It has been said that if you don’t know what outcome you are looking for, then the path you choose is not important. How do we plan for all the things we want to do at a funeral business? How do we continuously improve our client family experience? Are there internal operating procedures that inhibit service delivery? Is employee morale positive? How do we clearly differentiate ourselves from our competition? Is our pricing consumer friendly? Are we as profitable as we could be? Are we moving the company forward? Whether it’s customer service, workplace, marketplace, or financial management, start with a strategic plan to accomplish your goals.
Strategic planning, in its simplest terms, is determining where your business needs to go and how you are going to get there. The process involves the owners and senior management team of a company assessing current performance, analyzing the market, setting goals, defining actions, and identifying resources. Strategic planning also defines how the company will know if it is successful. Simply put, to be successful with your plan, you must first define what is important, then create the measurements for success, then manage it to success!
To explain how this can be done, I thought I would show you a process that we use here at Johnson Consulting that can be useful at your own funeral business.
- Objective – Bring together the owners and key leaders of your company and motivate the group to envision the full potential of the funeral business! Together during this session you will create compelling business objectives along with specific tactical actions and resources needed to achieve them.
- Take it offsite! – Meet offsite somewhere where there are no distractions. Make it a day-long meeting with breakfast and lunch. Only in this environment will you be able to effectively address the most critical issues confronting the company.
- Where to begin? – Begin the session with a review of the company’s current year successes and failures.
- SWOT yourself! – Assess the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses. After that, focus on recognizing both the external opportunities that exist as well as what external threats are looming. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats… SWOT)
- Defining what’s next – Now it’s time for the leadership team to articulate the business objectives or goals needed to reach optimum performance based on the prior observations. These goals are to be crystal clear, indisputable and should be the core priorities of the leadership team.
- Action! – With objectives and goals created, it’s time to put strategies and actions together that are needed to achieve the goals.
- Whose job is it? – You’ve created the actions needed, now who’s going to do it!? Now is the time for the appropriate leadership team member to be responsible for the action.
- When does it need to be completed? – It is said that a goal without a due date is just a dream! This is a VERY important phase of the process. It is time to decide upon a timeline for completion by each responsible team member. During this segment, additional resources needed such as increased marketing, more training, or people development needed to successfully execute the strategies and actions are identified.
- Measure it! – If your goals of the company are to grow and be more profitable, you must be sure that every action you identify and every timetable you set, is put in place to accomplish one or both of those goals. In fact, better yet, you need to identify just what the expected return or outcome of achieving each goal is. Once that is accomplished, you can now quantify, and performance metrics can be established.
- Get out of my way! – Before you are finished, it is wise to discuss any potential barriers to achieving the goals in the strategic plan. Discuss these and discuss whether contingency plans should be made.
- The result? – You are now ready to draft and prepare your written Strategic Plan. The plan consists of the current business assessment, the new business objectives and goals, the Tactical Action Plan and the Key Performance Metrics to be achieved (sometimes referred to as KPI – Key Performance Index). By doing this, you will see an interesting outcome… The leadership team immediately begins implementation of the strategic plan!
The above points stated, successfully achieving the strategic plan depends largely on commitment and follow through! You should now meet every 30 days (no more than 60) to measure the progress and timelines and adjust when necessary. During this time, progress is measured with the Key Performance Metrics report. If done effectively, leadership team members are held accountable for accomplishing tasks within the established timelines assigned to them in the Tactical Action Plan and any additional actions needed are taken to ensure targeted objectives are achieved and the Strategic Plan is successfully implemented.
To conclude, I can guarantee that successful Strategic Planning will change the direction and performance of your funeral business. Remember that those companies that plan, no matter how large or small the business is, will do better than those that do not! That being said, it is only logical that you should develop a strategic plan, yet so many businesses do not. My father calls this logic the Scarlet O’Hara syndrome. That is, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow.” In case you needed to know, tomorrow is here as the service and financial landscapes of our profession continue to change. Get your strategic plan created, your future depends on it!