Jan 262011

Dr. Earl R. Smith II

Old Maps, New Journeys: A friend, who is a golfer, is fond of observing that preparation is 90% of any success. He often goes on to suggest that the time on the practice tee and putting green is what wins matches. Further, he likes to ‘walk the course’ before playing it. Disparaging the ‘duffer’ – who makes it up as he goes along and tries to compensate for a lack of practice with an expectation of luck – he, instead, sees getting ready to win as a necessary step for out-performing his competition. Need I mention that he is very competitive and wins far more often than he comes in second?

Personally I prefer fishing – mostly because I have never found a good recipe for those little white balls. I like to bring something back for the dinner table. But I find similarities between the two sports. Before I go on a trip, I see to my equipment – make sure that it is in top shape and that I am familiar with its operation, strengths and limitations. (discovering weaknesses in your equipment or technique, only after you get a 500 pound marlin or 250 pound tarpon on the line, is a very bad strategy) I practice casting until I can put the line exactly where I want it. Then I spend a lot of time learning about the ‘water’ I am going to fish. Patterns, best lures or bait to use, best techniques, etc are on the menu for weeks before actually getting in a boat and heading out.

So what does golf and fishing have to do with strategic planning? And how do they relate to the way you should approach your business? Remember the dictum – ‘it is all in the preparation’.

One of my favorite sayings in ‘don’t make tomorrow’s journey using yesterday’s maps’. As logical as this saying seems, it is amazing how many companies and management teams attempt to do exactly that. Under the theory that ‘the past is prologue’, these companies attempt to meet the future with the same tools, approach, resourcing, team and value proposition that they helped them to succeed in the past

Strengths and Weaknesses: I provide a service which calledl ‘Executive Briefings’. These are facilitated events run by custom-assembled teams of very senior members who are focused on major challenges that our clients are facing. One of the most common challenges that we address is strategic planning – developing the road-map for a company’s future. These programs begin with a very through SWOT analysis. Our initial focus is on the past – not as prologue but as historical record. The most important part of that process focuses on the customer base that the company has accumulated. We want to know why they are customers – why key decision-makers have decided to give their business to the company. The foundation going forward is the historical record. The future is a planned departure from that foundation. The engine for winning the future is change – change that anticipates opportunities and then positions the company to take advantage of them.

Strategic Planning: Now, I want to make it clear that I am not advocating throwing out the baby with the bath water. Every company that has produced past success has strengths that need to be preserved and magnified. Sure, change is inevitable – but total change is generally destructive. The process involves identifying those strengths and magnifying them – identifying weaknesses and mitigating them. But the key to the process is identifying opportunities for future success – and that means opportunities for growing the company and its customer base. Here is how The Federal Circle approaches the process:

  1. Accumulation: Our first step is to get to know the company and its people very well. Through a series of interviews, meetings and events, we gain a measure of them and their potential. (Remember, a strategic planning process is all about identifying and unlocking potential)
  2. Research: We then look to the broader field – the competition, potential customers, new or modified value propositions, etc. Our objective is to contextualize the company and its potential within a solid understanding of that is possible.
  3. Recommendations: We produce a series of recommendation – generally very specific and focused. We are committed to provide actionable information which our clients can use to accelerate the growth and profitability of the company.
  4. Facilitated Event: We then present our findings and recommendations. Mostly these are off-site, multiple day events. But the presentations are just the first stage. The program quickly becomes interactive with all members of the company’s team participating. Our suggestions, but their solutions.
  5. Follow-Up support: One major weakness in most strategic planning programs is the lack of structured follow-up. People will get really excited about the possibilities but then go right back to business as usual after a couple of weeks. Our engagements extend beyond the actual planning retreat.

High Impact – Modest Cost: Having built companies and helped others do the same, I have come to realize that there are certain expenditures which give you a massive ‘bang for your buck’. These involve modest cost and and time commitments while producing massive benefits. A strategic planning retreat – when correctly organized, resources and managed – is one of these. Think of your team – all on the same page – all with the same vision of your company’s future – all working to realize that future. Give them tomorrow’s map and help them make that journey to success. It is up to you – that is where the buck stops, after all.

© Dr. Earl R. Smith II



Green_Vest__1.jpgI provide mentoring to those who have both the courage and determination to make a truly transformational journey. My approach is heavily influenced by core principles of Zen Buddhism. I don’t offer quick fixes or follow the latest fads. If you are willing to make the long journey – if it’s time for you to come to know the person you really are and can become – if you intend to finally find the path you should be following – if you want to start living life you were truly meant to live – then perhaps we should talk. Send me an e-mail and we’ll arrange a time to chat.


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