversation is to learn, not sell. Tell me about the challenges in your business or industry. 
      • Benefits of this-advocacy, loyalty, partnership, relevant input, direct feedback

    4. Defining your Where to Play/How to Win:

      • Strategy is: an integrated set of CHOICES that position the company in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage and superior value
      • Where to Play: a playing field where you can achieve the aspiration. Which segments/regions/customers? Which parts of the construction journey?
      • Problem to Solve: the unmet need within the chose playing fields. What is the need within the chose “where to play”? Keep the problem from the point of view of the chosen where to play (customer, market, etc)> Examples - lower cost? Better quality? Make sure to not just come up with the solution, but make to talk through the problem
      • How to Win: what needs to be true internally to solve this problem and what needs to be true externally to solve this problem?

    5. Let the financials follow:

      • Let your choices inform your financials, not the other way around
      • Check for sufficiency and consider additional tactics as needed


    Courtney Kinamore
    Marketing Manager
    S. M. Wilson & Co.

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