You want your business to thrive, and to ensure it’s reaching new heights each quarter you must implement regular strategic planning into your routine.
Strategic planning is “… an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes/results, and assess and adjust the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment. “ according to the Balanced Scorecard Institute.
For more resources on strategic planning, you can view my previous blog posts
While strategic planning can be completed solely by those within the company, some businesses are finding that bringing in a strategic planning facilitator helps them to yield better results from the overall process.
This blog post will outline the duties of a strategic planning facilitator and why it might be a good idea to add one to your company’s process.
A strategic planning facilitator is a consultant hired by a company to guide a business through their strategic planning meeting.
If you don’t hire an outside facilitator, you or whoever is leading the meeting takes on the role of facilitator.
There are many benefits associated with hiring an outside strategic planning facilitator which will be highlighted below.
The responsibilities associated with being a strategic planning facilitator might include
Preparing for a strategic planning meeting can be extremely time-consuming. Hiring a facilitator can take most of the logistical preparation duties off your plate. This is always a welcome benefit for those typically tasked with that duty.
When those within a company are having conversations about the business, they are very close to the situation. Sometimes it’s difficult to fully see a case for what it is when you are in it. That’s why bringing in a strategic planning facilitator allows you to hear an outside perspective on the strategy and issues at hand.
While an outside perspective isn’t exactly necessary, it can be beneficial to hear what a neutral party thinks about a decision.
It’s simple to get off track when having a meeting, especially if that’s the culture of your company. Having a strategic planning facilitator allows you to stay on track throughout the process, so you are only addressing relevant topics that will help you achieve the goal of the planning session.
Facilitators are used to dealing with many people with various personality types so he or she can help to keep the meeting moving in a positive direction despite any disagreements or tough conversations that might take place.
When one person from the company is facilitating the meeting, they’re unable to also fully participate. Hiring a strategic planning facilitator ensures that every person who is a part of the planning committee can be present and participate as much as possible.
It’s common for more outgoing personalities to dominate the conversation. Having experienced strategic planning facilitator helps to keep those present engaged, so everyone has a voice.
Strategic planning facilitators bring their skill set to the stage throughout the process. Instead of trying to figure it out as you go, using a proven method allows you to ensure you are following a framework for strategic planning success.
Having a proven process also reduces the risk that those in attendance will waste time. Clearing the schedule to hold a strategic planning meeting means that every minute counts and the time spent planning should be used effectively.
Now, despite knowing what a strategic planning facilitator does and the benefits associated with bringing one to the table, you might be questioning whether your business is ready for that commitment. Here are a few telltale signs that it’s time to hire a facilitator for your strategic planning meetings.
When you know in advance that tough topics or concerns must be addressed during the meeting, it might be best to bring in a facilitator. This is especially true if there is a history of communication breakdowns when discussing tough issues as a company.
If your meetings lead to conversations about everything under the sun beyond the purpose of the meeting, you will surely benefit from having a strategic planning facilitator. Consider the opportunity cost associated with having this meeting. There’s no time to waste.
If your team has difficulty communicating with each other well, especially regarding tough issues, save yourself the headache of facilitating the conversation by hiring an outside specialist. They’re from outside the company, so they can bring out the best conversation amongst those involved to help reach the ultimate goal.
Deciding to hire a strategic planning facilitator is an important one. You must ensure you hire the right person with the best experience and personality to work with your company.
The benefit of bringing in a facilitator will undoubtedly improve the process and developing a top-notch strategic plan will hopefully lead to increased business success and employee satisfaction. Happy employees are engaged employees and engagement leads to success, so it’s always important to keep that correlation in mind.
To learn more about increasing employee engagement, download my free book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.
Holding a leadership position and being an effective communicator go hand in hand. It’s impossible for you to lead a team, company, or department, without being able to communicate well with those within your organization and those with a stake in the success of your organization.
There are many skills required to be a successful leader in business, and communication is indeed one of the most important. While most leaders have gotten to their place in a company because they have a strong set of communication skills, it’s always an area that can be improved upon over time. This blog post will detail the 4 communication pillars that guide you in learning how to communicate as a business leader.
The definition of communication is the ability to send and receive information between two or more people. When communication is discussed, verbal communication is often the first that comes to mind, but this method of communication is just one. There are multiple forms of communication as a business leader that must be mastered so you can lead effectively.
Listening is often considered one of the most important types of communication. The mistake many people make is to focus on listening only to respond, not to understand. This is especially true when under pressure, in a rush, or in a conversation where emotions are running high which happens very frequently in the business world. Without the foundational ability to listen, it’s impossible to maintain appropriate communication.
Here are a few ways you can improve your listening skills.
Face the speaker: It’s difficult to show you’re listening when your body is facing the opposite direction, or worse, looking at your phone or computer.
Maintain eye contact: This nonverbal form of communication shows that you are giving the speaker your full attention.
Keep an open mind: If you go into a conversation with preconceived notions and your mind set on how things will go, you’ll be unable to take in what is being said during the conversation entirely.
Minimize distractions: This includes internal and external disturbances. While it’s easier to reduce external distractions, your inner thoughts, feelings, and that running to-do list might be more difficult to forget. This takes practice.
Engage: When you engage in listening by asking questions, paraphrasing what was said, and providing feedback or advice when asked, you are an active part of the conversation, without only listening to respond.
Verbal communication includes your volume, enunciation, the words you use, and your tone. It is the most frequent form of communication in business and mastering it is vital if you want to be a strong leader.
Here are a few ways you can improve your verbal communication skills.
Be concise: Communication doesn’t always require many words. You want to learn to get your message across without adding information that isn’t relevant and without confusing your audience.
Think Before You Speak: Don’t be in a rush to answer when speaking. Take the time to consider what your response will be before you begin talking. This gives you time to check your emotional awareness, gather your thoughts, and formulate an idea of what you will say. Doing this also minimizes the likelihood that you will say something that you later regret.
Vary Your Tone: Speaking in a monotone voice will quickly bore the person or people you’re speaking to. While you don’t have to be an animated performer, you don’t want to sound bored during your conversation either. By varying your tone and the pace of your sentences, you will keep the conversation, or at least your part, more interesting.
Nonverbal communication is comprised of your facial expressions and body language. This form of communication can change the entire tone of the conversation, that’s why it’s vital that you always keep it in mind.
Here are a few ways you can improve your nonverbal communication skills.
Maintain eye contact: Eye contact is essential. Too much eye contact can be intimidating and inappropriate, but too little eye contact can seem as though you’re hiding something or not interested in the conversation. There is no hard and fast rule for how long you should look at someone before looking away. Do what feels natural and comfortable for you.
Check your posture: Think about what your body is saying to your audience. There’s a big difference between a person who is standing slouched over with their head down and a person standing straight with their head up. Who would you want to have a conversation with? Be sure that your posture is portraying your intended message.
Read your audience: It’s not only important to consider your nonverbal communication skills, but that of your audience as well. Are they looking at you or looking around seemingly bored? Are they engaged in the conversation or do they keep looking at the clock waiting for it to end? Do they seem guarded with their arms crossed, or open to the communication you’re having? Keep the nonverbal communication of your audience in mind as you interact with them.
Written communication is frequent, especially in this technological age. It’s often required that we communicate via text message, email, notes, etc. It is best to communicate using appropriate writing skills related to proper grammatical conventions, but using the proper tone and being clear and concise is also crucial.
Here are a few ways you can improve your written communication skills.
Be brief: Written communication should be clear and to the point. When it becomes more lengthy, it’s easier for your message to be misconstrued. It’s best to provide brief written communication and follow up with a verbal conversation on the matter when appropriate.
Reread: The tricky part about written communication is there are no nonverbal cues to indicate the true meaning of what’s being said. I can send an email stating, “I need to see you in my office now.” That might automatically put you on high alert that something is wrong. However, if I walk to your office smiling and say “I need to see you in my office now.” with a chipper and light-hearted tone, you might be curious as to the reason, but the same alarms won’t go off in your head.
Communicating as a business leader is a necessity. As you improve your communication skills, you will see your relationship with those within your company and stakeholders improve.
As you learn how to communicate better, you will see the engagement of those within your company grow as well. Working to enhance the participation of those you lead is crucial, and if you’re looking for additional ways to boost the engagement rate of those on your team, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.
When operating a business, the amount of money you make and spend, or cash flow is one of the major indicators of its ability to thrive or likelihood to struggle. This comes as no surprise. We’ve all heard the saying that cash is king. That is especially true when running a company. Phillip Campbell, CPA, the former chief financial officer for multiple successful companies and a respected author was quoted as saying “Despite the fact that cash is the lifeblood of a business — the fuel that keeps the engine running — most business owners don’t truly have a handle on their cash flow.”
If you’re a business owner, and you’re not aware of the amount of cash flowing in and out of your business on a regular basis, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Below you will find vital cash flow related definitions, the benefits of knowing your cash flow, and 5 questions you can answer to ensure you know your business cash flow.
According to Investopedia.com, “Profit is a financial benefit that is realized when the amount of revenue gained from a business activity exceeds the expenses, costs and taxes needed to sustain the activity…”
Simply put, profit is the amount of money you make in your business minus the expenses. It is how much money that remains once all of your bills are paid.
Your goal is to have a hefty profit, that’s the only way you make money. Too often business owners confuse profit with our next term, cash flow.
Also according to Investopedia.com, “Cash flow is the net amount of cash and cash-equivalents being transferred into and out of a business…”
Therefore, cash flow is not one number, it speaks to the overall flow of money in your business which paints a broader picture of your financial status.
A company can have a positive cash flow with no profit depending on the source of their funds.
For example, if a business takes out a business loan and sees an increase in cash flow that month, their actual profit might be zero because of their need to take out a loan.
A business can also be profitable and have no cash flow.
For example, if you contract with companies who delay their payment, you could have a cash flow of $40,000 with $10,000 that still hasn’t hit your bank account. If your monthly expenses are $45,000, that means you are profitable, but your cash flow is not positive.
According to BusinessDictionary.com, revenue is “the income generated from the sale of goods or services, or any other use of capital or assets, associated with the main operations of an organization before any costs or expenses are deducted.”
Revenue is also known as sales.
Knowing the monthly cash flow of your business is vital for many reasons. Here are 5 significant reasons why you should make knowing your cash flow a priority.
Knowing your cash flow indicates the overall financial health of your business. It showcases your company’s ability to pay its bills and handle other financial responsibilities consistently.
Being unable to take care of your financial responsibilities, or having a lot of your revenue tied up in debt indicates that your financial health is failing.
Knowing how much money comes into your business every month and how much you have left at the end of the money after paying all expenses helps you to understand your ability to generate cash.
Keeping track of this consistently provides you with an overall cash flow projection which you can use to indicate your ability to cover expenses in the future.
Because cash flow indicates where your money is going each month, the payments you make to your creditors are highlighted. By bringing constant attention to these debts which are taking hold of your incoming cash flow, you can focus on paying them off.
When your business has a positive monthly cash flow, it gives you flexibility.
You can use your positive cash flow to invest more in your business and make choices that will lead to increased revenue.
When faced with a dilemma, you have the opportunity to make choices that will best fit your business because you have the cash available.
When you’re working on improving the health of your business and thus your cash flow, you must know what to look for in the process. As you review your cash flow, here are a few questions you should be able to answer.
Cash is king in business and knowing your cash flow will help monitor your financial health to keep your business afloat. When you’re running a business, you get busy, but reminding yourself of why knowing your cash flow numbers is important can help you keep it at the top of your priority list.
As you work towards becoming a cash flow king (or queen), remember you should always be able to answer the cash flow related questions listed above. If you have the cash to keep your business afloat, you are more likely to stay in business as long as you keep the cash flowing. Keeping track of your cash flow is key to knowing your financial health and in indicating your future ability to remain in business.
Cash flow is just a part of running a successful business. Ensuring all of your employees are engaged in the practices of your company is a necessary skill as well. When you’re ready to make sure your employees are involved as you expand and grow, download my free book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement. Click here to get your copy today. C