Rick Bryan was ready for a change. He and his staff at Bryan
Equipment Sales Inc. had been going through the same old
process each year to develop the company’s key strategies for the
coming year. They all knew it was time to move on to something
new. “It had kind of gone through its cycle,” says Bryan, the company’s president. “We had been doing that strategy session for the
last eight years and had done well with it, but eight years is a long
time to do the same type of strategy planning.” Just as the company was itching for something different, Tom Jones, the company’s chairman, happened to meet a gentleman from a consulting
firm at a chamber of commerce meeting. Over the past two year,
the consultant has helped the company, an independent distributor of STIHL power tools and products, develop a new planning
process that is more technical and allows for more interaction
Bryan says that you can get stuck in the same old routine, day in
and day out. Having initiatives and goals in place can help keep
employees on track, so they know what they should be working
for each day. They have also helped the company continue to grow
during the past 60 years in business.
“It’s important that we set initiatives and goals that are tied to our
growth goal that everybody throughout the company can look to
and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do this year, and we’re going
to do it because we feel like we’re going to hit X percent growth,’”
he says. “We believe that if we do X, then at the end of the year, it
is an element to our success.”
By developing strategies each year and involving employees in
the process, Bryan has set a path that his employees have bought
in to and are striving to reach together.
Develop the strategies
The first thing you have to do is to figure out exactly what you
want to achieve for the year. Bryan and 11 members of his staff
spent several days off-site with the consultant to come up with the
company strategies for the year.
Using a consultant helps to get the process started. Bryan says
you should find someone who fits your culture and understands
your company and your industry. Seeking advice from your local
chamber of commerce, trade associations and professional advisers can help you in finding the right consultant to use.
With the help of the consultant, the company uses a technology-based compared analysis system, which puts all the choices up on
a screen for the staff to sift through.
Before the meeting, employees are given a particular topic to
research and then report back on how the company is achieving it,
why it is important and how it could be improved upon. They also
look at the challenges, risks and opportunities for that topic over
the next year. These are then used when coming up with strategies
for the coming year and also to get employees involved in the
“You come up with 20 ideas that you think are going to take you
to the next level and then you do comparisons,” Bryan says. “This or this? This or this? Which is more important? Do you like this
one slightly, moderately or more than the one above? Or do you
like the one above slightly, moderately or more than the one below
it? You ask that against every bucket of opportunity, and it narrows
it down for you of what the whole group thinks is most important
and will achieve the objectives for the year on revenue and profit.”
The top choices are ranked in order, so then you have to narrow
down your ideas to the ones that are the most important. It needs
to be a manageable number of ideas that you can actually work on
implementing throughout the year. Bryan drives this process to get
the staff to agree on the best strategies for the company.
“You could come up with 10, but we are firm believers that you
can’t do more than five or six things,” Bryan says. “You can do the
other ones, but you need to pick five or six that people can remember. If you pick 10, nobody’s going to be remembering, you’ll just
never be able to remember it or act on it. It’s better to do five
things right than 10 things halfway right.”
Some of the strategies the company picked to focus on for 2009
include accessory sales, improving forecasting and selling into
different segments of the market more efficiently.
While this type of strategy development might seem fast, since
the company spends less than two days actually determining the
strategies, the method is more interactive because of the technology and easier to develop conclusions on the best strategies.
Getting employees involved in the process also helps them
understand the strategies better, and in turn, they help others
understand them, as well.
“As a group we’re always going to come up with better ideas
than a single person could,” Bryan says. “It tentacles out through
the entire organization. If we’re all involved with it and all can
verbalize it and repeat it and live it, sleep it, drink it, eat it,
breathe it, then the rest of the company does also.”
You also need to make sure you’re involved in the development
process, as it shows employees that you are a part of the team and
care about the strategies of the company. Bryan was right there with
his co-workers, presenting a topic and suggesting ideas regarding
strategies. He says if you’re not going to be part of the process, you
might as well not even be in the room helping with it.
It’s easy to come out of strategy development sessions, but you
also want everyone to understand the strategies before you start
the implementation phase, so you need buy-in.
“If you buy in to the fact that the five or six things you pick are
going to make a difference over the next 12 months to help you
achieve your revenue and profit goals, then you need to buy in to
it and your managers need to buy in to that so that it permeates
throughout the entire organization,” Bryan says.
Developing that buy-in goes back to making sure you pick the
strategies that are the most important for your company.
“If you just pick five things that you don’t think are going to help
you at all, then yeah, it’s going to sit on the shelf and nobody’s
going to buy in to it,” Bryan says. “It does start with that process
of, ‘These are five or six things that we’re either not currently doing
or not performing as well as we think we can, that we believe in
our hearts will make a difference in our next 12-month results.’ If
you honestly don’t believe that, then the process was a waste of
time and go back to work and do what you were doing before.”
Implement the strategies
Once your strategies are in place and you have formed that
buy-in with those involved in the development, you need to start
implementing the strategies and involving the employees. Each
strategy at Bryan Equipment is given an owner, and that person
then sets the timeline and action plan for the year to achieve that
strategy. Having an owner in charge of each strategy makes sure
that it is being worked on and achieved by employees.
“You’ve got to have an owner; somebody’s got to be accountable in the end,” he says. “Did it get done or not, was it successful or not, did it achieve results and goals at the end?”
Developing the timeline and plan is the sole responsibility of the
owner, but the staff is there to provide guidance to him or her.
The goals within the plan have to be measurable so employees
can actually reach them.
“If it is not measurable, then it is not worth doing,” Bryan says.
“Would anyone watch the Super Bowl if we did not keep score?”
You need to make sure the timeline proposed for achieving each
goal is reasonable and that all resources needed to achieve it are
available to the owner of each goal. All numbers and statistics for
the goals are measured, then reviewed monthly to determine what
type of progress is being made.
Employees are measured through progress reports, and once they
achieve the goals, they are compensated through bonuses. Tying
bonuses directly into the action plan not only holds employees
accountable but also gets them motivated about achieving the goals.
“The employees are recognized at the end of the year with, hopefully, a substantial check that shows they achieved their goal that
helped us all reach our sales and profit goal,” Bryan says.
There are points, though, when working on the strategies, that
employees learn that the goals may be set too high and need to be
readjusted. Bryan says as long as employees bring evidence as to
why the goal is too high and everyone agrees on it, the goal can be
As the year goes on and challenges come up, it’s easy to let the
strategies slip away. You need to keep them at the forefront and reinforce them so everyone remains focused on them.
“You get reactive,” Bryan says. “It’s in the upfront process that these
five or six or however many you might come up with are always
proactive and going to make a difference for the following 12 months.
We meet monthly with our staff. The first three slides we show at
every meeting every month are our mission statement, our strategy,
and our five or six initiatives for the next 12 months, so it’s in front of
every employee monthly.”
Bryan says the strategies the company has developed through
this process have led to successes and helped the company grow.
For example, one of the strategies in 2008 was to achieve 58 percent of orders coming through their system electronically. The
company was at 40 percent at the beginning of 2008 and had
already reached 60 percent by September.
Bryan says developing and implementing new strategies can help
you deal with changes that happen to your business.
“If you continue to do the same thing every day and expect change,
that’s not going to happen,” Bryan says. “The initiatives and strategies are trying to get out of that, doing the same thing day after day
after day, and then looking at yourself at the end of the year and saying, ‘Why didn’t we grow?’ Even if we picked six bad ones and then
don’t grow, at least we tried something. If we come in and do the
same old, same old every day, I’m not sure we would make it another 60 years.”
HOW TO REACH: Bryan Equipment Sales Inc., (513) 248-2000 or www.bryanequipment.com