Posted by Matt Register and George Walden

Sherrin Ross Ingram, JD, CEO of The International Center for Strategic Planning, works with CEO’s to become better leaders and make better decisions which leads to a true strategic plan.

Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.

Matt Register: And welcome back to Texas business radio, is the website 844 814-8144 is a 24-hour call in line. It means get calls in now. Get them in later, get them in at 3:00 in the morning. It’s 24-hour line. I don’t really care, we’re going to get those experts in here to get those questions answered. I’m your host, Matt Register. Jay Curry is normally the guy sitting over there in the cohost chair. He ditched us. We have George Walden sitting there right now. What do you think, George?

George Walden: Well, this is a national showcase, a national advisor showcase that we’re going to be presenting to you today, and I love these. We’re going to talk about strategic thinking, and I find it very interesting. People talk about strategic planning all the time, and rarely understand what they’re trying to accomplish when they do that. This person is going to tell us how to do it and how to make it actionable, and I’m very excited about that.

Matt Register: Yeah. No doubt. Strategy is one of those things that CEOs mess up all the time. And the companies that don’t are your top tier companies that excel. Like you said, this is a national advisor showcase segment. We have national level speakers coming into Texas all the time with a wealth of information to teach CEOs how to grow their business, how to make their business better. We’d love to sneak them here into the studio and pick their brain a little bit. And this is no different. We have Sherrin Ingram who is a strategic a facilitator, does offsite site meetings and helps you facilitate figuring out what your company’s strategy is. Welcome to the show Sherrin.

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Welcome. Thank you so much for having me, Matt. I appreciate it.

Matt Register: So tell me what do you do and who do you do it to?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: That’s private man. But really I am what people would call a Vistage chair. I work with CEOs and I help them become better leaders so they can make better decisions. And a lot of that involves strategy on a day to day basis. And before I did that, I ran a strategic planning firm and we made what people would call leading indicators. But at the end of the day we use that information to help companies do better strategic planning.

Matt Register: So, there’s a lot of people that think they have a strategic plan and they do not. They have a goal. They have something else. What is the difference between just having a set of goals and what is the difference between having a true strategic plan and a true strategy?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Well, in my opinion, when you have a true strategy or a true strategic plan, someone who’s looking at that, reading it, hearing it knows exactly, or can envision exactly what needs to be done. In other words, a real strategic plan inspires vision, inspires action at the end of the day. When you think about just the goal you hear about it, and you go, “Oh, that’s nice. Oh.” I mean, it just doesn’t take on life. It doesn’t support anything at all. And so often I’m asked, “Well, what makes it really actionable like that?” And there’s just two things that if people would just focus in on, and they’re big things. But there are two things that really change how strategic plans really look. And number one is the quality of thinking that goes into it. We call that strategic thinking. And then there’s supporting the individuals who actually implement it. And that’s personal strategic plans that support the big one. So, those are just two things off the bat that would turn an average plan into an actionable plan that would actually get results.

Matt Register: Well, and the results are definitely there. I mean, the difference in a company that has a well thought out strategy is significant to one that doesn’t. Would you agree with that?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, often when I’m doing all of these talks with the CEO groups and I ask them to come ready with a strategy in mind. Most of them do in fact come in with an objective, a goal, because they really don’t understand what’s strategy. And I asked them, “Well, what is the strategy?” And it can be a room of six or room of 20, and there’s a different definition of strategy for every single person. And at the end of the day, the definition of strategy is not as important as the fact that everyone in the company needs to be on the same page about what the definition is. So, you and your team need to have an agreed upon definition. You and me don’t need to agree on the definition.

Matt Register: Okay. But is a strategy something that comes from the top down? Is this something that the CEO figures out on his own and disseminates to his people? Or is this something that needs to be collaborative and [crosstalk]?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: I believe the best ones are collaborative. The best ones are CEO led in terms of here’s the vision. How do we go about achieving it? Because the more you get collaboration, the more you start the buy in process that much sooner. Because if they don’t feel that they have skin in the game, it’s just a job.

Matt Register: Yeah. Well, I get that. I mean, they got to have some ownership of the strategy to be able to preach it and push it out to their own folks. Walk me through an example. Pick a fictitious company, right? Walk me through an example of how you would help them come up with their strategy. What does that actually look like? Right?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Well, usually when I’m brought in, people already have an idea of what they want to accomplish. What I help him do, first off, is let’s bet at some. Let’s make sure that it really is an actionable vision we’re talking about, now we come up with the strategy. So, I have a set of nine filters I start them with. But the most important thing, what is the strategy ultimately designed to do? Are you fixing a root problem or are you leveraging a core strength? And just to give you an example, often people are trying to improve sales. Low sales has been happening. Low sales is never a problem. It’s a symptom of a problem.

Matt Register: Got it.

Sherrin Ross Ingram: So, when they’re trying to fix sales without really knowing what the true problem is, this is why they don’t get the desired results or that those results aren’t sustainable over time.

Matt Register: So, how do you get down to figuring out what the root problem? I mean I don’t disagree with you. Right, I mean, low sales is not a sales problem. It’s there’s something, right? How do you figure out what that something is? Because I would imagine that’s not the easiest thing in the world to figure out.

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Well, it’s not the easiest thing, but it’s also not the hardest thing. It’s really looking at number one, where do you get new information from? Are you can doing this solely based upon your own experience, and your own perceptions? Or are you taking this in vetting it with some peers, or vetting it with the whole team? Like guys, “Why is this really happening?”

Matt Register: Or your customers, right?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Or your customers, the ones that will talk to you. Hopefully you have relationships. I mean, is it about our messaging? Is it about our product quality? I mean, what is this really about? I mean, is it the fact that we can’t even get new customers or we can’t keep our existing customers? What’s going on here? Let’s go there first. Let’s validate whether or not it’s a problem we’re fixing. Or in the case of a core strength, for instance, some companies wanting to expand territories, locate somewhere else, because I think they have a winning business model. When it turns out it was the people that was implementing the model, it wasn’t the model at all. It wasn’t McDonald’s at all, it was a whole different scenario. So yeah, they’re building upon something that’s superficial and not the truth of the matter in that case.

Matt Register: So, when you have an offsite weekend … I mean, is it a weekend, is it a day? What typically does this look like?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Well, it’s usually at least two days, unless we’re talking about one simple issue that we’ve already thought of and did some pre work on beforehand. But it’s usually almost two issues, because most of the time companies aren’t clear about the vision. We have to clarify what it is we’re doing. And then we need to understand what it is we have to work with. And then we talk about what it is that are going to be the goals, and how the best way to go about giving it given what you have available to you.

Matt Register: Interesting.

George Walden: One of the areas that I see failure in is measuring what you’re trying to accomplish.

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Yeah.

George Walden: How do you help people develop the strategy for what needs to be measured?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Absolutely. I’m one of my filters for getting into the blind spots is having specific … or strategy specific KPIs. Most companies have key performance indicators for the company as a whole. Very few of them, when they’re planning on a specific strategy, have KPIs just for that strategy, because they don’t know what it is we’re trying to measure. They’re hoping that what they’re doing now shows up in the end game on there, at the end of the day in their P&Ls in the bottom line. They never look at, okay, how can I monitor? How can I track this strategy?

Matt Register: Yeah. We don’t want to wait for it to filter all the way down to be able to tell if it’s working or not.

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Exactly. So, what are you going to be doing to make that happen? And I just simply ask them, “Well, what behaviors are absolutely necessary for the strategy to be success?” And you can substitute with the word activities. What activities must be happening? So for example, if cold calling is part of your strategy, you have to have a scrub the list. Without somebody scrubbing the list and making sure you got an accurate list, you can never expect success on the end down there. So, what things can you measure now? Let’s track those. Let’s create a dashboard for that daily to make sure it’s getting down there. Then you don’t have to worry about this shown up in the P&L because you know the results are going to be there.

Matt Register: Interesting. And this is something that a lot of companies don’t get right. I mean, I can’t count how many times I’ve gone into a company and realized that their KPIs are something that doesn’t matter. Or isn’t impacting actual performance. And this is easier said than done, right?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: It’s not giving them actionable information. So, it’s like you see their KPIs, and go, oh well that’s nice to know. So what? What do I do with this exactly? I mean, if this number is off, what do we do?

Matt Register: Yeah. What decision is that information driving? Right?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Exactly.

Matt Register: Now-

George Walden: So, would I call you when I want to turn a company around, or would I call you when I’m just trying to improve the business?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Both.

George Walden: I assumed that was the answer.

Sherrin Ross Ingram: I personally find more challenging, more gratifying and more satisfying in a turnaround situation. But I love helping good companies get to the next level, because most of them don’t have a vision of a next level either.

Matt Register: Well, how many times are you the 911 call? Right? That we have a problem and we need a solution. How much is it forward thinking?

Sherrin Ross Ingram: I would say 90% a problem.

Matt Register: Interesting.

Sherrin Ross Ingram: 10% forward thinking.

Matt Register: All right, well this is the business 911, the website is S-H-E-R-R-I-N. We’re going to have that linked right there from Sherrin Ingram, all the way from Chicago, Illinois with just a brilliant mind when it comes to a strategy and business. I want to thank you for joining us.

Sherrin Ross Ingram: Thank you Matt for having me. I appreciate it.

Matt Register: Unfortunately though, we’re completely out of time, and we need to go pick some of our bills. We’re going to be back right on the other side of the break with a whole lot more Texas Business Radio. You don’t even have time to go anywhere else. We’ll be back right after this.

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About the Author
Matt Register

Matt Register

In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.

Matt Register

George Walden

George Walden is a Managing Director and Principal in Corporate Finance Associates’ Houston office with twenty-five years experience as a middle-market investment banker. George is a member of CFA’s equipment industry practice group and an expert in the precision machining industry with special emphasis on manual machining, CNC precision machining, and gun drilling services and has been responsible for several industry-leading transactions. You can learn more about George HERE.

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