Guide to Strategic Planning: Part 2 – Setting a Vision

Setting a Clear Direction: The Foundation of Strategic Planning Success

In the landscape of business strategy, the importance of a clear direction cannot be overstressed. It’s the compass that guides every decision, action, and investment in your business. Yet, establishing this direction is often where many stumble, not for lack of ambition, but due to the overwhelming pressure to define a grand vision.

“Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”
John F Kennedy

The Myth of the Moonshot

Many leaders feel the pressure to articulate a “big, hairy, audacious goal” or a moonshot vision for their business. While having such a goal can be inspiring, it’s not the only path to success. The reality is, not every business is aiming to redefine an industry or capture a global market. For many, the ambition to improve incrementally—to be slightly better this year than the last—is a perfectly valid and admirable goal.

Embracing Your Business’s True Intent

The core of strategic planning lies in understanding your business’s intent. What role does it play in the market, the community, or in the lives of your customers? If defining a long-term vision feels daunting, narrow your focus. Concentrate on what you can achieve now or in the near future. This approach doesn’t diminish your aspirations; it clarifies them, making your goals more attainable and relevant – from small things, big things grow!

Avoiding the Common Pitfall: Misaligned Goals

A critical error in setting business direction is adopting goals that don’t resonate with your values or the essence of your business. Claims of wanting to be a “market leader” abound, but if such a position doesn’t align with what you genuinely care about, then it’s a hollow aim. Your strategic plan should reflect your business’s authentic aspirations, not just what you think should be your goals.

The Value of Every Vision

For those who see their business primarily as a means to provide for themselves, their families, or their employees, your reason for being is clear and as significant as any. Whether your business was chosen or inherited, it holds the potential for impact. The value you create, the jobs you provide, and the community you serve—all of these are critical contributions.

Join the Conversation

I am committed to education and fostering a dialogue around strategic planning so I invite you to join me in this conversation. Monthly, from February to April, I will host a lunch & learn session dedicated to discussing strategic planning in an informal setting. This is an opportunity to delve deeper into strategic planning, ask questions, and share insights with peers. If you’d like to participate, you can register for one of the upcoming lunch & learn sessions here:

Conclusion: Finding Your Strategic North Star

Setting a clear direction for your business doesn’t require an earth-shattering vision. It requires honesty about what you want to achieve and why. Whether your goals are monumental or modest, they are yours to define and pursue. As we continue to explore strategic planning, remember that the journey is as unique as your business. Stay tuned for more insights on navigating this path effectively.

man using laptop

Elevating Leadership for Strategic Growth, Business Succession, and Family Business Success

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

Inside This Article:

  • Operational Strains and Growth Stagnation: Signs that it’s time for strategic planning and bringing in top-tier talent.
  • The Real Costs of Not Investing: The impact of inadequate leadership on family businesses and long-term shareholder value.
  • Investment in Talent as a Strategic Move: Viewing talent acquisition as essential to business succession planning.
  • Leveraging Advisory Boards for Strategic Decisions: How an advisory board can provide crucial insights for hiring and strategic planning.

Recognising the Right Time for Leadership Investment

In family businesses and private firms, pinpointing when to elevate the leadership team is a pivotal aspect of strategic growth. This decision often hinges on recognising the crucial balance between operational involvement and strategic leadership. A common scenario is where a business owner, deeply engrossed in daily operations, misses opportunities for expansion or innovation. This tendency, while understandable, can lead to growth stagnation and hamper effective business succession planning.

Case Study: Operational Overload in a Family Business

Consider a family-owned manufacturing firm where the second-generation owner handles both strategic decisions and day-to-day operations. While this hands-on approach initially drove success, as the business grew, this dual role became unsustainable. The owner’s inability to delegate and focus on long-term strategic planning led to missed opportunities and employee dissatisfaction.

The Misstep of Diving Back Into Operational Roles

Business owners, especially in family-run enterprises, often find comfort in their operational expertise. However, this can lead to a detrimental cycle where strategic leadership takes a backseat. For instance, when a business owner starts micromanaging a department instead of empowering a manager, it not only stifles the manager’s potential but also detracts from the owner’s ability to focus on future growth and succession strategies.

From Operational Leader to Strategic Visionary

Transitioning from an operational role to a strategic visionary is not a straightforward process. It requires a mindset shift and often, the support of an advisory board. Such a board can provide an outside perspective, helping the owner see the bigger picture and understand the importance of strategic leadership in achieving long-term goals.

The Penny Wise, Pound Foolish Approach

In one instance, a rapidly growing tech startup needed a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to manage its expanding team and complex projects. However, the founder, focused on immediate cost savings, delayed this crucial hire. This decision cost the company significantly in terms of delayed product launches and lost market opportunities.

Expanding the Team: When and How

Identifying the right time to bring in new leadership talent is critical. Signs include:

  • Operational Overload: When daily management tasks overwhelm strategic thinking.
  • Growth Plateaus: When the business stops growing despite market opportunities.
  • Complexity in Operations: As the business grows, so does the complexity of its operations, often requiring specialised leadership skills.
  • Employee Feedback: When team members consistently highlight leadership gaps or express the need for clearer direction.
  • Employee Turnover: High turnover can be a symptom of leadership deficiencies.
  • Market Comparisons: Analysing competitors can offer insights into necessary leadership roles.
  • Visionary Needs: If a company’s long-term vision requires expertise not currently present, proactive talent acquisition is key.
  • Personal Fulfillment: Leaders should assess whether their current role aligns with their personal goals and satisfaction.

The Role of Advisory Boards in Talent Strategy

Advisory boards play a crucial role in guiding talent decisions:

  1. Objective Perspective: They offer a fresh, unbiased view on the company’s leadership needs.
  2. Networking and Recommendations: Members can leverage their connections to recommend suitable candidates.
  3. Risk Mitigation: They help in vetting candidates to ensure alignment with company culture and strategic goals.
  4. Strategy Alignment: They ensure that talent decisions align with the company’s broader strategic objectives.
  5. Confidence in Decision Making: Their endorsement can provide the necessary confidence for making significant hiring decisions.
  6. Structured Approach: They encourage a focus on long-term planning and strategic decision-making.

Incorporating Strategic Planning Workshops

Strategic planning workshops, facilitated by or with the input of an advisory board, can be instrumental in shaping the future leadership structure of a business. These workshops offer a structured environment to evaluate the current state of the business, identify gaps in leadership, and develop a roadmap for talent acquisition and development.


In the dynamic world of family businesses and private firms, recognizing when to expand the leadership team is crucial for sustainable growth and effective business succession. Advisory boards serve as a vital resource in these decisions, helping to view talent acquisition as a strategic investment essential to the future of the company. The cost of not embracing this perspective can be significant, not just in terms of lost opportunities but also in diminished shareholder value and hindered business succession.

Call to Action: Are you ready to elevate your leadership team and drive strategic growth? At Board Associates, we specialise in guiding family businesses and private firms through the complexities of strategic planning, business succession, and leadership development. Connect with us to learn how our expertise and advisory boards can help transform your business for lasting success. Contact us to start your journey towards transformative leadership and sustainable growth.

Your Go To Marketing Budget & Planning Guide


Over the last few weeks we’ve seen many of our clients turn their attention to implementing fresh marketing strategies in their business plan. This is often a ‘black art’ for many so we thought it would be timely to share our ‘cheat sheet’ questions for guiding marketing budgeting and planning. We’ve also included some tips to help you brainstorm and get creative.


  1. How much profit next year will come from:

    • Business as usual, and growth of current customers

    • New customer segments

    • New products or services

  2. Against each of the points above, what are the main marketing activities you’ll use to drive them (just 2 or 3 bullet points each) – it should be high level at this stage, for example:

    • Deepen customer relationships through monthly touch points and quarterly customer events.

    • Feature a quarterly customer case study in the industry magazines and create an online campaign and landing page to create leads.

    • Present at industry events each quarter.

  3. Assign budget and targets: How much budget will you allocate to each profit pool? What are the targets you’ll set for your marketing activity?


Of course there’s more to marketing planning than this, but these questions set the context for your plan and make sure you’re placing the right bets in the right places.

What usually happens next is the team then debate the marketing activities and measures. Eventually, you arrive at a plan which is aligned to the business plan for the year, has clear goals and is something that everyone buys into and can be reported against.


Marketing has the ability to do wonders for a business if their process is creative and innovative. It doesn’t have to be expensive or blow your budget out of the water. Our top 3 favourite techniques will help you get creative and add energy to your marketing plan:

  1. Analogies – this famous exercise adds insight and interest to your marketing communications. To see an example, check out Matthew Dunstan’s sailing analogy that ties into strategic planning!

  2. Pass-along – we often start with a chat amongst our expert Board Advisors, to brainstorm a few simple marketing ideas. Then over Slack, we pass the idea along, back and forth, to add to the idea and in turn, we are able to generate some really powerful ideas we can then choose from, helping us stay relevant and fresh.

  3. Personalisation – say it out loud – customers do not care about you! Customers care about how you are going to solve their problem or need. That is why personalisation is more important than ever. Personalising the experience for prospects and current customers helps create an experience that each customer can relate to.


These questions and creative marketing strategies don’t need a lot of expertise in the first instance. They are more business strategy questions and creative tips that drive marketing planning.

The answers to these questions and our top 3 creative marketing strategies are the things you can take to a marketing agency, a contractor or table at our next board meeting for discussion!