When developing a strategic plan, many companies go offsite once a year for a “retreat.” But is there a better way? Next time you tackle your strategic plan, consider this advice.

Quit “retreating!”

Retreating is an inherently defensive and reactionary move — it implies the leaders of the company are leaving the field with their tails between their legs. Employees may ask themselves: Why are they hiding? Is it time to wave the white flag? Will we be able to keep our personal firearms and horses?

Retreating implies passive reflection and regrouping, whereas a strategic planning session should involve decisive action. Consider an alternative label for your strategic planning event. Depending on the focus and circumstances, it can be called a company renovation or renewal meeting or a planning rally. No matter which term you choose, your employees and co-participants will have vastly improved mindsets about the process.

Location, location, location When holding a strategic planning event, choose a comfortable, neutral setting and establish an atmosphere of safe and open communication.

In TAB, we refer to this as a TABenos, which is based on the Greek concept of temenos, or an area that’s set aside from everyday use. It should be a sort of sanctuary dedicated to accomplishing the work of deep reflection and planning — so, not a busy conference room, or even the boss’ house.

Having trouble doing this yourself? Consider a facilitator.

Along with creating a productive physical space, set expectations by establishing an “Up Front Contract” for the event that includes clearly defined outcomes and goals. You could also consider using a trained and experienced facilitator to lead the meeting.

A facilitator can:

  • Manage meeting time so it is used efficiently.
  • Make sure everyone feels heard.
  • Help people find common ground, come to agreements and make decisions.
  • Help the team surface individual and collective undercurrents, manage conflicts and come to some resolution.
  • Make sure that the next actions are clear and that all understand what is to happen in the future.

Not surprisingly I’m a facilitator who would love to help you with making your next strategic offsite a success.

It’s all in the timing

How often do you work on your strategic plan? The majority of TAB Members who answered our Small Business Pulse Survey indicated that they review and adjust their strategic plan every quarter, whereas the majority of non-TAB Members only adjusted their plan annually.

Checking in more regularly with your strategic plan is the key to keeping your business on track. It can also improve your outlook: TAB Members were 9 percentage points more likely to consider their local economy as improving than non-TAB Members.

That doesn’t mean you need to hold a formal planning session with your entire team every three months. Over half of all business owners also told us they don’t rely on a workshop or retreat for developing their strategic plan.

Don’t leave planning to chance

Business owners who describe their strategic plan as “good” or “excellent” were much more likely to project an increase in profits over the next year than owners without a plan. But an excellent plan doesn’t do much if it simply sits on a bookshelf and is never looked at again.

Make sure your plan has a chance at success by creating a follow-up process that includes clear assignments, deliverables, and accountability. Finally, be sure the plan is communicated to all employees — especially those who didn’t participate in the planning session.

Those who move forward without a plan are indeed planning to fail. The strategic planning event, however it is labeled, is an essential best practice to keep your business moving toward its goals. It’s worth the time to do it right!


If it’s time to revisit your strategic plan, TAB Membership offers exclusive access to our tools to help you do just that–our Business Builder’s Blueprint. Find out if this tool is right for your business.