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Process

Management Audit

You can't plan in a vacuum. Before starting to develop your strategic business plan, you need an objective, realistic appraisal of your firm's internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as the external opportunities and threats you face in the marketplace.

Our analysis of your firm takes the form of a comprehensive, in-depth management audit, the end product of which is a list of the key issues which have the greatest potential impact on your firm's success.

The management audit allows us to learn a great deal about your firm, making us much more effective as your business planning advisors. Our clients tell us they learn a lot, too, because we don't pull punches or whitewash our analysis or presentation.

The management audit process starts with a wide-ranging desk review of your firm's management systems and business data, including:

  • Financial and accounting data
  • Project management reports
  • Marketing materials and proposals
  • Personnel information, résumés, and compensation
  • Human resources policies, manuals, and information
  • Technology inventory
  • Management meeting minutes and organization charts
  • Past business plans
  • Current shareholders agreement

"It is not good enough for things to be planned -- they still have to be done; for the intention to become reality, energy has to be launched into operation." Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

 

We conduct confidential, in-depth interviews, in your offices, with senior management and a cross-section of your staff. These interviews provide an opportunity for your people to participate by giving input, and buy into the process. They also give us valuable insights and often serve to crystallize your firm's major internal issues. For larger firms, we supplement the interviews with written, confidential employee surveys to allow the entire staff to provide input into their firm's plan.

We understand how important marketplace knowledge is to effective planning, so we often conduct market research studies or client perception studies as part of the management audit process.

We may consolidate the findings from the management audit into a confidential, comprehensive management audit report or presentation to the executive team. In either case, we present a summary of themes developed through our interview and survey process (using specific, but anonymous quotes from those who participated), and the results of our market research and/or client perception study. We then present our assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities and threats facing your firm, and your firm's key issues. We conclude the feedback with specific, concrete recommendations for actions to be taken by you to address these issues.

Strategic Planning Off-Site Retreat

During the strategic planning retreat, which lasts 2-2˝ days, we develop your plan and commit it to writing. A successful strategic business plan includes five components:

  1. The mission for the firm – or why are you in business? Your firm's mission captures the reasons for your firm's existence. While this may seem simple, it's not. The act of focusing your entire organization in one unified direction gives tremendous clarity and power to your firm.
     
  2. Your firm's vision – or what does your firm want to become? Everyone participating in developing a plan has to buy into a common vision of what your firm will be like at some future date– five or ten years out. What size will your firm be? How profitably will you operate? What business lines will you be in? What markets will you dominate? Without consensus on your firm's vision, the people on whom you depend will be "out of sync."
     
  3. Strategies to address each of your firm's key issues – or how will your firm move forward? Strategies establish a way for your firm to tackle each of your firm's key issues, for example: how to achieve growth; how to increase profitability; how to expand your firm's markets; how to manage your human resources; or how to best use technology. When you can articulate your strategies to your staff, it makes it a lot easier for them to understand what they should be doing every day to achieve your firm's vision.
     
  4. Quantifiable goals are necessary to measure your firm's performance and progress, like the speedometer on your car. Goals add motivation and discipline to your firm's efforts, in terms of setting a target and providing tracking systems to monitor your firm's health. When we work with you, we don't set wishy-washy goals like "Be more profitable next year." Instead, we help you establish goals which you can really measure your success against and take corrective action as necessary, for example, "Achieve pre-tax, pre-distribution profits of 15% on net service revenues in each of our target market sectors next year."
     
  5. Published action plans put the teeth in the strategic business plan. They provide accountability by defining particular tasks, identifying who will be responsible for their completion, and agreeing on when they will be done.

By the end of the retreat, we finalize the draft plans into one document and discuss how your new strategic business plan should be communicated to the rest of the staff and implemented.

 

Dark Horse Strategies will help you reach your business goals at least cost to you. Contact us at info@darkhorsestrategies.com to explore how our consultants can serve your business.

 

 

 

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