On-Demand Webcast: Foundations for the Future--Strategic Roadmap for Real Estate Families

October 07, 2020

Strategic planning is part art and part science, and a well-facilitated process can ensure that your plan is both a reflection of who you are and the potential of what your business can be in the future. Our speakers will discuss ways you can create a plan that can help you to both survive in a tough market and take full advantage of the better times to come.


Transcript

Hello and welcome to the Foundations for the Future Real Estate Family webcast series. We are really pleased that you all could join us. And I have to say, I'm delighted to be here with my colleagues. We've got some important things to talk about today because recent events have been very challenging for many of our real estate clients. And we've seen so many business owners that are just struggling to figure out what is this new normal? And what's it going to look like? How is it going to impact their businesses, both in the short-term and in the long term? Today, we want to focus on how planning can help us to address some of those concerns.

Lise Stewart:But first, let's just get a little bit of context. Lisa Knee, I am so pleased that you're here with us today. I think this is going to be a great conversation. Why don't you take just a minute or two to really introduce yourself and tell people what you do? And then can you maybe explain to us some of the questions or concerns that you're hearing from some of your real estate clients?

Lisa Knee:Sure. Thank you. So happy to be here with you and Matt as well. My name is Lisa Knee, I'm the co-chair of our real estate services practice, and I'm also the national practice leader for our real estate private equity fund services group. We represent owners, operators, developers, real estate private equity funds, really with all aspect of their consulting needs. And so, Lise, I think you hit it perfectly. Right now, we're in a world where there's uncertainty, unpredictability, and certainly in an industry where we look at trends and we really haven't been able to look at trends for what's going on in the world today. And so all those key indicators where we look to plan are no longer helpful. And so we're in a situation where people are really trying to understand how do we move forward and what is our new strategic roadmap for the future?

So the conversations that we've been having with clients are getting their back office in order so that they can look to the front of the office to make sure that they're making timely decisions, they can communicate with investors, and a lot of these investors are family members who may or may not be in the business. Tenants and vendors, all this communication and concerns is certainly first and forefront for what conversations we're having with our clients, prospects, and even just people out there in the marketplace. And more importantly, transparency, right? So transparency for all function and roles, as we're going to talk about, is really important so that we can sit there and understand what needs to be done, who's doing what, in any condition or market, whatever's happening out there in the world.

So all these conversations we're having, making sure that we're impactful, that we're setting forward the right roadmap for whatever the future may be, whether it's facilitating a growth environment or a preservation of assets environment. Those are the things that we're really trying to identify, prioritize, implement, put the governance in there, and then be able to redefine and reevaluate at the snap of a dime.

Lise Stewart:Right, right. You're absolutely on the right track there. There's just so many moving parts to really undertaking the strategic planning process. And we know that it's really important. And so, well, Matt, I'm going to turn to you now. I'm really happy that you're here. So why don't you take a minute to introduce yourself? And then maybe you can talk to us a little bit about some of the real barriers to planning. Why do people find it so difficult? And what are some of the first steps you undertake?

Matthew Kerzner:Great. First of all, thank you, Lise and Lisa, I'm very glad to be here with both of you this afternoon. So my name is Matthew Kerzner. I'm a director in the Center for Family Business Excellence and the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance. And my background is all human resources and organizational development. I work with different sized businesses and organizations to help them really perform at their best. And this is a perfect topic for today on what I do. And I will start by saying the first major barrier is a lot of people just really have a hard time being transparent with their communication and defining what it is that they're trying to do. So they might have symptoms that they're experiencing and they're not articulating and defining what they are to really get to the root cause of what they need to start planning for.

So you could have a team, I'll just use the number 10 as an example, you can have 10 executives who are really putting a strategic plan together or have to put a plan together. But what they're doing is they're not spending quality time having that transparent communication of what is it that they need to accomplish? What are the barriers that they're facing? What does it mean to be a barrier? So it's really defining what it is that we're saying, right? I always say what Lisa Knee is saying and what Lise Stewart is saying, you could be saying the same thing but interpreting it totally different.

So we go through what's called a discovery process, right? The first step that we do is we will meet with the executives, usually as a group, and define why we're doing this and explaining the importance of the discovery process. And I always say it's like going to the doctor and explaining that your pain is in your knee, right? You have this problem in your knee and you need to resolve it. But after you go through the discovery of working with the doctor and the doctor asking all the right questions and doing a physical, you find out that the pain is actually not in the knee, but actually in the ankle radiating to the knee. So the discovery process is a very important step when you're doing any type of understanding of a strategic plan.

So usually, what we do is after we meet with the group and explain what we're doing, and we introduce ourselves, I will then set up a series of individual interviews. And I have a set of questions that we'll send each person ahead of time. Not that they have to do any major prep work, but they see what we're going to ask. And it gives them an opportunity to clarify any questions before we start. And then when we do that and I speak to each individual, I am looking for themes and categories in my conversations with the people that I'm speaking to.

And after I do that, I can then outline all of the things that people are feeling, thinking, experiencing, maybe some of the emotions that are going on. I can ask for clarity on what they're saying. And then I usually put together a report or a PowerPoint presentation specifically on the strategic roadmap, because that's the topic we're talking about. So when we do get together as a large group to do the strategic planning session, I already have a good sense on each individual's thoughts, their perspectives, their definitions. So when we do start working together, we're not talking about the pain in the knee, we're actually talking about the pain in the ankle and how it's impacting the knee, and what does that mean to each person?

So barriers are real, emotions are real. But when you go through the discovery process and you spend quality time with each individual, and that's about an hour per interview that we do, once we gather all that data, then it makes the process go so much smoother. The biggest issue is if you don't do a discovery process or allow each individual to express their feelings and thoughts, you're getting into a strategic session and you end up having to really go back and forth with everybody to clarify what they mean before you can move forward. So I'm answering the question, I'm being lengthy about it, but it's the discovery process is so important to identify the barriers and be able to move forward.

Lise Stewart:Yeah, I agree. And I think it's worth clarifying too, Matt, that sometimes we have to work with the business owners, with the family, the leadership team to decide who should be involved in that discovery process. So it really does depend on the structure of the business. Sometimes that we might say that there may be a board or there may be a very involved family with numerous family members in key positions, or they may really be relying on outside family members who are really the managers and leaders in the business. So I think that as we start to embark on this discovery process, what we're trying to do is to identify who are the key decision makers and who are those who are in a position to truly think strategically, as opposed to just operationally? We would really hope that if there's a board, that they're really focusing on those strategic issues, right? And then, of course, on that key leadership. But at least in my experience, and I think in yours too, we sometimes have a blend of people who are involved in the strategic planning. Would you say that's true?

Matthew Kerzner:Yeah, absolutely. It's all different levels. And it is important to note when you're dealing with a family business, there are three major aspects. The ownership, the family that actually is either working in the business or is impacted by the business, and then you have the actual business itself. So you're absolutely right. You want to have a very diverse group of people in all of those areas that could express what's going on. That's really, truly going to help. And it's at all different levels that you need input.

Lise Stewart:Right. Makes perfect sense. So I know I've got a little cloud running around my screen, so give me a thumbs up if you can hear me okay. Okay, great. Fantastic. All right. So Matt, that's a really good start. And we do know from the research that a lot of families or a lot of business owners say to us that one of the barriers to doing their strategic planning is they just don't know where to begin. So you gave us a really good starting point with that discovery process. Lisa, I'm curious, as we think about this, when business owners are considering a strategic plan, what do you think are some of the questions that we need to be asking our clients or perhaps our clients need to be prepared to think about when we start considering some strategic planning?

Lisa Knee:Yeah. And I think you touched base on this a little bit, but a lot of it, sometimes the concerns are who are your investors? Is it family members? Do you have outside third-party investors that you're reporting to? Or is it a mix of both? You could have friends and families, you could have family that's in the business or not part of the business. And so understanding who your fiduciary responsibility is helps you also create that board, which is a great tee-up, Lise, right, to one of our continuing series when we're going to talk about how important that board strength is.

But really understanding the difference between the operations and the board, what those functions are, as you indicated before, and really getting to do a deep dive as to what you want to achieve in that identification process. What are the goals? Are you in, as I mentioned before, a growth mode where you're doing asset acquisitions? Or are you in a preservation mode where you know that you've got your core group of assets that you really want to maintain and preserve for the future, and maybe you're not looking to acquire or sell any assets at this point? You really just want to make sure that you're in that preservation mode. And that's really going to dictate as to how you set up your strategic plan for the future and what type of a core competency that you want internally and externally helping you make those decisions.

So it's really important, when you're sitting with that strategic roadmap, that you understand your own growth plan internally and externally, and how you want that to work for you. Once you have that figured out, then we can work and decide what makes sense internally with what type of people you need giving you advice, who you're speaking to, and what you're seeing out there in the marketplace.

Lise Stewart:Right. That's great. That makes perfect sense. And so, as companies are starting to think about trying to put together a plan, and maybe they've never done a strategic plan before, or maybe it's time to just simply upgrade what they have. And we've just talked about there's a lot of key questions to ask, there's some discovery, some understanding, trying to get a little bit of common language around what those key themes might be, et cetera. So, Matt, I know you do a lot of strategic planning and you have a wonderful strategic roadmap process, which we just we like the materials, we like the optics too. So maybe you can start out by telling us a little bit about what is the process? What are these next steps? And how do you go about it?

Matthew Kerzner:Yep. Great. Thank you. Melody, if you could actually move to the slide, that'd be great, so everybody can see the visual of the strategic roadmap. What you see here is a process that I do follow, and I like to keep it very simple. The simple, the better, because I want to make sure everybody goes back to transparent communication and making sure everybody understands each part of the strategic roadmap. You want to make sure that once this roadmap is done, that there's an actual visual for all employees, could be the investors, whoever is really involved to make sure everybody is rowing in the same direction. Really what we want to do is we want to take a look at one, the past, the present and the future. I'll explain that a little later on in the webinar as well. When you go through this, what is the mission?

Why do we exist as an organization? After I've collected all the data from the discovery, and everybody has answered that question individually, I will ask him, "What is the mission of the organization? Can you define that to me?" I love to hear all the different interpretations of what that is. Then I collect that, I interpret what I hear, and then I can present to the larger group, what people are saying. You want to identify what that mission is. The second thing that we get into is the actual core values. What do we believe in as an organization? What do we believe in? What are the things that are really important to us? Then I really want to know, because the strategic roadmap is really the vision of the future. Where do we want to go a year from now three years from now, five years from now?

What do we want to be when we grow up? You can be very healthy. You could be in a very solid, what we call durability phase, of an organization, but you still want to grow and improve. What do we want to be? Vision is very important. Visionary thinking is very important. Those are the first three major steps to make sure everybody is on page of what's going on. Then I educate, or we educate in the center, how to put this in action. Once you know what your mission core values are and vision, what are the goals that we want to accomplish? I always stress that you want to keep them to five to seven goals. No more, because it might be just too much for the organization to really cascade this down to everybody. That's going to make this successful.

What are the goals and what do you want to accomplish? Then we follow a smart goal setting process, which I'm more than happy to explain that later on in the webinar as well. Then once you have your goals, there should be three major components that we really want to look at and analyze and define what is business development? How are we going to grow our business? Or if we need to pivot the business, what are new market areas or new ways of looking at things. What's going to help us grow our business or keep us sustainable. That's very important. We go through a whole exercise of creative thinking of, give ideas of how we can grow. I will tell you right now, there is no dumb idea. Brainstorming is just, let's get everything down on paper. Let's define it. Then we can do process of elimination.

If you allow free thinking, amazing things can happen. You want to do the business development. The second pillar that we really want to focus in on is operation efficiency. This is how do you do things better, faster, with quality, but really could help your bottom line of your profit and loss statement because you're doing things not as expensive. You could outsource things. You could bring in new technology. You could bring in new resources that can help you. Operation efficiency is another critical piece to be thinking about when you're doing the roadmap. The third, and I always say the most important because I'm in human resources and organizational development, is the people. It's the most important asset to any organization. What are you doing to develop your bench, the people that are working for you? How do we get them to the level that you want them to be?

That's through training and development. That is through identifying, Lisa Ni mentioned the competencies, the behaviors that you want your employees to really work and strive for. The people side of it is, do you have the right people in place, in the right positions doing the work that you need to do, because you can put the whole strategic roadmap together, but if you don't have the right people, they're not going to make it work for you, and you're going to struggle. Having the right people, working the plan, developing them, going through a performance process of giving them feedback, recognizing them when they're doing really well can really make a difference when you're doing your strategic plan. Then once you have these three pillars in place, then you can cascade it down to everybody in your organization so everybody knows what's expected of them, how they're going to be measured and how they're going to receive feedback in order to make sure they're doing the right things, or how do they improve? This is just a fundamental systematic process of putting your strategic plan together.

Lise Stewart:Great. Good. Thanks, Matt.

Lisa Knee:Can I jump in and ask a question?

Matthew Kerzner:Absolutely. You're more than happy to.

Lisa Knee:Okay. Sorry. This is a curve ball here. When you're sitting down with people, how long, in the best case scenario for a timeline, how long does it take to create a strategic roadmap and get that information out with a family or a group or organization that you're working with?

Matthew Kerzner:Great question. It all depends on the size of the organization. That's always a variable when we're working on this. A simple answer to your question is, if you do that discovery process properly and you get everybody's feedback and input ahead of time, you put a little head in before you actually get to, I call them a retreat, and a retreat could be a six to eight hour day retreat. Depending on the size of the organization, it could be two solid days of doing this, but it can be done in one full day session, what I call a working session. Or again, if there's a lot of complexity that's involved, I would probably say a total of two days or 16 hours to really work this plan. Then once you have an action item, then it's follow up. That's the critical piece here of holding each other accountable to make sure that the action items to actually make this strategic map a roadmap come alive is the critical part. I would say eight to 16 hours.

Lisa Knee:Thanks.

Lise Stewart: I think too, that some of our audience might have experienced strategic planning before where it might've taken weeks, if not months. I think that some of that depends on the amount of market research that people feel like they need to do. While the actual in the room creating and crafting the plan might be just, as Matt said, 16, 18 hours or so, there is often some work that has to be, that's associated with doing that, to make sure that you've got the right information. For example, some of our clients that Matt and I particularly have worked with, we have invited a strategic focus group. The way that that works is we identify what are some of the gaps in knowledge. If we've kind of got this bigger picture view, what we need to do strategically, but we're not quite sure, perhaps of some specific areas, maybe investment areas, maybe a growth opportunities and so on.

We just don't have the information, but we know that experts are out there. One way to tackle that is to invite two or three or four experts just for a morning, to come and have brunch and talk about some of these ideas. A lot of times experts in the field, or somebody who's actually already done this before, or is just interested in helping out. They are a lot of times, they're very willing to share their ideas to come along and just have a conversation. From that discussion, you can sometimes get some incredibly valuable information and you can explore things that you might not normally have ever really thought about. Just food for thought. I think it's important to realize that every business is a little bit different and sometimes we need to spend a little bit of time kind of gathering the information that's really important to you. We don't want to be afraid to think outside of the box, but it's such an important process to go through. One of the other things that we think, mm-hmm. Go ahead, Matt.

Matthew Kerzner: I think what's really important too, is when we go through the discovery process, we will be able to, and I say we, the center, whoever's going through this exercise with our clients, we actually, once we start gathering this data, that actually will help us understand what has been done in the past and what is the current state. That, to your point, Lisa Stewart, that will help us understand if we need to bring in other experts or other people to the table to help, or what data additional data needs to be collected.

Lise Stewart:Right, right. Perfect. I agree. I think maybe some of our clients might be familiar with the term SWOT, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, which is a very common starting place. We often do encourage people to include that in the discovery process. That being said, I think today, a lot of people are really focusing on what some of those threats, those risks are. Lisa, I know that some of your clients are involved with things such as disaster recovery plans. I think it's worth spending a little bit of time thinking about how do we integrate something like that and what are some of the questions that they need to be asking, or the types of planning that they need to be considering, that run really parallel to that strategic planning process. Just wondering what you're thinking about that, Lisa?

Lisa Knee:Yeah, sure. As you mentioned before, the risks, so what's really important is that people need to be nimble and be able to adapt to change in the marketplace and readapt to change in the marketplace. By having the strategic roadmap, we're finding that people are able to do that. Some of the things we're finding that that needs to be done is that access to capital. When you have that strategic roadmap and you know what everybody's functions are, and who's wearing the organization and what your plan is for the future, you're going to have this capital structure and base of saying whether it's for additional lender capital, if it's different from investors, or if you've got a reserve that you can look at. That access to capital, if you're going to look to require assets, if you need to redact, reuse an asset, repair an asset, rehab an asset

One of those things that's really, really critical in making sure you have this roadmap, is making sure that you can adapt quickly in the marketplace for a capital need. Another good example that you want to make sure that you have for, is an operational shutdown. We can't predict what's going to happen. By making sure we know who's our infrastructure, we can make sure that that is really played out externally. When we talk about infrastructure and operational shutdowns, you had mentioned that disaster recovery plan, it's really a plan that's put in place to say, if any of these sort of occurrences were to happen, what do we do? What do we do, as Matt mentioned before, operationally and also for our investors. We need to be able to communicate quickly with our tenants and our vendors from an operational standpoint, if we have a disaster happen, and then you also need to make sure you're communicating to your investors and your family members as to what cash flow needs are and what's happening at the space or your investments.

If you're in the debt market, or if you're in the equity market, you need to be able to understand what is going to happen with that asset and what your best case, your worst case, and a no case scenario is going to look like. That planning is really, really important. We talk about a disaster recovery plan. The other thing is Matt mentioned the people being so important. I'm an accountant. They're still super important for us to as well. When we look and we say people, that process and procedures, we can't replicate that now that we know. Really having those processes and procedures, and we're going to talk about that at a later date, in place so that our people are understanding what their functions are. Again, back to that transparency of everyone's roles and knowing what they are, and really making sure that that's not a risk for us in the marketplace.

That's going to be used as something as an advantage, as to using for the family. That we have all those strategies in place that if something were to happen, that we're going to turn that risk as to a strategy and a strength for us and our team in making sure that we've had these plans in place and we can react pretty, pretty quickly.

I know, Lisa, you always love talking about a desk plan with that important information. Again, things are in there to making sure that we're just turning this around and saying, "Look how efficient we are. We really know what we're doing. Our roadmap can take any fork in the road and head in any different direction." Those are things that we look to when we're looking at risks and making sure that those risks turn into real opportunities, I don't want to use the word opportunities, but really that those risks really turn into something that's an advantage for that family or for the fund, even, for those situations.

Matthew Kerzner:I want to add, Lisa, because you brought something very important that we haven't mentioned yet regarding the people side. Is when we do the strategic roadmap and we get into that pillar, the people pillar, succession is a very important topic, especially with recovery and the desk plan. And I'm not just talking about the owner or the partners within a real estate firm, but every employee that is considered a key asset. What is their plan? Who can replace them? What is the backup? What kind of cross training that we have? Lisa you and I experienced one client where there was a major situation where someone passed and the leadership couldn't find what they needed. And it really took them a step back. So going through this and really looking at the people that desk plan is critical. And what are the key roles and responsibilities that they play and who is their backup and what kind of cross training is offered to them? Very important.

Lisa Knee:Yeah, Matt, that's a great point because we've heard that same thing is that this person has been with me for over 30 years. They know where all the skeletons are buried, right? That's a common theme we have. And so just to be really proactive and making sure that everyone knows where we can find that critical information. And making sure that you haven't outgrown either your external or your internal advisors, that they're all part of it. And we talked about systems and processes and procedures, but you want to make sure you don't outgrow those systems as well either. Right? So some of your systems in place or some of your processes are in place that really needs to be making sure that those are looked at timely and re-looked at timely. So that even if somebody is unable to come in, or there's a transition in people or management, that those processes are not extinct and they're still relevant for what's going on and be able to move forward with.

So I agree.

Lise Stewart:You know these are very good points. And in fact, in some upcoming a web studio cast we're going to be talking a little bit more about risk management and we'll go into a little bit more detail about this mysterious desk plan. It's well worth tuning in to figure out what that's all about. I think it's also important to note that next slide, where he has really the pyramid, the triangle there, the strategic planning processes, the top really have a much larger triangle. It's supposed to be truly the, the guiding point the beacon, if it were four key decisions that are being made. And when you look at some of the other things that you're doing such as adjust disaster recovery plans and succession planning and so on, it should all truly tuck up underneath the strategic planning process and a fairly tidy fashion.

So it's very important. And Matt, I'm going to go back to something that you said earlier about the mission and the vision. Truly understanding what is this direction that you're moving in as a business and as a family, as an organization, and making sure that everything is aligned under that direction. We also know that businesses have to be flexible as well. And we can talk a little bit more about that too, but Matt, I think it's important that people know that there are other steps in building this strategic plan. And I really liked the way you talk about the building of these objectives. So you want to talk a little bit more about what those next steps are?

Matthew Kerzner:Sure. Yeah. The first major step after you do the discovery and you're starting to get together is really start understanding the past, right? And you want to understand historically what has been going on within the organization? I would love to look at past strategic plans. Maybe there could be where you just have to clean it up a little bit or do you really have to revamp it? So understanding the past is extremely important.

Yes, the strategic roadmap is going to be the visual for the future, but how does it impact current state? And how are you going to really put together a communication plan that once you have your strategic plan in place, how do you roll it out and communicate to the rest of the organization? I always find that strategic plans are done well, the exercise is so important, but then we find out what happens is that strategic plan stays in a shelf or in a computer or on a desk and it doesn't get rolled out to the rest of the organization.

So one of the major processes is who are all the stakeholders here, right? Lisa you mentioned, it's not just internal, but it's also external. It's your investors. It's also the tenants. It's also everybody that's working for you in, at the we'll call it the corporate or your entity, but all of the other people that are going to make it work, it could be the porters. It could be your superintendents. It could be anybody and everybody that is going to be impacted by this. So really what you have to do is put a communication plan together that addresses what needs to be communicated? Who is getting that message? How is that message being delivered? And who actually owns the message and who's going to deliver it? So that's another key piece.

So when you're putting your mission, your vision, your values, the goals together, which again, I want to explain a little bit of how the goals are actually developed and what kind of format it should be in. But after that's all done, how are you rolling it down to cascade it to the rest of the organization and holding everybody accountable to make it happen? So once you've identified, we'll say the five to six major plans, you want to put these goals in what we call a smart format. Smart stands for specific. So is the goal specific? How are you going to measure it? M stands for measurable. A stands for is it achievable, right? Could it be a stretch you want to stretch everybody because that's how you're going to grow, but it absolutely has to be achievable. Is it relevant? Are the goals that you're setting for the organization and individuals relevant to the mission, vision, and values?

And the last piece, which I think is very critical is the timeframe when you want the goal to be completed by. What is that timeframe? Once you put a timeframe on it, then you can measure it. You can say "We did it, or we didn't do it." And sometimes you have to change that timeframe if it's not relevant or achievable at the moment. So it's very, very critical, but once you follow that smart format, then you can start communicating the goals, what it means to everybody. And then how do we actually set that expectation, monitor those, and then give feedback to make sure that everybody's rowing in the same direction? So it's very critical. So every step of this roadmap that we follow has a systematic process that we follow to really get to the core of communicating this out to everybody. Because once you have a roadmap, that's wonderful, but if you don't do anything with it, it's only something on a piece of paper or in a computer. So you really have to have a solid process to roll it out.

Lise Stewart:Yep. I agree with you, Matt. And I think it's important for senior leadership in the organization to know that they have to, you've all heard the term walk the talk. People are going to be looking to see whether or not you actually use that strategic plan for your decision making. Does it truly drive behavior? If you have a strategic plan that you're not using or it's not driving behavior, then you're wasting time. So it is important to ask those really tough questions and to be prepared to alter your behavior and maybe some of the decisions you make to be in line with those strategies. Otherwise, in a lot of organizations we're running around and we're just putting out fires. The other thing that I think is really important in privately held companies and Matt sort of mentioned it a little bit earlier, is that in most businesses, the goals or the strategies are held in somebody's head. It's often a founder or a leader, a key owner of the company.

They've got it all right up here, but that doesn't help everybody else in the company. And we are notoriously bad at communicating that vision to other people. So if we want to make sure that we're not the only person rowing the boat, we want to make sure we have a lot of people who are helping us to row the boat, then communication and cascading that plan through the organization is key.

However, we started this whole discussion by talking a little bit about the fact that clients today are asking questions about this new normal what's life's going to look like, and they're concerned about the way things have really changed. So Lisa, you're really our expert on this panel in terms of all things real estate. So I'd be curious to know from your perspective, what do you think are some of the key trends that our business owners should be paying attention to today?

Lisa Knee:Yeah, so we listen, right? And so that's what we're doing is we're listening and learning. And so that's first and foremost and incorporating technology and automation into the goals and your strategies for the future is really where we're seeing people thinking about it. Because they want to make sure that they have technology and the infrastructure in all of the functions, not just the operations and not just the reporting, right? It's also in communication. So operationally, they need to be looking at how they can be incorporating and using technology. And it's really about looking at trends and looking at data. And so technology is going to help people do this, because as I've said in the beginning, we don't know what our trends and how to move forward and plan for this.

And so by incorporating it operationally, they're going to be able to figure out how to maybe reduce some overheads. How to provide better cleaning and security and living for their tenants or a better work environment, or they're going to be able to see even traffic trends, right within the workspace by using that technology. When we talk about internal technology, I'm still an accountant, so I'm going to talk a little bit about internal processing and reporting as well.

That technology can also be used to get information quicker, to make those decisions, right? So making sure your infrastructure is set up and that you're using the right software and programming and not duplication of efforts. And going back to Matt's people example of making sure people are really working within that right technology. And once we have all that, communicating that to our board or out investors and making sure that they understand that those decisions are being made timely. So technology is something that every growth plan has to have as a solution and as a use and a purpose. And so also bringing in sort of your team, as you mentioned before, that communication to the team.

And when we look at teams, what we see people is focusing on the internal team, but your external team also is just important as well. So whether you're bringing in more in-house specialists or you're going to be outsourcing to bring in some outsource specialists. That's really important in terms of deepening your bench strength as we talked about before. That some of the external advisors, whether it's the lawyers, hopefully it's your accountants it could be your fund admin. It could be your insurance person, it could be anybody. But some of those trusted advisors are external people and could be part of this strategic roadmap plan for people and understanding how to grow.

Because as we said before, we see a lot of families and we work with a lot of families. All of us do. And so sometimes there's a best practices and there's also observations that we could get just from learning. And I started with listening, right? So, that's really the important part about all of this. And once we do all those functions, then we can do the fun part is, do we need to readapt or reuse an asset for a different purpose? Are we seeing trends in the industry where we're moving to different locations and seeing we need more distribution centers there?

And is it, are we moving some retail operations into a distribution center? Are we listening to what office is going to look like? What are the tenants saying now, maybe it's right now, it's a little too soon to hear what tenants are looking for, for the future. And I'm certainly it's too soon to figure out what our workforce of the future is going to look and expect from us from space. But really looking for that and trying to get a better understanding as to what's happening with those assets. And the best way to do that is to keep our communications and our sort of global network open for those exchange of ideas and being able to continue with these webinars and webcasts. And even having smaller networking groups where you can share information freely, right? And understand what are people doing with these micro units? Or the hospitality industry, what are we seeing in terms of some of those distressed assets and how are we readapting and reusing them so that people are still functioning and we're still able to create jobs and growth?

Matthew Kerzner:I love this.

Lise Stewart:Yeah. very good points. There's so much to unpack there. And I also see that it's about 20 minutes to the hour and we've got a few questions. So let me just kind of parse these out and make sure we get some of these answered. So Matt, I think this might be a good one for you. How often do you believe a company should revisit their strategic plan? Like how often do you do it and do you start from scratch each time?

Matthew Kerzner:Yep. Great question. You never start from scratch, in my opinion, right? Especially if you've already done the due diligence and the hard work. That's why I always say the past, the current and then the future. So if you do a really good process of a strategic roadmap, I always say at least once a year, it is very wise for the leadership of the organization to pull out the strategic roadmap and go through an exercise to make sure that it's still current, right? So at least once a year, you look at your mission, vision values, and the goals, to set new goals in what we call shorter term goals, right? Which would be one year to the next year to the next year. If you have longer term goals, your three-year goals, your five-year goals, you still want to review those once a year, but chances are, you're not going to adjust them too much.

So I would say, at least once a year, you want to go through a mini strategic planning session to make sure everything is still relevant and nothing in the marketplace has changed where you have to pivot. COVID is a great example where a lot of organizations, what has been done a year ago, three years ago, isn't relevant to today, right now. So it's very important to pivot and do another strategic plan. And I would actually say, do it for the next six months. I wouldn't do a plan for a year, three years or five years because we just don't know what's going to happen, but you still want to be strategic about your thought processes. So once a year to go through the plan, a full blown activity where you're doing that eight hour session or that 16 hour session or a new discovery process.

I would probably say, every other year to every three years, you want to go through that solid activity. I always say, when we talk about people, there are some changes in the leadership positions. You might have new hires that are brought in. So it could be a lot of diverse groups of people that are joining the organization. So you want to allow them to also review what the plan is and put their fingerprints on it. So I'm saying at least once a year, you want to do this activity.

Lise Stewart:Right. Great. Thank you. So we have a question here. I think somebody has seeded this question, this is really very useful. But what role does your accountant play in your strategic planning process? So Lisa, you want to try that one? What role does your accountant play in this process? How can an accountant add value to this process?

Lisa Knee:Yeah, so first of all, whoever teed me up for that, thank you. That's a good one. I’ll send you a thank you letter later. So the accountant is certainly valuable for a number of things. One is in the people and processes place. So we're going to understand what you need within your organization from a people standpoint for those different roles, right? So if there's a understanding and let's say you're in the growth mode, right? So we're going to be able to say, these are the types of people, and help define what their roles and categories are for a growth mode versus who you want in your organization for a preservation mode. And so the accountant itself, based on the reporting and communication that you need to have, we can help define those roles. And we're not going to define the role based on the people that you have currently, we're going to define the role based on what is needed for the marketplace, what is competitive out there in the industry, and what's going to be able to help you achieve those goals?

So we might have a little bit different of opinion of, if you're interviewing your internal staff as to what that role should be versus an external conversation, as I said before, those outsourcing external advisors can really play an important role in helping clear up some of what those functions should be. And the other way is on what's available for systems and processes. So looking at your processes and procedures and understanding, we're able to say, well, you can communicate quicker and more efficiently because your systems aren't speaking to each other, and I'm talking about more on a software point of view. But we're able to come in and sort of be able to give some advice then and help as to how to be able to get over some of these hurdles. Especially when you're looking at a growth plan, a lot of times we hear people say, well, this is why I can't do this, right? And these are my obstacles as to why this isn't happening.

It's so easy to come up with these excuses as to why we can't make that work. When you actually bring in your external advisor or your accountant, we can solve for a lot of those problems and get you to the goal conversation that you need to have with yourself and Matt, right? And saying, well let's talk about what your goals are. We'll help you achieve those goals, right? Let's think if there are no obstacles and we can get you through that. So bringing in an advisor with those foot plans, we can really help advise and get you to that next level of being able to achieve that. I'd also seen best practices, right? So that's a key word is saying there are other organizations who maybe you're doing better than, and maybe there are things that you can always take from people. I always learn from somebody every single day, hopefully.

And so there's always opportunities of saying, maybe there is a role for this person in your organization and how do we incorporate them and how do we communicate what their role is. And so that's where I think the accountant can come into play, really, really helpful. And hopefully, the accounting firm has a group like our PSYOP group, which would help facilitate all this. So it all weaves really, really nicely together, I think, with all their practice areas.

Lise Stewart:Okay.

Lisa Knee:Thank you again to whoever asked that question.

Lise Stewart:Sure, sure. And that's a nice plug too for our little team, PSYOP, so thank you. So Matt, we do have a question about, can you explain what is the deliverable? So once you've gone through this process, what does the client actually get?

Matthew Kerzner:That's great. So there's two ways that we could present the deliverable. One is there could be a report. So after we go through the strategic roadmap, we actually have each step spelled out for them. What I like to do is, again, I like to keep it very simple and have it visual. So we have a PowerPoint presentation that we actually put together for each process, right? The mission, the vision, the values, the goals, each goal is spelled out. And then we actually break it down into the silos, business development. What are the goals that you want to accomplish for business development? Who owns it, right? It's the who, what, and when, and then you do the same thing with operation efficiency. What are all the operation efficiency goals that you want to accomplish? The who, the what, and the when. And then the last one is your people development.

And that is really, who are your key players? It could be your current org chart, your future org chart. It could be literally the roles and responsibilities. It could be the desk plan. So the deliverable is whatever goals you accomplish or want to get for your strategic roadmap, you're spelling out the action plan that needs to make this come alive. And it's very important that this is a living document. Once you do a strategic roadmap or an activity and you develop your action plan, it has to be flexible enough, right? To change based on the current environment that you're dealing with. So Lisa, you asked earlier, how often should you be doing the strategic activity? Yes, I stated once a year, but the action plan of what needs to happen, that deliverable, that's a living process. That should be putting together a formal communication plan, a formal meeting where you're getting together with your leadership.

If it's, I don't want to say once a week because that might be too much, but whatever formal agreement you have of looking at your action plan and following up with everything, if that's once every two weeks or once a month, that's going to help you with your deliverables.

Lise Stewart:Right. Yeah. No, that's a really good point. And in fact, I think we should also say that while we have the PowerPoint presentation that is really useful as a communication tool, we are also able to take that and boil it down into a one page plan. Sometimes it boils over to a one and a half, but generally it's a one page plan, which is really easy to keep on your desk or refer to it, as Matt said, as a living document, refer to it often. So I think that when it comes to deliverable, we do make sure that it's very tangible. We also make sure that it's very user-friendly and that it can take many different forms, and clients often have different desires about the way that they want that to work. So we do have another question. Somebody has asked about the pricing of this engagement and lucky me, I know how to answer that question.

So we don't tend to do this on an hourly basis, we work on a project basis. But it is very different depending on the client. So it may be a different price if a very small company or perhaps a company that's done a lot of strategic planning before, so they've got a solid plan and it's really just doing an update. I've just been hired by a company that's never done one before. They're a fairly good sized company and this is something very new. So we're going to spend a lot more time on that discovery process and we're probably going to spend a lot more time looking at some of those external threats, et cetera. So it may be a little bit more expensive the first time around. So it really does depend, which I know is an answer that people hate when they talk to consultants, but in this case, it really is true.

The other thing that I think is important is that we tend to break the process down into several different steps. So sometimes after the discovery process, while we've gone out and we've talked to a lot of people and we've put together a report, that report is very robust and sometimes our clients are happy to say, I've got this report, let me take it from here, and that's just fine. So it may be a smaller and less expensive baby step that really makes all the difference for you as an organization. Other people would really like to have a lot of help all the way through the process, including cascading it down through the organization and including communicating it to others and implementing. So I think that the process really does depend, but we are always happy to talk to you about what it is that we can do.

Lise Stewart:I realize that we're coming toward the end of the time that we have together and I just want to recap on a couple of things that we said. Strategic planning is incredibly important. Lisa came up with a lot of different reasons why we should be doing this and communicating it to many of the different people, both internally and externally to our organizations. Today, more than ever, we're finding that business owners truly need to take what's in their brains, figure out how to get it down on paper and share it with other people so you have a lot of people on the team that are helping you to help your business realize its potential. So strategic planning, I don't think has ever been more important than it is today. The times are changing. There's a lot of questions out there. People need a chance to try to make sense of everything that's going on.

The fact that it's a living document, something that we can revisit on an ongoing basis and know that because the world is kind of crazy and there is a lot going on, we may need to update that plan more often than we might've, say two or three or four years ago. We really do hope you all will join us for our future webcasts coming up. We mentioned some of the topics earlier about risk and risk management and so on. And so we really enjoy talking to you, we enjoy your questions. We'd like to be able to follow up. So thank you all very much for joining us today. And I really want to thank my two co-presenters today, Lisa Nee and Matt Kerzner. You guys did a fantastic job even with curve ball questions. So thank you to everybody who joined us.

About Lisë Stewart

Lisë Stewart is Principal-in-Charge of EisnerAmper’s Center for Individual and Organizational Performance and the Center for Family Business Excellence within the Private Business Services Practice. Lisë has experience in organizational development, strategic planning and training, and human performance management.

About Lisa Knee

Lisa Knee is a Tax Partner and Co-Leader of the national Real Estate practice and leader for the national Real Estate Private Equity Group with expertise in the hotel, real estate, financial services, aviation and restaurant sectors and is a member of AICPA, New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and the New York State Bar Association.

About Matthew Kerzner

Matthew Kerzner is a Director in the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance and the Center for Family Business Excellence. Matt has more than 25 years of experience in organizational development with a specialization in assisting family businesses and closely held businesses.

Have Questions or Comments?

If you have any questions, we'd like to hear from you.