Let your vision guide your strategy

January 24, 2013 -  By

Imagine that you spent a great deal of time planning the perfect vacation. You rented a beautiful house, the car is loaded, the kids are excited and everyone is eager to get on the road. You start the car and hit the gas. But as the car takes off, you realize you have no steering wheel. You’re going to end up somewhere, but I bet it is not where you planned.

Jim McCutcheon/ Photo: HighGrove Partners

Making detailed travel plans without knowing where you want to go is a pointless exercise. I believe the same can be said for strategic planning. Strategic planning involves a focused team and out-of-the-box thinking, as well as another critical component: vision. A landscape professional must know where he wants his or her business to go to develop a strategic plan that has meaning and guides a business in the right direction.

Vision and the need for a strategic plan
At the end of 2011, I developed a three-year strategic plan with my team at HighGrove Partners. All too often I’ve seen strategic plans that were put together and then shoved in a file folder and forgotten. This time, I wanted something that was actionable, guided by our company vision and present in our everyday lives. Our current plan is the most actionable plan I’ve ever seen.

HighGrove is are a service company that happens to offer landscaping – that is a key part of my vision. We created a strategic plan around that vision with the help of Jim Perrone of Perrone-Ambrose Associates a consultant as our moderator and guide.

Currently, we have 12 people in our company working on our strategic plan biweekly.  Other members of the HighGrove company are brought in to work on the team’s individual objectives.

Twelve members of the HighGrove team work on its strategic plan biweekkly. Credit: HighGrove Partners

Twelve members of the HighGrove team work on its strategic plan biweekkly. Photo: HighGrove Partners

A need for action
As critical as business planning is to the success of a company, a plan is useless if it isn’t followed by action.

We post our strategic plan’s primary objectives in our main conference room so everyone in the company can see our progress at any time. This whiteboard is updated biweekly during strategic planning meetings.

During each meeting, team leaders report on each key strategic area with green, yellow and red status and deadline updates. Green shows the area is on track, yellow means it needs more attention or is in danger of missing a deadline and red means this strategy needs focus, revision or additional help to meet its goals and deadlines.

As the CEO of HighGrove, I run each meeting, not only to keep the plan on track but also to highlight its importance. The fact that we’re reviewing our strategic plan every two weeks makes it a constant state of being for us.

The plan is tracked on a whiteboard housed in the company's main conference room.

The plan is tracked on a whiteboard housed in the company’s main conference room.

Then, four to six times a year we present strategic plan updates as a part of our town hall meetings with the entire company present. This provides all employees with updates and keeps the strategic teams and plans on task.

In 2012, HighGrove finished its 11th straight year of profitability. Specifically, the company has enjoyed double-digit growth rates, even during the last four- to five-year stretch during the recession.

In a down economy, a small business owner and his or her team must work hard to ensure those results. I know our strategic planning and implementation process has been a big part of our success.

McCutcheon (@JimMcCutcheonHG) is the CEO of HighGrove Partners, based in the Atlanta area. He’s an active member of the landscape industry, serving on the board of directors for the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) and is president of the board for the Academic Excellence Foundation (AEF).

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