In 2020, you may, or may not, have had a strategic planning retreat. I have observed that retreats during 2020 were not as efficient and productive as retreats in the past. That is, of course understandable. Many partner groups simply skipped their retreat in 2020.
It is important to schedule a focused and productive strategic planning retreat for 2021.
Often when I am talking with a managing partner about their upcoming retreat, they tell me, “We used to have them every year but we haven’t had a planning retreat for several years now.” It seems everyone is too busy or other firm initiatives or challenges have taken precedence. If you allow this to happen, partner communication will suffer greatly along with partner unity. It also leads to a culture of constantly putting out fires.
I urge you to schedule your retreat now. If you wait much longer to get it on the calendar, many facilitators will already be booked.
Here are some ideas, tips, and considerations for a successful retreat.
Identify dates in May or June for your 2021 retreat. Make sure that every partner makes it a high priority on their calendar now. A retreat that happens earlier in the year allows time for the initiatives to be researched, outlined and completed before another year rolls around.
Contact a qualified CPA firm management consultant to facilitate the retreat and get the dates booked on their calendar (their calendars fill up fast after April 15).
Before the retreat contemplate, discuss and define the purpose of the retreat. If you get together every year just because you have always done it without a specific purpose in mind, time (and money) will be wasted.
Plan the agenda. It will be your roadmap for the retreat and prohibit people from getting lost along the way. The facilitator will usually survey your group or do telephone interviews to gain insight that will help you design the agenda.
Adopt a partner retreat commitment statement. This is a shortlist of rules and regulations governing retreat behavior. Some examples might be that all participants will set aside uninterrupted time (mobile device activity only happens at breaks), participants will stay on topic, participants will not interrupt when someone else is speaking, etc.
Document the action steps. Focus on fewer initiatives and shorter timeframes. Change is happening so quickly in our profession. Accomplishing two or three things is more important than focusing on six or seven and accomplishing none.
Assign a champion for each initiative. Someone has to be responsible and take ownership. If everyone is responsible, nothing will happen.
The most important activity is not the actual retreat; it is the implementation of the agreed-upon initiatives. Leave the retreat with an action plan that specifies champions and due dates.