Strategic Planning – Why is it important?

We just lost a 10,000 gallon commercial customer…Jeannie called in sick today, who is handling her job today?…Should I buy a physical prebuy or a paper hedge?….Is today the day to buy future gas, or is it going down more?….Bob’s handheld isn’t working, someone needs to fix it so he can get out and deliver propane….ABC Oil is now in the Propane business….

Most everyone in the propane industry can relate to most, if not all of these comments above.  Most owners/top management of propane companies hear these above mentioned items on a weekly basis.  We continue to put out fires and at the end of the week/month/year we can’t believe how fast the year went by.

This is why strategic planning is so important for an organization.  For those of you that have never been through a strategic planning session, here is what happens:

  1. Hire a facilitator to facilitate the two day planning session (Some larger companies might take a little longer).
  2. Determine the owners/management team you want to participate in this plan.
  3. The facilitator will send each member a SWOT Analysis.  Each member will list out the organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT).
  4. The facilitator now takes the organization down the road of talking about each and every item that was generated from these lists.
  5. You will have group breakout sessions listing what each group feels the “vision” of the organization is and also another breakout session listing the “mission” of the organization.
  6. After a voting process, the facilitator takes the SWOT items down to a manageable amount of items and then the group votes again on those items to determine what are the Strategic Objectives for this plan.
  7. From that process you now take the 5-7 Strategic Objective items and you create action plans, goals and initiatives, and lastly who will “champion” this objective.
  8. Once that is all completed, you have a strategic plan!

So why is this important?  Its important because most everyone running/owning a company doesn’t have time to sit down with their management team to truly look at the “big picture”.  Sure we have meetings and sure we accomplish projects, but normally those are the result of one person coming up with something and putting a team together to work on it.

The strategic planning session will allow your organization to:

  • Provide much needed focus and direction to your organization
  • Allows your organization to review its progress to date
  • Gives you an opportunity to take a step back and think strategically
  • Allows you to answer questions relating to your customer needs and expectations
  • Gives you a chance to consider or reconsider the future of your organization
  • Allows you to identify strategies, tactics and tasks
  • Provides you an opportunity to identify the resources needed to achieve optimal success
  • Allows you to consider unlikely, unexpected, or unplanned obstacles that may occur
  • And in my opinion the most important benefit of strategic planning is that it allows your organization to bring its “collective intelligence” together to identify the current and emerging challenges and opportunities likely to occur in the coming year.  If you management team is part of developing the plan, do you think the buy-in of the plan will go up?  It sure will, anytime someone is part of the plan, part of the solution, that employee feels they are part of the big picture and the likelihood of success goes up drastically.

Now that corporate tax season is over I will try to blog weekly and I am blogging on topics I am working on at Propane Strategies.  Strategic Planning is crucial for an organization and lucky for me, facilitating for companies on strategic planning is super rewarding work!

Take Care,

Joe Stariha, Propane Strategies, LLC