FAQ’s

  1. Should all organizations develop a business plan?
  2. Why should service companies plan?
  3. Why is it that many companies do not develop a strategic plan?
  4. We have been successful to this point. Why do we need a plan now?
  5. Why develop a plan when the world is constantly changing?
  6. How much does it cost?
  7. Why should we use an outside advisor to assist in developing our plan versus using an employee?
  8. How can an external planning advisor help us when he/she knows nothing about our industry?
  9. How can we avoid letting our plan become a paperweight?
  10. We want to develop a plan but how do we find the time?
  11. How are people held accountable to the plan?
  12. How can we be sure to stay on strategy?
  13. What are tactical plans?
1) Should all organizations develop a business plan?
Yes, for the simple reason of focus. Organizations must focus their limited resources of time and money on the action plans that are going to drive growth and profitability. Companies that do not plan typically feel like they are treading water and making no progress. Focusing the effort of all company employees on achieving the vision will get your organization to the vision sooner. Without question, the most successful companies over an extended period of time develop and execute an annual plan. See client benefits for additional reasons why all organizations should plan.
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2) Why should service companies plan?
In many ways, it can be more difficult and also more important for a service company to plan than a manufacturer. Here’s why:
Approximately 75% of Americans work in a service company.
Products can be differentiated; services are intangible and therefore more difficult to differentiate.
In a service company, the product is performance in which we deliver the product via a series of tasks that must be consistent day-to-day.
Quality of a product is tested. The quality of the service, if not properly defined in advance, can be very subjective.
Products can be warranted. Services that do not meet customer expectations can be repeated, go unpaid, or negotiated at the expense of the service company.
Owners of service firms face many of the same issues such as succession planning, exit strategy, future growth, etc.
SM Advisors planning model for service companies focuses on creating differentiation and putting the systems/processes in place to deliver a consistent service that will exceed the clearly understood expectations of your customer.
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3) Why is it that many companies do not develop a strategic plan?
There is an infinite number of reasons why companies do not plan. Here are some common ones:

  • Think that they don’t have the time – Buried in day-to-day tasks
  • No formal process
  • They feel they can’t afford it
  • Couldn’t find an outside resource that specializes in strategic planning with small companies
  • No crisis- who needs a strategy?
  • Tainted view of planning from a previous bad experience
  • CEO feels he can deliver the necessary strategic direction

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4) We have been successful to this point. Why do we need a plan now?
One thing is for certain; your industry and the external environment will continue to change. The planning process helps in identifying these developing trends and changes ahead of time. Successful companies are proactive, not reactive. Another reason to plan is to identify what has made you successful to this point, and put a plan in place to increase your competence and competitive advantage.
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5) Why develop a plan when the world is constantly changing?
The planning process includes an extensive external analysis in which the future of the industry and world is researched and evaluated. The business plan is developed to take advantage of those trends and data. By being proactive you will be ready to capitalize and be on the front end of the trends versus getting in late and experiencing a real low return on investment. The planning process is not a one-time event, but a continuous process. The external environment will change and management must adapt the strategy as it deems necessary. The key is that the management team makes an informed decision to change strategy versus floating off strategy unconsciously.
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6) How much does it cost?
This is a very difficult question to answer because SM Advisors customizes the planning process to match the unique needs of each client. Specific methodologies may be added or deleted depending on the situation, which will dramatically lengthen or shorten the process. But as previous small business leaders and owners, we recognize the need to control costs and ensure an attractive return on investment for all dollars spent. The plan execution program is just one example of how we help in controlling costs. SM Advisors will provide a detailed proposal to avoid any surprises. If SM Advisors cannot or is not bringing value, we are not needed.
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7) Why should we use an outside advisor to assist in developing our plan versus using an employee?
At SM Advisors, we are external planning advisors, not just facilitators. Your planning team will make all the strategic decisions that create the business plan. However, with our planning experience we will provide counsel and direction during the sessions to guide the planning team through the process. The external planning advisor is especially critical for a company or planning team that is going through its first planning process.
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8) How can an external planning advisor help us when he/she knows nothing about our industry?
The combination of SM Advisors’ expertise in planning and our clients’ expertise in the industry creates the environment to develop the optimum business plan. The experts in the industry are members of the planning team. The unbiased perspective of the external planning advisor is a benefit to many planning processes. In many cases, the advisor can offer strategies used in other industries that could be transferred to our client’s industry. SM Advisors also has several methodologies to quickly understand the dynamics of our client and the industry in which they compete. These methodologies are part of the process so the client does not pay just to educate the advisor. As clarified in our history (link), we have experience with using internal versus external facilitators in our previous management experience. SM Advisors never would have been founded if the benefit of an external advisor didn’t dramatically outweigh the use of an internal facilitator.
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9) How can we avoid letting our plan become a paperweight?
SM Advisors uses several methodologies that make the business plan a living document including out proprietary “Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream” process.  It is a document that should be referred to often and reviewed by the planning team on a quarterly basis at a minimum. At the completion of the plan, SM Advisors develops a customized plan execution program.
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10) We want to develop a plan but how do we find the time?
As previous company leaders we understand the day-to-day grind of managing the business. SM Advisors assumes the burden of the planning process. There are very few requirements of the planning team members. These requirements include that they come prepared to each planning session, be involved and focused during the planning session and complete any action plans assigned to them. The process, workbooks, methodologies, authoring of the plan and prep for each session is completed by your advisor. Most managers find that through planning they create more time rather than not lose time. The business plan is a tool to help the management team more effectively manage the organization.
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11) How are people held accountable to the plan?
The leader of the management/planning team is the “owner” of the plan. She/he is responsible to hold people accountable to deliver the strategy and produce the results expected by the shareholders. SM Advisors has several methodologies to assist the “owner” in maintaining clear accountability. By the end of the planning process, all employees have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and action plans. From that point moving forward, it comes down to monitoring performance and addressing the performance issues as they come up. All issues must be addressed or the credibility of the plan and management team disintegrates.
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12) How can we be sure to stay on strategy?
As an organization, you will face many new opportunities as you execute your strategy. The key to staying on strategy is to make informed decisions. A manager may make the decision to go off strategy for a very attractive opportunity. The key is to make an informed decision in agreement with the required people. In addition to the plan execution program, SM Advisors will put decision filters in place to ensure that the management/planning team makes informed decisions. We will also establish a measurement process and benchmarking to ensure we stay on strategy.
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13) What are tactical plans?
Tactical plans are the written plans for each department in a company, such as sales, marketing, finance, operations, information systems, quality etc. The department leader and his/her team write these tactical plans. The tactical plans tie the strategic plan to all levels of the organization. All employees should be involved in one way or another in the developing of the tactical plan within their department. The tactical plan details what the department is going to accomplish in an effort to execute the strategic plan. SM Advisors has outlines of all tactical plans to assist the department leaders. SM Advisors has years of expertise in the development and execution of tactical plans. As part of the plan execution program, SM Advisors will assist in the tactical plans when necessary.
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