Building a bridge to the other side: Plan and process for strategic success.

How do you determine where to start in a new strategic business project? In simple terms, you need to be in clear and detailed agreement among all stakeholders on where you are and where you want to get to before you start planning how you want to get there. Clear communication between a Company’s senior management and their advisors is also critical. If we’re engaged on a M&A, restructuring or corporate finance project, there is a lot at stake and this blog highlights some of our planning considerations.

When it comes time to try to communicate the planning process, my business partner has a great analogy – thank you Bruce. We try to picture the process in terms of an image that everyone can relate to and understand. So here goes, …

Paint a picture in your mind of a deep, wide river. As with every river and every bridge, every business situation is unique, has its own particular characteristics and is constantly changing. This side of the river is your current business situation and the other side of the river is the goal for your new situation after completing whatever project it is that you are working on. So, step 1 – what does this bank of the river look like? You can walk around on this side and study your current situation as much as you need to, but also be aware that it changes over time. It takes time, effort and a disciplined approach to study, analyze and document your current situation. Make sure to include all the current variables, issues and opportunities. You need to write down a realistic and honest appraisal of your complete business situation. Please don’t overlook this first step – it’s critical.

Next, it’s time to write down what the other side of the river should look like. This is more challenging. You need to stretch yourself, consider any number of different scenarios, drivers for change, write them down, refine and redefine your goals and all agree on what it should look like on the other side.

Only when you’re in agreement and have detailed written goals, should you start considering what kind of bridge to build. How long does the bridge need to last, what should the foundations be like, what should the stress limitations be? You may want to hire expert bridge engineers and planners, consider the impact of building the bridge, legal, capital and other issues that may occur along the way, in order to increase the likelihood that you build the bridge on time, first time and within budget. It may take several different designs and it’s rare that you can get the design right first time.

Bridge building is not rocket science, but it does require considerable forethought, planning and analysis before breaking ground. It can be a very costly undertaking if you skip any of these steps. So, next time you’re considering building the next strategic bridge for your business, please take a few steps back and think through this analogy.