Strategic Planning Retreats – A Question Guide

Every year businesses and organizations everywhere set aside time for strategic planning sessions. It is the perfect occasion to put a shine on the business’ vision and adjust its direction. In some cases it is little more than an afternoon in the conference room with coffee and cookies. In other cases it’s an off-site weekend away affair complete with break-out sessions and social activities.

Regardless of the event structure, strategic planning is an important function for all the stakeholders of a company. Stakeholders are everyone who benefits from, or is concerned with, an enterprise. Even a home-based business owner needs to set aside time to come to accounts with past and current functions and weigh those against future needs and aspirations.

Strategic planning sessions or retreats should involve both big picture overview as well as detailed action planning. These exercises are necessary in order to set goals and milestones that are real and achievable. These sessions are as valid for a non-profit philanthropic organization as for a for-profit company.

  • goal: objective or target – has specific language and target date
  • milestone: sub-objectives that indicate where you are on the road to the goal

In all cases there are basic questions that should be addressed in 4 key categories:

  1. the business itself
  2. the business’ offerings
  3. the business’ customers
  4. the business’ future

1. Questions to ask and consider about The Business:

  • Who is your company? Who are the principle players? The stakeholders?
  • What is the declared purpose of your business? Are you a for-profit enterprise? Are you a non-profit organization with a philanthropic base? Is the purpose at the core of your vision larger than its details?
  • What do you hope to achieve?
  • What differentiates your business from another that is similar? What is your uniqueness?
  • Is your business small? Independently owned? Relatively low volume of sales?
  • Is your business large? Multiple layers of organization? Board of directors? Stock holders?
  • Do you know how big (or small) you want or desire your business to be? Do you want a business large in annual profit margin? Large in philanthropic outreach? Big in the numbers of people it touches?
  • Is your business a manufacturer? Distributor? Supplier? Service provider?
  • Are you meeting the needs of your employees? How do you know? What do you have in place that tells you?
  • Who benefits from your business’ daily operations and in what ways?

2. Questions to ask and consider about the Business’ Offerings:

  • Can you describe your products and services? Do you know when to add improvements? Do you know when to retire a product or service?
  • Who benefits from your products or services? Do you know what your products/services’ intrinsic values are? Their perceived value from your customers’ points of view?
  • Who are your competitors?

3. Questions to ask and consider about the Business’ Customers and Clients:

  • Does your business have non-profitable users? – these are people/entities that use the services of your business but do not pay for the service. There is no profit realized from users. Do you know why this would be an advantage for your business?
  • Who are your paying customers? Do you know where they are? Do you know all the ways in which you can communicate with them?
  • How do you know you are meeting your customers’ needs?
  • Can your customers find you easily? Communicate with you easily? Is it time for an internet presence? Is it time to offer both in-person point-of-sale and online website purchasing?
  • Are your customers aware of all your purchasing policies (everything from delivery and shipping issues to refunds and returns)?
  • Why should your customers/clients care about your products/services? Your company as an entity?

4. Questions to ask and consider about the Business’ Future:

  • Where do you want to go? Do you have an ideal picture of what your business or organization can be?
  • Is growth part of your plan? Does your business have the ability to grow from small to large? How would this be measured? Is the risk worth the expanse plans?
  • How will you take the next step of growth?
  • Is it time to downsize? To diversify?
  • Do you have a road map of strategies to get you where you want to go? Simplistically, do you know where you want to be in one year’s time? – in terms of staff? In terms of profitability? In terms of marketplace position?
  • What does your company give back? To its employees? Its other stakeholders? The community-at-large?
  • How do you measure/celebrate milestones?
  • How do you know you are on track with your business plan?

Knowing which questions to ask in a strategic planning session can help facilitate the expectations and goals of the session and make the entire process more valuable to all participants. It’s also good to be reminded that every part of a business needs to be assessed and dusted off periodically…life doesn’t stand still and neither should your business.

Building Design Trends – Outdoor Rooms

Dream houses comprise of lavish rooms, nice furniture, a swimming pool, and a relaxing outdoor room under the warm sun. If you are planning to build a house that has these features, there are a few things that you need to take note of.

But for now, you can leave the decoration of your rooms and the construction of your swimming pool to the professionals. This time, you will be hands on in dealing with how you will be designing the outdoor room in the dream house that you are building.

Decide why you want it. For some, needing to have an outdoor room may be out of the question. But, there are some who want to have it. This can be because of the enjoyment of it. Having a space in your home where you can relax and be with the outdoors seems like an appealing idea.

This area can be used for studying, for parties, or for weekend family picnics. And if you are planning to use this with the whole family, make sure the area can take in all the family members.

Get the right furniture. You might have come across people who have outdoor rooms and complain about too much sun or too much rain that ruin that furniture. This shouldn’t be the case. One should expect that there will always be rain or sun.

There is a lot of garden furniture that will work best on any outdoor set up. Aside from ensuring the durability of the tables and chairs, you may be adding accessories. Wood is a good material to add but it will be less durable as, for example, stone accessories.

Create good hardscaping. This pertains to the foundation of your outdoor room. Choose the sturdiest ones as these will last the longest. Stones or bricks will work well for this task. However, this can take up much of the budget as ideally, the hardscaping should cover a sizable area that can accommodate furniture that are present.

If you already have a patio or a deck available, they will make good foundations. Plus, you will be able to save a lot if you are to utilize these existing structures.

Include essentials. If your purpose is to create or improve your garden, the outdoor room can be a good location for a pergola. These can be set up as walls of that room and at the same time house the vines that you want to include.

For those who have these rooms serve as outdoor kitchens, it will be necessary to include counters or bars. Fire pits and water features may be added as needed.

Know the trends. Just like any other part of the house, outdoor rooms and tastes for it do change from time to time. In terms of color, the regions dictate the trends. You can look at what your neighbors have and make your own from there. The color may depend on the theme that you want your outdoor room to have or it may accompany the design of your house.

Kitchen Canisters Help With the Room’s Decorative Theme

The eye takes in a lot of things all at one, but many times one of the first things a person sees when they come into a kitchen is the canisters. It doesn’t matter whether the room is big or small, kitchen canisters are often the decorative touch that brings everything else together. These containers often create an ambiance or tell a story. They help intertwine the kitchen’s decorative scheme with their color, shape, and design. However, they are much more than an item we consider pretty. They also keep the kitchen organized and clean.

The majority of kitchen canisters are bought in sets. It is rare to find one by itself, unless it is at a flea market or garage sale. Sometimes these individual canisters are considered antiques, but they might not be appropriate for storing food. When you purchase a canister set, they often come with racks and knobs. They can be made out of different materials and can have intricate designs painted on them. Some designs are printed, while others are more classic and plain. The goal is to pick a canister that fits your kitchen’s theme with the right kind of design and color.

Some sets are all the same size, while others are sold in different shapes and sizes, usually going from largest to smallest. This way you can place them in descending or ascending order and can hold different kinds of food. It is important that the canisters are capable of keeping food safe and free of bugs. Otherwise, the container isn’t useful. It needs to keep the dry goods and food articles fresh.

Kitchen canisters will help keep your room organized, but it will also bring your decorating scheme together. The goal is to pick one that fits the design of the room.