Navigating the Now, Where, How Approach: A Dive into Business Planning

January 29, 2024

Welcome to the Herbein Conversation podcast, where we explore the issues that matter most to your business.

In this episode, we examine the Now, Where, How Approach with Ashley Blessing, senior manager in Herbein's small business group. Tune in today!

Learn more and start your 360 processes today by visiting our page and trying some of our brief (free) diagnostic tools to see where your business stacks up in a variety of areas, including Leadership and Growth and Profit Solutions (GPS).


Amy Klatt: Hello and welcome to the Herbein Conversation, a Herbein and Company podcast that dives deep into trending topics that impact your business. I'm Amy Klatt, CMO at Herbein, and today I am thrilled to have Ashley Blessing, a senior manager in Herbein's small business group with us to really share her expertise in profit and growth solutions and the importance of planning for success. Thanks so much for joining us today, Ashley.

Ashley Blessing: Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Amy Klatt: All right, so let's get started then. Let's start with some background. As a firm, we have often talked about the now, where and how approach. You'll see it in different thought leadership throughout , our website, our blog, our videos. Can you just set the stage and take some time to really explain that now where, how approach?

Ashley Blessing: Sure. So using now where how, as the, overarching methodology for either fixing an issue or developing a strategy, or even just sitting in a problem solving, you know, brainstorming session, forces businesses to really focus on the current performance like they're now and understanding where they actually are.

Oftentimes business owners get into the habit of. Putting out fires and jumping right into problem-solving, without really getting to the root of the issue. They're more so, satisfying or, or solving the symptom of the issue, not, really the cause of the, what the problem is, and so by having that clear picture of their, now they can look to their future to see where they want to be strategically, and then understanding that starting point and then that ideal end, you can now move on to formulating the action items to get you there, which is your how.

Amy Klatt: All right. Thank you for that overview and it, it really sounds like a solid framework. How can it change the way that businesses are really planning for their future?

Ashley Blessing: I think it helps to shift, planning from being reactive to proactive and it helps to bring some clarity and direction and it creates a followable roadmap statistically most businesses do not spend enough time in the planning phase, the planning, the where and the how. And this exercise helps them to think of every step along the way. , it helps identify who is responsible for a particular task and then setting a timetable for that task so that everybody's on the same page.

Amy Klatt: I love that we're, all always trying to get everyone on the same page. Right? Can you maybe share an example of this approach or maybe just a, a case study that might explain a little bit more about this overall?

Ashley Blessing: Sure. So, a few years ago we had a local client that their CFO was wanting to retire, and so. They had a two year, you know, runway that they were looking at, like their end. And so we came in and, just understanding that that individual , had been in their position for 20 plus years. It was a family business and so they kind of had their hands in a lot of different pots and. Just working with them to understand their now. So their now would be, what does that CFO do? Like what duties is he involved in? It's not just within the finance committee. He was involved in some of the other management operations. And so identifying that he does from a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly pace and identifying out all of those items and then figuring out that, okay, well in two years, he's no longer gonna be here.

So all of these tasks, all of these, items have to be transitioned to somebody else, and so that was our, where our, where was that we, we don't have him anymore, so we have to figure out what we're gonna do there, and then that also helped us by kind of lining up all of those items, it helped us to. Gain some efficiencies as well within the organization because there was some duplication. We had sat through and we, we went with everybody within the finance department identified all of their tasks and we were able to really, you know, eliminate some of the duplications and then question why we're doing some certain item, and we gained a lot of efficiencies. And so I think that helped us have a roadmap.

We had timetables of when we wanted certain, you know, task transition to different individuals and when we wanted to bring other individuals in on certain training. So it really provided a solid roadmap and the transition was very, very successful. And we, you know, we closed out the year without him with, you know, without a, without a hitch at all.

Amy Klatt: I love that. I love how you were able in that case study to really break, break out the now and the where, and then the how and explain that so nicely and, and as you touched on kind of the overall roadmap and. It just reminded me that obviously we know goal setting is important and how important is it for this process specifically?

Ashley Blessing:  I would say that setting clear goals and having a clear where. Provides the target for the business. And it's not just the, the business owners themselves. It's management. It's those individuals involved in operations, and it helps to provide that guiding light that all the stakeholders can get behind and understand what their role is in both the organization and the strategic plan or, or not just the strategic plan, but whatever, whatever item that you're working on, whatever strategy that you're trying to implement, it helps to have everybody get, buy-in and everybody's going in the same way. We're not having, you know, people not understanding what role they're, they're, you know, they're supposed to be in.

Amy Klatt: Right. So then on that, along that same page then, can you maybe think of a time that you've been working with clients and maybe they've had a totally different outcome in the past with strategic planning or goal setting?

Ashley Blessing: Sure. We worked with a client this past summer to develop their strategic plan, and they hadn't had one in about three years. Part of our process with helping this, this individual, this individual client, was to look at their prior strategic plan and just kind of identify what. Went well with that plan.

What didn't go well and, you know, speaking with them, their, they had sat through, you know, the process and they developed their plan, but there was no, um. Roadmap that was assigned to some of their goals. So for example, one of their, um, priorities or objectives for that particular plan was to develop a marketing plan. But that was just, that was it. It was just develop a marketing plan. Well, what does that mean? Like, what are the action items? Like how are you going to accomplish that? And so, know. Their, their now was that they didn't have a marketing plan. Their, where was, they wanted to have some sort of solid marketing plan, but there was no how that they, um, they worked on and there was nobody that was responsible for that task.

And so at the end of those three years when we came in, you know, from like to start over again, they didn't accomplish that at all. So I think this is, this is a way that you can. , help to get these items into bite-sized pieces and that you can actually accomplish your goal instead of just having this document with, you know, all these items on here, but there's no, there's no strategy, there's no strategy to your strategic plan. So, um, this helps to help you implement that.

Amy Klatt: Right. So really it sounds like the how is such, such an important aspect of this overall and it, we often hear, I feel like from clients that planning is one thing and setting goals is one thing, but trying to manage the execution of those strategies can certainly be challenging. Do you have a recommendation or a best practice on how to really handle that aspect of it?

Ashley Blessing: Sure. So it's, it's those three items, right? So it's the now the where, the how, and it's really identifying like a full, a full scope of what your now is. And then, know, with that, after, after you have that identified, looking at where you want to be, like really pinpointing that down and, understanding what you want your organization to look like.

Then that's when we will go into the how phase of it. And so what we use is a one-page plan. So oftentimes there are strategic plans that are, voluminous and they, they have you, you're excited about it, you have it, but then you put it on a bookshelf somewhere and it kind of stays there. Um, the one page plan that we utilize is very much a living document. You have quadrants and the, the top quadrant is you're now, and the second quadrant is you're where, and so you, that is always at the forefront of your mind. And then, you know, underneath that is your how. And so that's gonna be identifying four or five strategies and within those strategies. You know, four or five action plans per strategy, and then the timing of that and who's responsible for it. So it weaves in this layer of accountability that everybody's on the same page. I mean, I think that's kind of the common theme that you hear is that getting buy-in from everybody and that the ship is sailing in the, the same direction and everybody is.

Knows what part they are supposed to play and they know what timeline it is. And, and it's not just knowing your timeline, it's knowing everybody else's timeline. So I think that's one of the most effective ways that we get the, the how this now, or how helps you actually accomplish your goals instead of just, you know, kind of waving a magic wand and not really doing anything with it.

Amy Klatt: That's a, that's a great suggestion and I really like that you touched on the fact that it's a living document and you can adapt it as necessary. I'm wondering how you think that this type of plan can align with the evolving needs of businesses in today's market.

Ashley Blessing: I think today's market is, is fast-paced. I think we've all experienced that and this approach allows you to be more flexible and nimble and, responsive because you, you have that page, you know what direction you're headed into, and You know, if there's something that you have to, you know, pivot and change, it allows you to do that in a more comprehensive way

We're going on four years post covid, and so I think everybody realizes that things can change, you know, in the blink of an eye and being able, the, the, having the ability to be nimble and having that, that page in front of you that kind of can acts as your, your guideline is, is crucial. And again, it's a living document, so you really just have to work with it. And if something has to be changed, then get the team together and figure out what needs to be changed and what, you know, do we need to do to accomplish our goals?

Amy Klatt: Yeah, I think that you hit the nail on the head just about how today's business owners really need to be flexible and adaptable. I'm wondering to, as we start to summarize this podcast, if there's any key tools or resources that, that maybe you use or that you recommend for business owners who are just looking to enhance maybe their overall strategic approach.

Ashley Blessing: Definitely we have a few diagnostics on our website and I will oftentimes direct clients to go to the website. The one that I like the most is called the Growth and Profit Solution, business Diagnostic. We call it the GPS. It's a comprehensive 25 question tool, and it's really a, it's designed to pinpoint some of the. The key business strengths and opportunities, and it uses 10 key success factors that help give a business a clear understanding of where they stand, what areas they need to focus on for growth. And the results are instantaneous. So you don't have to wait for somebody to call you with them. You, you can go and, get them right away on our website. And then it's really a good starting point of a conversation. Especially when you're, you're not sure which way to go. It helps to focus you on, the where, and the items that need the most attention and then also the items that you're doing great. It's not just telling you what you're doing wrong. So I think a, that's the beauty of the GPS.

Amy Klatt: Great. And that's a perfect plug for our website right there. I just want to thank you so much for joining us today, Ashley.

Ashley Blessing: Yeah, thanks for having me. This was fun.

Amy Klatt: And of course, I'll jump in and just remind everyone that while on our website for the Business Diagnostic, you can visit our blog at to sign up for our email alerts. You'll be notified whenever we post a podcast or a blog article or a video so you don't miss anything.

Thanks for tuning into another episode of the Herbein Conversation, and we hope to be your go-to source for thought leadership as we continue to explore all of the trending topics with experts from various industries. Until next time, I'm today's host, Amy Klatt, signing out.