It is already June! That is right, 2020 is almost half-way finished! This may lead you and your leadership team to call in a strategic planning consultant but, WAIT… before you do, we have a few questions you should ask before your next strategic planning session.
2020 has turned out to be a very bumpy ride for many organizations, leaving many of us ready to bid farewell to 2020 on December 31st, 2020. Some companies have doubled or tripled their sales and others lost almost all of their revenue. Organizations big and small are looking at their strategic positioning, go-to-market strategy and stress testing the plan through scenario planning.
Hence, why we are hearing many organizations say it is time for a new strategy and they are ready to hire a strategic planning consultant. In our experience, there are 6 common drivers for a new strategy, and major market disruption tops the list. We can all agree, 2020 has handed every industry and company disruption!
But, before you start Googling there are a few questions you and your leadership team should ask before you hire a strategic planning consultant. We have put these questions into two buckets: gut-check questions and hiring questions.
Gut Check Questions
The gut check questions are geared towards looking internally to ensure you, your team, and the organization are ready to take on this work.
What are the ultimate goals of the strategy?
First and foremost, you need to establish the goals you want to accomplish with your strategy. This step will help you establish some of the parameters of the strategy and will allow you to give the strategy a little more vision. Having goals for a strategy will allow it to move along easier because you will need to advance it to meet its goals. Begin the list of goals, in collaboration with your leadership team, prior to contacting a consultant. This will likely be one of the first questions they will ask.
Do we lack clear differentiation and distinction from our competitors? Or do we lack a clear direction on getting our message to those we serve?
The first question is about having a clear strategy. Which is to say, are you clear about how you create value in the marketplace? We define strategy as an organization’s unique positioning and chosen path to reach its best-envisioned future. The second question is about a clear marketing message. Too many times we get calls from clients AFTER they have had a marketing firm in to help them with branding, social media, and other marketing efforts. The clients are frustrated because marketing is not working and now, they are ready to call in a strategist. Business strategy drives marketing efforts. The strategy must be clear, and marketing is the vehicle to reach customers.
Do we have the capacity and resources to implement a new strategy?
Nothing is more frustrating than having a fantastic plan but, not having the people to execute it. As the old saying goes, execution eats strategy for breakfast or something like that. Strategies can involve a lot of moving parts and it is vital to understand what people and resources are going to be involved within the plan. Effective implementation and execution is the difference-maker.
Do we have the financial resources to hire a high-quality consultant?
You can throw a rock and hit thousands of consultants and consulting firms. However, finding high-quality, experienced, passionate, and reputable consultants is an investment. An investment that you should expect to see a return on. Costs vary depending on the complexity of the work and the resources needed to get the work done. The range for is from $10K to more than $50K. The more support needed in the implementation phase the more services cost.
What is not working today?
Before bringing in a Strategic Planning Consultant get clear on what is not working in the organization. Is it people, products/services, processes, systems, or something else? Know what isn’t working and know what is working.
Strategic Planning Consultant Hiring Questions
Here are a few questions to consider before contacting a consultant and a few questions to ask once you’ve contact one.
What’s the consulting firm’s approach to strategic planning?
Clients tell us all the time, “we had consultants in, and they TOLD us what to do. But we didn’t do it.” Consulting firms love to bring the solution but, our approach is a collaborative effort. The solutions should rise from within your organization not from a consultant. The consulting firm are the guides and facilitators to help your organization break through barriers and open up innovative ways to accomplish your goals. They should have an approach to how they work with clients.
Can I find reviews, testimonials, or information about their firm on LinkedIn, Google or other platforms?
Hiring a Strategic Planning Consultant is an investment of time, money, and resources. It’s important to find the right fit. When reviewing their website look for reviews, testimonials, or client stories about their experience in working with the firm.
Do they have a process for getting us from here to there?
Ask prospective consulting firms what their process is for getting your organization where it wants to go. You should be looking for a project outline or a roadmap that represents a blueprint of the process.
Do they have expertise I’m looking for?
This one can be tricky. Being an expert in strategy design and execution is different than being an expert in a particular industry. We would argue having strategy expertise is far more important than in-depth industry knowledge. We work in a variety of industries and we study those industries but, we work to master the art of strategy design and activation.
Do I like them?
Capability is important. After meeting with the consultant, reflect on the interaction. If you didn’t jive with them – they may not be a great fit. Consider characteristics like flexibility, candor, and integrity.
Finally, the competitive landscape continues to evolve, customer behaviors continue to change, and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. These are all factors that drive a new strategy that results in a path forward. Hiring a strategic planning consultant and strategy design firm can help can breakaway results for your organization but, only if you hire the right fit.
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