For some forty years, I have been involved in strategic planning both for my clients, and my own successful companies. It has been extremely exciting to see the results of my approach – some clients have doubled, even tripled their businesses, within as short a time frame as one year! Not only that, they have maintained an exciting pace of growth.
With that type of growth made possible through strategic planning, why do most growing businesses ignore this opportunity? Fact is, most entrepreneurs spend so much time working in their business, they don’t have the time to work on their business.
Given my experience in assisting clients effectively plan their business strategy, I know first-hand, that planning represents the key difference between early success – or failure. It’s an intelligent “road map” to guide the way. But what follows the development of the strategic plan is its management and execution.
This article addresses the management and execution of the plan. And experience has shown me that there is no better way to execute and manage the plan, than through the skills and oversight of carefully selected individuals who comprise a Management Team.
Why a Management Team?
The most important contribution to any developing company is the combined thinking of a team of talented people pooling their expertise; each with their own unique way of approaching different business issues.
I’ve been privy to many exciting events that occur due to the combined energy and synergy that emerges from a well-run Management Team…
Consider one client who was actually told by their banking representative at the Management Team meeting, exactly how they could get vastly extended terms from their overseas supplier that would increase their available cash flow by 200%. And the Banker also made an on-the-spot commitment that if the company’s suppliers wouldn’t do it, their bank would!
Another client doubled their annual revenues from a suggestion to develop a company-wide incentive program.
Yet another client found their next General Manager when the Warehouse Manager stepped forward to present his own department’s annual plan to the Management Team. His performance and grasp of details so impressed the members of the Management Team that they asked him to join the team the very next day – and two years later, he became the GM!
These are just a few examples of the incredible results that can emerge when you embrace the use of a Management Team to oversee your business strategy. Best of all, the energy created by the ongoing use of a Management Team also ensures a consensus decision-making approach to running a business, with the best, most effective minds providing counsel and direction for the business. And as any successful business leader will inform you, the combined thinking of a team is significantly greater than that of an individual.
Purpose of the Management Team
The general purpose of a Management Team is to assist the entrepreneur in identifying, evaluating and taking positive action on a set of business imperatives, as laid out in a company’s strategic business plan. It also provides a forum for the company to bring to the surface, discuss and resolve a variety of business issues.
But I can assure you that it’s much, much more than that:
- It provides a method for entrepreneurs to network with experts within and outside their company and their industry
- It’s an opportunity for company principals to gain a broader perspective of their business, by bringing related experience and knowledge to bear on strategic and management issues
- It’s an entity that can become a major, added value benefit to offer key employees
- It’s a regularly scheduled event that requires complete focus on the progress of the plan, away from the pressures of operating the business
- Participation on the team develops presentation, oratory, networking and leadership skills
Structure of a Management Team
A Management Team comprises a group of carefully selected individuals, operating under a reasonable set of guidelines established by the company principal. While there are no official rules or regulations governing Management Teams, there are some practical guidelines that help facilitate their formation and function.
A Management Team may be comprised of anyone the principals think may help the company. This could include individuals at any position or level within the company. In addition to selected internal resources, adding professionals who are not on the company payroll balances out the team.
In my experience, the approach that works best is to have a total of seven people on the team, made up of 4-5 from within the company and 2-3 from outside.
There may be compelling reasons why you would want to recruit certain outside people to your Management Team. Examples of typical team members include executives or professionals such as:
- Business associates (clients, networking partners, vendors)
- The company CPA
- The company Attorney
- The company banker
- Partners of leading consulting firms
Although some amount of compensation may be appropriate for select individuals, in order to make it worthwhile for certain members to attend meetings, I would recommend finding alternative ways to compensate your outside team members – offer to be on their Management Team, suggest you make a donation to their favorite charity, and so on. Any such compensation issues should be discussed first before committing to asking someone to be on the team.
Concerning Management Team members who actually work for the company, the importance of becoming a member of the Management Team should be carefully explained to them, along with an understanding of the subsequent benefits of belonging, but typically, the makeup would include:
- Your sales manager
- Your marketing manager
- Your controller
- Your warehouse manager
- Your IT specialist
- And one position may be a “swing” position where the individual changes each time
Groups take on their own personality and evolve over time. Therefore, it may be appropriate to change participants more often, early on, in order to achieve the best fit and working relationship. Also, changing team members from time to time allows for new ideas and thoughts to permeate the group.
How the Management Team Operates
Like any well-run organization, the Management Team must be run efficiently and professionally. With this in mind, there are three primary roles within the Management Team – the chair, the facilitator, and individual members.
The Chair: the chair, (usually the Managing Principal), is responsible for recruiting team members, organizing the meeting agenda, and any related activities, together with the Facilitator.
Reaching consensus is what this is really all about, ultimately, however, the buck has to stop somewhere and the Chair will always be the final decision-maker.
The Facilitator: the role I usually play is the facilitator, which makes me responsible for leading a structured discussion process that keeps the group on track and achieves results. To accomplish this, I usually use a whiteboard to summarize the discussion as it moves forward. I also ensure that discussions are focused on specific agenda topics. After the meeting, it is also my responsibility to provide members with a meeting report in the form of minutes that include, at a minimum:
- Date, time, place, agenda, names of attendees
- For each agenda item: the person responsible, the results expected, the results achieved and any amplifying comments
- Background or reference information as required
Members: the members are responsible for reading and understanding all advance material, and for fully preparing for and participating in all discussions.
Prior to each Management Team meeting, each team member should be provided a file that includes an outline of what will be discussed in the forthcoming meeting/s, their role in the team and their expected contribution. To keep each team member up-to-date with happenings in the company, this outline should also be accompanied by any materials that have been issued since the last meeting, i.e., press releases, promotional emails which have deployed, new additions to the company website, and so on. Attendees should be encouraged to take notes during the meeting so they leave armed with next steps.
In terms of how often and how many times a Management Team should meet in a fiscal year, this is really subject to the extent and depth of your strategic plan. Regardless of the extent, however, my recommendation would be to start off with a monthly meeting, and continue meeting each month for the first three months. It will be at this time that you might want to adjust the meeting frequency to be bi-monthly – even quarterly. Only you and the other team members will be able to judge the effectiveness of meeting more, or less, often.
Establishing the agenda
Because the Management Team is primarily meeting to oversee the execution of the strategic business plan, the most important and repetitive part of the agenda, comprises a month-to-date, year-to-year review, and a discussion regarding how the plan is working.
Within the context of managing the execution of the plan, those individuals who are responsible for executing certain elements of the plan should be made part of the reporting process, even if they are not a permanent member of the Management Team. In other words, if the company just completed a trade show, the Sales Manager should attend the Management Team meeting and give a report as to the outcome of the show.
To keep the meetings interesting and pertinent, certain areas of the plan should receive focus at each meeting, (i.e., marketing, sales, etc.) In this way, each strategic area that impacts the company’s future success is totally discussed at least once during the ensuing meetings.
This is not to say that part of the meeting should not be less structured, with conversation and debate on topics that may be of importance to the company, including issues such as hiring professionals, education and training, expense control, marketing and sales and product development. However, keep the following points in mind when setting agendas:
- Everyone’s time is valuable, so ensure that topics are of high importance and critical to the success of the company. Don’t waste time discussing irrelevant issues
- Don’t structure an overly ambitious agenda. Cover only what can be accomplished in a particular session
- Think outside-the-box. Focus on strategic issues. You don’t need high-level executives to deal with operational implementation
The Benefits of a Management Team
The key benefits of utilizing a Management Team to assist in the operation of your business include:
- Close adherence to meeting the goals and objectives laid out in your strategic business plan
- Ensuring the tactics accepted by your Management for execution in the company’s fiscal year are carried out – both efficiently and effectively
- Ability to more effectively change course by maintaining a careful watch on company and industry trends
A Management Team is a powerful business tool, and when executed properly, establishing and maintaining a Management Team will broaden your perspective and help increase your growth and profitability. In my experience, it will be your first step to starting the journey to the next level.