Why You Don’t Want Your Accountant Creating Your Strategic Plan

If you want to have the best possible chance of rapidly growing your business this year, then you don’t want to have your accountant leading your strategic planning process. Why? Not because I have anything against accountants. I happen to like them. In fact, my B.B.A. is in accounting.

But the reason most accountants are bad strategic planners (along with a lot of business owners, entrepreneurs and CEOs) is because of their natural orientation concerning numbers (i.e. they have a natural preference for numbers and a predilection toward the past).

In other words, most accountants have a bias toward creating a strategic plan based on past performance (e.g. what have we done in the past and how can we do that incrementally better) and spreadsheets/numbers/metrics—both of which can be detrimental to your strategic plan (and growth) for this coming year.

In fact, let me share with you three reasons why you don’t want your accountant creating your strategic plan.

I. Strategy is About the Future, Not the Past

If strategy was about the past, we’d still be riding horses and sending smoke signals to communicate with one another. Or, more currently, Apple would still be making only computers, IBM would still be producing only mainframes, and GE would still be producing  just light bulbs.

This is why you don’t want your accountant leading your strategy sessions because the problem with starting with numbers is that financial reports are oriented toward the past and what you and your company have done. When a company starts with financials, their mindset almost always gets mired down into their current product and/or service lines (and how can they make them a little bit better this year).

But strategy isn’t about the past. It’s about the future. It’s not about what you’ve been. It’s about what you want to become. And what you want to be, may not be anything remotely similar to what you’ve been.

This is also why I don’t have clients do a Strengths and Weaknesses assessment (a SWOT analysis) when doing the strategic part of the strategic planning process. Why? Because it automatically grounds people into what they’ve been doing (the past) and strategy is all about the future.

II. Strategy Is About Ideas, Not Numbers

Again, the problem with numbers is that they tend to orient people toward what is (or what is a slight improvement over what is). But real strategy work is about coming up with big ideas and strong right turns. It’s about envisioning something that isn’t. And big ideas don’t come from looking at numbers.

Apple (a computer company at the time) didn’t come up with the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad by looking at numbers. They came up with the idea first (and then substantiated the idea with numbers). The order matters! Ideas first. Numbers second.

Moreover, most great strategic plans aren’t oriented around numbers. In fact, they’re usually only one to two pages long and consist of just a handful of numbers. Now, they may have lots of tactical plans and spreadsheets attached to them, but the actual strategy part of a strategic plan isn’t about numbers, it’s about the ideas like …

  • What new markets are we going after?
  • How are we going to position ourselves differently to create a series of competitive advantages?
  • What new products and/or services are we going to introduce?
  • How are we going to drive growth this year?
  • What constraints need to be eliminated in order to accelerate growth?

It’s the ideas that form strategy, not the numbers. Numbers follow strategy, not the reverse.

III. Strategy is About Different Questions, Not Similar Questions

You know the old adage, “If you want to get a different result, you need to engage in different actions.” But how can you get to different actions, if you only ask similar questions?

In other words, if you start your strategic planning process by looking at numbers, the natural question will be, “Well, let’s see. Last year we did $1.5M from this product line. How much more can we do this year?”

There’s no way you’ll come up with new ideas if you’re asking the same kinds of questions about the same products and services year after year. Instead, you want to ask different kinds of questions that will drive the creation of new/different ideas. For example,

  • What would be a dream come true for the people in our target market (or our new target market)?
  • What trends could we take advantage of before our competitors do?
  • What are our competitors great at? Weak at? And how can we take advantage of that?
  • What is our core driving force? How should that shape us this year?
  • What might be a strong right turn we could take this year that could leap-frog us in front of our competitors and take market share?

In general, accountants don’t ask those questions. However those are the kinds of questions you should be asking in your strategic planning process if you want to drive significant growth this coming year.

So, if you really want to create a great strategic plan this year that can propel your business toward rapid growth, don’t ask your accountant to do it for you (unless you have that rare accountant who thinks strategically). Instead, make sure you

1. Focus on the future, not the past
2. Focus on ideas, not numbers
3. Focus on asking different questions, not similar ones

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you want to build a great growth plan for this coming year, make sure you join me for Double It 2.0: How to Double Your Business in the Next 12, 24, or 36 Months. It’s the ultimate growth planning blueprint and by the time we’re done, you’ll have a great plan ready to go. To get started, just click here now >>