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  • Writer's pictureKeith Kemph

Strategic Planning During Challenging Times

Lending in today’s climate certainly has its trials. While awaiting the fed and markets to do what’s right for consumers the lending industry continues to struggle. Thousands laid off, hundreds of businesses shuttered. The lack of stability will force any CEO to have their head down trying to navigate day-to-day survival.

It’s during times like this that the list of timeless challenges for successfully running a business are only magnified. Trying to find new areas for growth, developing your people, nurturing healthy communications and culture, confidently managing the P&L, execution of sales and marketing strategies. While all critical components any miss on juggling these sensitive pieces can have a dramatic impact on your workplace productivity or even lead to loss revenue, increased expenses, and turnover.

What is leadership to do, to set themselves up for exponential growth when the market does, and it will, turn back toward the positive? Albeit a very slow and cautionary turn back to positive. The switch won’t just flip.

To begin, first, leadership must take a deep breath and pause. Intentionally block out time on the calendar for effective strategic planning over the next 12 to 24 months. Whether it’s one week or pockets of time spread out over 30 days, it doesn’t matter. The key is to be intentional on gaining perspective of where you’ve been, lessons learned, and map out where you are going.

Next, define or revisit your vision for who you want to be to the marketplace. What problems are you wanting to solve, what value are you wanting to bring your clients? Acknowledge and journal the delta between your original vision and how it has evolved since coming off record years in lending. Record years production is where the vision, mission, and values of a firm can easily get lost. Articulate the refined value proposition you now want your business to focus on then document what are the key changes in your business model today that will be needed to achieve the revised vision, mission, objectives. Is it new product offerings like consumer or chattel loans so your more diversified to bring more value to your community? Is it being a critical resource for supporting the growing demand of seniors via reverse lending? Is it to rebuild your brand around providing world class service like Ritz Carlton? Who do you want to be in the marketplace when the market comes back? And know that it will. It always does.

Now take inventory of what changes your business will physically need to design, build, and implement to achieve the renewed, crystal-clear, strategy surrounding your products and services. Documenting the gaps in sales, marketing, service, operations, technology, and people. Documenting the prescriptions and dependencies for closing these gaps and successfully making the required changes. The key components of your project plan are not only prioritizing these changes based on cost benefit analysis, current budget, and capacity but equally important is implementing the change management project plan to both guide your existing organization through these changes but to ensure your infrastructure is set up for scalable growth under the refined vision, mission, and values your firm will focus on.

With the mission critical components of your renewed strategic plan in clear view, now is the time to plot out the project plan into a realistic timeline with an initial start and end date. Recognize that the end date will evolve as various dependencies, costs, and people will impact the overall project plan.

Now execute. Sure, it sounds easier said than done. Up to this point, the strategic planning process for a leadership team is generally a smaller team effort that is contained throughout its development. However, when it comes to a small, medium, or large transformational strategy shift it will now require 100% support of the organization to fully execute.

A startling fact as we have found with our Clients, is that, respectfully, seven in ten leaders are exceptional visionaries but cannot lead their organization to execute on their desired strategy. Understandably so as visionaries rarely possess the required skills to execute. While the vision or beachhead may be clear, orchestrating, leading and managing execution can often be lost on them as they shift back into the visionary role. In the end, nothing matters unless your team can execute. Executive teams need to arm themselves with effective program management and change management strategies, frameworks, and methodologies to know they will be one of the three that succeed.

Keith Kemph is President & CEO of BlackFin Group, a management consulting firm that specializes in the banking, mortgage, and financial services industry. Keith has dedicated his career to helping firms ensure successful execution of critical business and technology projects to help them operate more efficiently and effectively. Keith's career includes management and executive roles with Citigroup, Bank of America, Dime Bank, Merrill Lynch and nearly a decade with a traditional top tier consulting firm in the financial services industry. For more information contact

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