Ask Hard Questions at Your Midyear Review

It’s six months into the year and, for some firms, it may seem like it was just last week when they finalized their strategic plans for 2018. That could be a good thing if the year is unfolding as you planned, and you are on track to achieving key milestones along the way. However, if you’re not on target, it could amount to valuable time lost, especially if it is due to poor execution or a lack of awareness of whether your strategy is working. In either case, midyear is a critical juncture for firms expecting to end the year with positive gains.

The end of the year is when most firms formulate their growth strategies around strategic, marketing and sales initiatives designed to get them to the next level (see, Rethink Your 2018 Growth Strategy Now, Oct 2017). Midyear is the perfect time to assess your strategy to see what’s working and not working with ample opportunity to tweak or change direction. Even for firms that are on track, it’s an opportunity to ratchet it up a notch and build on what is working.

Ask Questions to Identify the Vital Issues
If nothing else, a mid-year strategic review should prompt questions about the plan’s effectiveness. Is it working? Are we on target? Which components are not working and why not? What can we do to improve results? Is it a bad idea or have conditions changed? The answers to these questions should help the management team narrow its focus to the vital issues that are either gumming up the plan or driving its success.

Look Hard at the Plan’s Execution
In many cases, a thorough and honest assessment of a strategic plan a half year into its implementation reveals that the problem is not the plan or the strategy. More often than not, the problem is in the execution. A well-conceived plan is worthless if it is not well-executed – or executed at all. That raises an entirely new set of questions: Are you executing on what you said you were going to do? Have you stopped executing? If so, why? Has the plan evolved so you are executing on something else? Have your priorities changed? If so, why? How do you know if the plan is being executed? Who’s accountable for the execution of the various tactics?

If execution is the problem, you may be missing a key resource or talent. Now is the time to get them in place to get your plan on track.

Factoring in External Forces
You might find that there are external issues affecting plan implementation. More questions: Have market conditions changed? Is your investment strategy now in favor, which should spur expanded marketing efforts? Or, is it now out of favor, which might require a reallocation of resources to deal with redemptions? What could happen between now and the end of the year that could derail our plan and are we prepared?

Changing Course Midstream
Finally, don’t be afraid to change or abandon a strategy that isn’t working or is no longer a priority for the firm. A part of the review process is to reinvent based on what you know, which is why asking the right questions about your plan is so important. The midyear review is the ideal time to hit the reset button and lay out a road map for a strong finish to the year. However, any new plans or tactics should include definitive action plans and accountability for execution as well as frequent benchmarks for measuring progress. And keep asking the hard questions.

Dan Sondhelm is CEO of Sondhelm Partners. He helps asset managers, mutual funds, ETFs and wealth managers grow. More Insight articles can be found here . Schedule a complimentary consultation about your opportunity for growth here .