You may be surprised to learn that your American Bar Association recommends an annual law firm retreat focused on strategic planning. If you have a chance, check out the latest issue of Law Practice magazine and just flip through their articles on strategic planning, leadership and firm retreats.
“Few will question that we are in a time of unprecedented change for the legal profession. However, most law firms struggle to create, much less implement, effective strategic plans that will help them adapt to the evolving world of legal services.”
– Building for the Future with an Effective Strategic Plan, Law Practice magazine, 2017.
As I wrote yesterday, your retreat may begin with guided Horse Work on Day One. Our goals for the Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) are to help you discover new ways of thinking, collaborating and leading. We may uncover some dysfunctions and try out new ways of resolving them. As facilitators, we will debrief the exercises, frequently raising issues that everyone is thinking about but reluctant to say out loud. Working with the horses helps overcome inhibitions and establishes a new framework of honesty and trust.
The Long Game: Strategic Planning
The EAL debrief leads naturally into the first stages of long term strategic planning. Remember that you won’t be focusing on financial reports or short-term matters. You will spend this time focusing forward on the long-game. You will explore such strategic issues as:
- What are our unique strengths? How are these relevant to our clients, and how can we leverage them?
- What are our weaknesses? How do they impact our ability to grow? What can we do to address them?
- What threats do we need to be prepared to meet? Have we overlooked threats to our business model that may be coming from disruptive technology, changing cultural values, or changing demographics in our market? How are we responding now, and what plans could we make to respond in the future?
- What opportunities exist now – or in the future – for growth, and how do we capitalize on them? Are there opportunities we need to seize, and are they in alignment with our business strategy?
- What is our Why? Why are we doing this work, what brought us to this practice area, to this community? What are our core values, and is our business strategy in perfect alignment with our values?
- What are our goals, for both the near- and long-term? Can we quantify those goals, and set an action plan to achieve them? What are our benchmarks? How will we measure progress?
These are discussions that start on Day One and continue throughout the morning of Day Two. As we facilitate the discussion, we also capture comments, ideas, doubts and conflict.
The Green Sticky Wall
We use a very visual method to help you discover themes, trends and gaps. It’s fairly simple, but our clients who have gone through the process swear by it’s effectiveness. It’s called a Sticky Wall, and we use it in every retreat. At first, every brainstorming idea is captured on index cards and affixed to the wall. After the initial brainstorming session, you start analyzing the concepts, looking for strategic alignment, themes, trends and gaps in your thinking. You will regroup, edit and organize your thoughts -- right there on the wall.
Oftentimes, we’ll leave this Sticky Wall up overnight and revisit it on the morning of Day Two. Clients frequently start re-arranging or even removing some of the cards. You’ll probably shoot a photo of the wall with your cell phone, anxious to capture the creative thinking so you can go back to it time and again gathering fresh insight with each review.
Strategic Listening; Discovering Your Story
Many of our clients begin the strategic planning discussion to discover their unique message that will serve as the foundation and guiding principle for their business and marketing.
Our process is unique and very personal. As I facilitate the strategic planning discussion, both James Campbell and Michael Campbell sit in and take notes. They may occasionally have questions and push for more when we talk about various issues. I call this strategic listening. James is the script master and Michael is the video artist. They are listening for your common themes and the flash in your eyes that conveys your passion. In other words, they are listening for you to reveal your story.
They take pictures of the Sticky Wall, too, to jog their memories and guide their thoughts. They will usually stay up late into the wee hours of Day Three, story boarding and script writing. They don’t rest until they are satisfied they have captured your Why and have a plan to tell your story in a powerful, compelling way.
When we reconvene on the morning of Day Three, they pitch the script for your brand story video. This can be an emotional moment for you.
One client literally cried and said:
I can’t believe you guys really get me. I’ve been struggling to find these words for years, but I could never say it in a way that didn’t sound sappy. You’ve done it, you have really done it!
We understand, hearing your own story, told with eloquence and passion, can really get to you. And it’s almost impossible to do this yourself. We are too close to our own stories. We either share too much, making it all about our own experience; or we keep up our defenses and don’t share enough, resulting a stale, impersonal story that does not resonate with clients.
Our goal is help you discover your story, and then help you tell it in a way that connects with clients. When clients hire you, they are buying in to your story. With this type of marketing, clients are anxious to meet with you, feel like they already know you, and are pre-sold on the idea of working with you.
Here is an example of the kind of personal, compelling stories that arise from this process.
Meet our client, Mike Mastry of St. Petersburg, FL.
So, at the end of the day, how does all this wrap up? I’ll write about that tomorrow.
Call James now to discuss your 2018 strategic planning retreat. Discover whether this is a good fit and a wise investment for you and your firm. Remember, we have very limited availability so call sooner rather than later. Most retreats are scheduled at least two months in advance. You can reach James by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling our toll-free number: 1-877-352-2021.