SME Adviser Series: Isolating time and creating the environment for strategic thinking

Time is often the biggest constraint for business owners. Those who make time for focussed strategic thinking on a regular basis and introduce strategic thinking into daily interactions at more levels within their businesses, tend to achieve better results. Whilst we know this instinctively, however, operational issues can easily get in the way.

Writing for the Family Business Resource Centre, Paul Hopwood provides 10 tips for improving the quality and quantity of strategic thinking time:

1. Split board meetings between strategy and operations. This could potentially be done in separate meetings, possibly with a smaller steering group.

2. Schedule the dates six months ahead and never cancel the meetings.

3. Use a One Page Plan as a framework. If you are discussing something that isn’t on the plan, either the plan is wrong, or you probably aren’t being strategic.

4. Set strict administrative protocols and ensure they are followed. For example, send out the agenda in advance, circulate papers a week in advance, start and finish on time, bullet point minutes of actions and follow up action progress between meetings.

5. Be aware of where the conversation is leading while keeping a balance between strategic and operational issues.

6. If there are some short-term, burning issues, factor them into the One Page Plan, but don’t get bogged down. Decide how they should be tackled outside the meeting (e.g. project team) and move on.

7. Be conscious that you’re not spending too much time managing exceptions (i.e. actions not completed and excuses). This will waste everyone’s time.

8. Ensure someone is responsible for keeping the meeting strategic. Usually this will be the chair or facilitator.

9. Make your planning process iterative. Don’t put all your effort into the annual away-day, but evolve the strategy as you go along.

10. Define the rules for each meeting. E.g. ego-less, listening, not interrupting, allowing everyone a turn to speak.

It takes practice and continuity to become more strategic. Honing this skill will not only reduce time wasted on fighting fires, but it will set you and your business apart from your competitors.

It’s not only the nature of your work, but also the lifestage you have reached that will define the kind of advice and support you need. At Beavis Morgan, we can help business leaders make critical decisions at each phase of the development cycle, from startup guidance to exit strategies, and everything in between.

For more information about how we can help you and your business, contact your usual Beavis Morgan Partner or email