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An idea for capturing ideas

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I spent a few days last week at the Green Industry Great Escape, PLANET’s revamped Executive Forum meeting. The idea was to get top industry leaders out of their offices and away at a nice location so they could network and think about the future of their businesses.

By all accounts, it worked. Whether it’s at big events organized by an association, a peer group or just you heading off to be alone for a day or two, any business owner has to spend some of his or her time focused on developing new ideas and planning for the future.

So what does this have to do with index cards? I have three small kids, and I don’t get a lot of time to spend by myself (except on planes), so I have to catch any ideas as they flit through my brain on the go. To do that, I use this low-tech PDA. It’s just index cards and a butterfly clip. It fits in my shirt pocket, and when paired with a pen, it’s the perfect way for me to brainstorm plans, capture a quick to-do list or outline my schedule for the day.

You can do this with anything – a legal pad, your phone or any number of web applications. But the important thing is that you do it. You have to capture these ideas in one place, so you can find them again, think about them and develop them into concrete plans for the future.

Otherwise, you just spent a bunch of money and a few days on the beach to end up in the same place you were last year.


March 7th, 2012 at 12:35 pm

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7 tips for successful strategic planning

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The team at HighGrove partners sets up for their 2012 planning meetings. Via @JimMcCutcheonHG

Down here at Farmlinks, we’re talking a lot about 2012 plans. In our stories, blog posts and general conversations, we cajole our readers to plan. To think. To set up their entire year during one afternoon.

The L&L team did our 2012 planning this summer, and covered the walls in giant poster-sized paper just like Jim’s team in the photo above.

And while it’s easy to get your team into a room for a meeting, it can be very difficult to make it a productive and profitable exercise. So, here are a few suggestions on how to set up (and follow through on) a successful planning meeting.

First, don’t feel guilty about taking the time to plan. If the next 12 months are important, they’re worth thinking about, right? Second, be excited about this. You’ve got a chance to do some very cool things next year.

1. Go off site.
You’ll think more clearly about big picture stuff when you’re not in your office. Keep your phone and email off so you can focus.

2. Plan to plan.
Before the meeting, give your team some leading questions to think about and prepare for before the meeting. What do they want to accomplish next year? What would they change if they were in charge?

3. Have an agenda (and stick to it).
Keep the discussion focused on the topics at hand. Getting a bunch of creative thinkers in a room and plying them with caffeine can be great … or go terribly off the rails. You’ll end up in the weeds (sorry for the pun) if you’re not careful.

5. Take good notes.
Assign one person to be recorder. Everyone should send their notes to him afterward.

6. Write the plan down.
Use those notes to put together a plan for how you’ll achieve the goals you’ve set. What projects or initiatives are you going to pursue? Who’s in charge? What are the deadlines and objectives for each of them? Put these down in writing and give a copy to everyone on your team. Then, revisit each area at your regular staff meetings to make sure you and the team stay on track.

7. Do something fun.
Part of planning for a successful year means building your team. Go get a couple beers and go golfing or bowling or drive go-karts around. You spend a lot of time with these people, so get to know them.


December 7th, 2011 at 8:33 am

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