We’ve been doing a lot of work with agencies helping them develop strategic plans. As with anything new and big, it’s common to hear people say they feel overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done. Or conversely, they’re ready to begin implementing specific tactics that afternoon because they’re so excited to get going.

Either way, it’s definitely a lot of work when you’re talking about changing “the way you’ve always done it”. But breaking it down to logical and manageable steps is the key to staying the course and seeing the plan all the way through to successful completion. When you think about the vision you’re working toward, and you’re putting a plan together to achieve that vision, think about that plan as if you were going to take a road trip.

Let me explain what I mean

If you wanted to take a long road trip, you probably wouldn’t just jump in the car and start driving without thinking about where you wanted to go, who was going with you, or what you need along the way. And if your car is in disrepair, you’ll never make it to your destination. A little bit of planning & prep-work is definitely in order here.

Road trip:  Know the starting point for the trip, choose your destination, and decide how much time you’ve got to make this trip.

Company Plan:  Have a solid and realistic understanding of your current business model, and then create your company vision.  What does your company look like in 3 years?

Road trip:  Plan the route – there are many roads to get you there - which will you take?

Company Plan:  Which services/products will you be offering to your clients?

Road trip:  Determine where your major stops will be along the way.  You’ll need to make hotel reservations.

Company Plan:  Make milestone goals and checkpoints for your plan – say 12 months and 48 months with quarterly reviews in between.

Pre-trip essentials

Now that you’ve got the big picture worked out, you can begin thinking about some pre-trip essentials you need to take care of before this adventure starts.

Road trip:  What car will you drive?  Does it need any repairs before you leave?  Who will be your passengers?  What supplies will you take?

Company Plan:  Outline the actions that need to be happen in order to hit those milestone goals and ultimately the vision.  Do you need to create new processes?  Restructure teams? Develop new materials?  Form new partnerships?

Road trip:  While on the trip, you’ll need to make stops to refuel, check tires, get more snacks – definitely snacks.

Company Plan:  Think about the action plans you've outlined – if you need to restructure teams, what are the specific things you need to do?  Decide what skills are needed to support the new products/services? Develop new roles?  Readjust team members into new roles?  Develop training programs to fill in gaps in skills?

Let's get going!

Okay, now that all the pre-trip work has been thought through, it’s time to get down to details and get this show on the road!

Road trip:  While you’re rolling on the road and thinking about how great your destination is going to be when you get there, be sure to make the road trip itself fun as well!  Listen to some tunes, play slug-bug, start a rousing round of the alphabet game, play Mad Libs, and laugh about ridiculous things.

Company Plan:  Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate progress all along the way!  Have monthly check-in meetings with sub-groups or the whole team.  Congratulate the team for successfully managing a new process. Or applaud one another for improvements to the new, and possibly uncomfortable, things people have to take on in their new roles. 

Are there easier ways to get to your destination without having to make such a long road trip with everyone crammed in the car? Sure. You could fly and then rent a car to get around the local area. This is akin to using someone else’s model – and with that, you’re at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. You never know when you’ll find yourself sitting on the tarmac for two hours due to a weather delay. Definitely not a good business building strategy!

While you’re on this trip, be sure to stop and look at some of the local sights, eat at local restaurants, and by all means, take turns driving and choosing where to stop and eat. One person doing all the work is exhausting!