Bringing in an external facilitator to assist in the strategic planning process improves results in several ways, says Brent Grover in The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors. Brent recommends bringing in outside help to guide the process, for the outside perspective it provides and because of the role a facilitator plays in ensuring an accurate assessment of a company’s strengths and weaknesses.
Grover says an outside facilitator helps planning team members flesh out and prioritize initiatives, and helps them to think broadly without losing focus.
A facilitator also ensures the planning team’s growth plans don’t overtake the company’s resources. “The facilitator will help the CEO determine how much risk is acceptable. Many times the leader’s goals for the business aren’t possible without borrowing a great deal of money, personally guaranteeing bank debt, diluting ownership by finding investors or possibly investing personal capital in the business,” Brent says.
Outside facilitators are also instrumental in gathering the internal and external feedback that will serve as the foundation for planning efforts. A facilitator can screen employee surveys to ensure workers’ anonymity, which encourages participants’ candor.
He or she can also make the difference when it comes to obtaining feedback from suppliers, as Brent explains in a case study of a safety products distributor that was experiencing friction in its key supplier relationships: “An outside facilitator’s meeting with the suppliers without the distributor present revealed the root causes of the problems,” Brent says. The distributor, armed with this highly accurate feedback, was able to take actions that rectified the problem.
See Chapter 3 in The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors to read the full case study.