MAY 2009
Salvaging Millions

The strategic planning advantage
Part 2 of 2

Last month we discussed how most small businesses just don’t make the time to do strategic planning, so they don’t grow as fast as they otherwise might, and they are always in a response mode, not ready for future conditions. Many big businesses have a systematic method for analyzing future initiatives, quantifying their value and choosing which ones to undertake.

I learned this method after I sold my business to Ford almost a decade ago, and I’ve seen it used successfully many times in my dealings with investment bankers and other stake holders in the businesses that I have managed or that used my consultation services. Recently, I shared this method with a few small business owners. They were thrilled because this tool makes strategic planning much easier.

I’d like to share it with you. It’s called “big and easy analysis,” it’s simple, and it works.

Take a white board or sheet of paper and divide it into four sections by drawing a cross on it. The cross will be labeled with two word pairs (Small-Big) and (Easy-Difficult). Label one end of the horizontal line Small and the other end Big. Label one end of the vertical line Easy and the other end Difficult.

Now number each initiative that you are considering as part of your strategic plan. As your planning group analyzes the value of the initiative, place its number in quadrant that corresponds to how difficult or easy it is and how big or small the value of the initiative is to your business.

At the completion of the exercise, you should have all of your initiatives mapped. The tool gives you a clear way to spot the initiatives that are easy and have a big impact on your results. You will likely want to start with those big and easy initiatives and then cherry pick from the others.

You can do this analysis alone, but you’ll only get a fraction of the value. I suggest that business owners do the analysis with a small group of fellow business owners who are not competitors. The five to six member groups act as a brain trust and analyze initiatives for each member in succession.

This method is powerful because you can tap the wisdom of five other business owners in creating your strategic plan. Perhaps one of the other members of your brain trust has tried something similar to an initiative you’re evaluating. Tapping your team can greatly improve the chances of hitting on an initiative that makes money.

A brain trust is a success when each member leaves with a much better plan than they could have created alone. Tapping into the collective intelligence of a brain trust is a great way to make sure your view is objective and your priorities are dead on. The strategic planning sessions allow business owners to write a strategic plan in an environment where they are undisturbed and in the company of peers motivated to help promote mutual success. Contact me if you are interested in attending such a brain trust planning session or feel free to use the tool on your own.

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Ron Sturgeon is past owner of AAA Small Car World. In 1999, he sold his six Texas locations, with 140 employees, to Greenleaf. In 2001, he founded North Texas Insurance Auction, which he sold to Copart in 2002. In 2002, his book “Salvaging Millions” was published to help small business owners achieve significant success, and was recently reprinted. In June 2003, he joined the new ownership and management team of GreenLeaf. He also manages his real estate holdings and investments. You can learn more about him at He can be reached at 5940 Eden, Haltom City, TX 76117, or 817-834-3625 ext 6#.