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Know where your firm's going with a strategic plan

20th Apr 2005
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If you don't know where you are going you will probably get there!

Many accountancy practices feel they can help their clients with planning their future but do you have a strategic plan in place for your own firm?

That is a plan that is:

  • In writing
  • Provides for you achieving your personal and practice objectives
  • Is annually reviewed and published
  • Is structured
  • Has clear and focused outcomes
  • Is "bought-into" by all partners.

    The essence of strategic planning is to identify and record:
    1. Where are you now?
    2. Where do you want to go?
    3. How are you going to get there?

    Quality strategic planning does not focus upon questions like "why" or "why not" but instead has at its core the question, "What do you want?"

    When practices collectively know what they really want and have a clear plan with focus as to how to create what they want, they are generally unstoppable. Focus and clear direction are powerful drivers for us all.

    What we find when practices have clear direction with a strategic plan, is that the following occur:

  • There is real buy-in, and as a result, people actively take the actions planned
  • Partners feel more in control and this is a good feeling
  • The practice has clear marketing strategies
  • The practice creates its own written and focused sales and marketing plan
  • Growth plans are clear and specific
  • Key performance management becomes clearer and more specific based upon the drivers of success
  • Greater profit and fulfilment

    In the 1950s, researchers at Yale University began a research project that found over several decades that people who had clear written goals were much more likely to succeed than those who did not. Of those surveyed only 3% had clear written goals. Staggeringly, 20 years later, those 3% with written goals had more wealth than the 97% added together!

    Several other subsequent research projects have confirmed these findings. Knowing what you want with a practice plan is not a prediction of the future but it is the best way to improve your chances of getting what you really want and provide clear direction, focus and that feeling of being more in control.

    Strategic planning for accountancy practices should be structured to:

  • Identify individual partners' personal and practice objectives
  • Set agreed strategic objectives
  • Have clear growth plans
  • Provide a focused marketing strategy
  • Cover sales and marketing planning
  • Cover key areas of the practice such as key performance management, staff, training, partners' roles etc
  • Have an action plan
  • Have a review process.

    Strategic planning sessions for your practice need to have a clear and focused structure. Away days are good opportunities to talk freely, often about high level matters, but they are not structured strategic planning sessions.

    The other important point is that you cannot successfully run your own practice strategic session. An independent and experienced facilitator is definitely required.

    Many key issues will come up in your strategic planning session, perhaps succession planning, profitability issues, marketing focus, partnership or structured issues. However, the key point is that you will have a clear plan to move forward towards agreed objectives. The great news is these issues then cease to be barriers!

    If you feel in control, you are in control!

    Good luck with your plans.

    Richard Walters FCA

    About the author
    Richard Walters is one of the UK's leading experts on strategic planning for accountancy practices and owner managed businesses and is the inventor of the Strategic Planning Toolkit. For more information about this tool and other available services, visit the Harris Walters Partner Page on AccountingWEB or email [email protected] .

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