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Retreat to Victory

Sometimes the best way to win is to retreat.

In the fall of 1777, George Washington made an ordered retreat at Brandywine Creek near Philadelphia, leaving the new nation’s capital to the British. Washington knew that protecting the capital at the expense of his troops was the wrong strategy. His mission, both military and political, was to preserve his small army at all costs.

With the British Army secure in Philadelphia, Washington settled into winter quarters at Valley Forge. It was a winter of hardship and suffering for the troops. It was also when the rag-tag American troops were taught to be professional soldiers.

How does Washington’s retreat relate to you? As a business owner, do you sometimes find you’re so busy fighting the current battle that you lose track of your grand strategy? Do you find yourself surrounded – by these employees, that company underwriter and those customers – all wanting a piece of your time? Are you missing out on great opportunities because you’re spending so much energy reacting to everyone else’s urgent needs?

Maybe you need to “retreat.” Spend a little time off the battlefield, preparing to win the war.

Take yourself out of the action.
Take time out to regain that perspective that could be missing if you’re fighting one battle at a time. Get away from it all and take a fresh look at your business. Are you achieving all your business goals? All your personal goals? Are you having fun?

Think strategically about your business – where you’re going and how you’re doing. Take your management team and key employees with you. Give them the same opportunity to step back from the fray. And seek their input – after all, they’re right there on the firing line, too. Everyone will be able to look at challenges and opportunities differently if you add a little distance.

“ How can I do that,” you ask. “I can’t close down the office for a day. I can’t leave the office to run itself. My people need me. My customers need me.”

Of course, your people and your customers need you. But they can do without you for a day or even two. It just takes a little planning.

No war was ever won without a plan.
And planning is what it’s all about.

This is the time to work on your business instead of in your business – to take a strategic view of your agency. Revisit your vision for the firm. Make sure your strategies and goals are still on point. Review your wins – and your losses. Update your game plans.

If you don’t have a Strategic Plan, a retreat is a great way to start. (You never really ‘finish’ the planning process – you just move from one planning cycle to another.)

Even if you’re already winning most of your battles, a well-thought out strategic plan will make sure your agency can successfully respond to your dynamic, changing environment – and win the war.

  • Strategic Planning energizes your organization and makes the connection between your long term vision and your day-to-day activities.
  • Strategic Planning gives you a blueprint for the future so you know what to focus on today.
  • Strategic Planning is a key ingredient for success in the future. Companies with written business plans have 100% higher profits, on average.1
  • Strategic Planning sets you apart from the competition. Best Practices agencies have strategic plans and share their business plans with employees.2

Plan your retreat.
You’ll need a tactical plan for your retreat. That’s the best way to ensure that you and your team get the most out of the experience. It’s also the best way to ensure that your employees – the one’s that don’t go on the retreat with you – also get the most out of the experience. And it’s the best way to ensure your peace of mind that everything will be just fine while you’re gone.

While some firms retreat for multiple days to resort-like locations, many more plan their retreats on a smaller scale, using a local restaurant or other meeting facility. The key is to make sure you’ll be away from the office. No phone calls. No interruptions. No distractions to put everyone right back in the fray.

The length of your retreat depends entirely on what you plan to accomplish. Don’t try to cram too much into your agenda. If you’re going to develop a strategic plan for the agency, it will take at least a full day. If you want to allow time for training, or team-building, or to bring in an outside speaker to encourage the troops, you’ll need to allow more time. In fact, many firms take the approach of shorter but more frequent events.

Win your battles and the war.
Certainly there is a cost to “retreating.” But the benefits will be priceless – for you – for your business – for your partners – for your employees. And, most importantly, for your customers.

By retreating, Washington took himself and his troops out of the action at just the right time. Less than a month later, Gates and Arnold beat the British soundly at Saratoga and gave Washington the strategic victory he needed to ensure support from France and Germany. Washington’s war was not about winning battles. It was about the total political independence of all the 13 colonies and their acceptance as an equal state on the world stage.

If you find yourself focused on winning the battles, maybe it’s just the right time for you to take yourself and your troops out of the action – to focus on what your war is really all about. A well-planned “retreat” will ensure that, year in and year out, you’re maintaining your total independence and dominating your market. And you’ll have more fun doing it!

Let Transformation Advisors, Inc., help you plan your retreat. We do on-site and web-based strategic planning facilitation designed specifically to meet your business needs .

1: So says a survey conducted by Arthur Andersen’s Enterprise Group in conjunction with National Small Business United, a Washington, D.C., trade group.

2: THE FIVE PRACTICES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE LEADERS, A Handbook in Leadership Best Practices for Insurance Agencies, The Independent Insurance Agents of America and Woodgate Partners, 1996.

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