Mastering Strategic Planning

Submitted by john.warren on February 14, 2020

Hi, I'm Nikolee Turner with Schwab Advisor Services. On the Business Consulting and Education Team, we work with some of the most successful and fastest-growing advisory firms, talking with leaders about the complexities of growing their businesses and creating enduring enterprises.

One thing that sets these firms apart is their ability to plan. In fact, one of Schwab Guiding Principles for Advisory Firm Success states that effective planning and execution is a leading indicator of success.

As one advisor put it, strategic planning is absolutely the most important thing you can do for your business. The plan is a roadmap that growing firms use to set direction, align staff toward a vision, and drive action on the issues that matter. A strategic plan helps firms choose between initiatives, stay focused on their future, and make tradeoff decisions.

Sometimes what you say no to is as important as what you say yes to.

The benefits are pretty clear, but I find many firms have only put together an annual to-do list instead of a defined, documented, forward-looking strategic plan. What keeps firms from creating a real disciplined plan that helps chart their future?

Well, I've heard some principals say that they've been so successful without one, so why would they need one now? But what many advisors come to realize is a strategic plan for their business is just as important as a financial plan is for their clients.

Some advisors also feel they don't have the time, and others say they don't have the right framework or process. This is exactly why we created an approach designed specifically for RIAs.

It breaks the process of strategic planning into manageable steps, leveraging relevant tools and resources.

Through this approach, you'll write and articulate your vision for the future. Next, you're going to think about and analyze your strengths, challenges, and opportunities, you'll identify strategies, and you'll set goals. And then, importantly, you'll drive alignment among your entire team.

In the end, you'll have a documented vision that directs resources and energy in the most meaningful way, and a roadmap to turn that vision into reality. Let me add a little bit more color to each of these steps.

A strong strategic plan starts with a firm's purpose, values, and vision, which allows you to take a step back and ask, 'What's the real reason for our firm to be? What values do we have, and do we live by them?'

You'll also dig into your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats through a SWOT analysis. It's designed for the nuances of the RIA industry, and it helps anchor your plan in data and reality.

Next, you'll identify the long-term goals that help move your firm toward your vision. These are measurable targets in an important area, not tactics or actions. It's the 'what' you'll accomplish, not the 'how.'

With your vision in mind, you'll further develop the strategy you'll pursue, and that's based on your ideal client and the value they receive from working with your firm. You'll also explore what sets you apart from your competitors.

At this point, you'll be able to finish your plan by identifying your short-term goals and the tactics you'll focus on in the next year.

The piece that so many firms forget is that just as important as creating the plan is communicating it. This drives alignment, focuses your team, and helps assign accountability for those key actions and deliverables.

To be successful, planning is a process that is kept alive year in and year out.

We look forward to helping you develop your plan, so you can have a roadmap to proactively reach your future vision.

Thank you for watching.

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