In helping owner advisors build their businesses, we’ve noticed that many tend to fall into some predictable behavior patterns that prevent them from attaining their goals. Probably the most predictable — and damaging — mistake occurs in strategic planning.

Here’s the problem: The term “strategic planning” doesn’t include any reference to actually implementing the “plan.” As most financial advisors tend to be “planners” by nature, firm owners tend to overemphasize their focus on the strategic plan.

But no matter how well you “plan” for any situation, the reality will involve more problems than you anticipated.

This means that in building a business, view your strategic plan as only a starting place — a collection of ideas that you “think” might improve your business, and a rough outline of the order in which they might be most successfully implemented.

But the key to your success — or failure — will be your ability to monitor the implementation of the plan, and make changes to it, as some aspects will turn out better or worse than you expected.

We suggest following these five steps to successfully implement your goals:

1. Assess where your business is now.

If you don’t know where every facet of your business is today, it will be difficult to make successful improvements. You can’t fix it if you don’t know what’s broken.

We find that owner advisors are often so excited about creating and implementing a new strategic plan that they don’t want to take the time and effort to shore up existing areas of their business that are holding them back.

Be sure that your business is good at what it currently does — before your start adding more for it to do.

2. Identify “key” employees involved in implementing your strategic plan and meet regularly with them as a group.

It’s difficult for progress to be made without consistent monitoring and feedback. Every two weeks usually works best — it’s recent enough that most people won’t have forgotten what you talked about in the last meeting, yet provides enough time for progress to be made, and/or new issues to be uncovered. And, be sure to set up the next planning session each time you conduct one.

3. Have your team assess the strengths and weaknesses of your business.

What are your strengths? What can you do better? Most owners’ assess themselves in isolation, meaning, they are doing all the work instead of including their teams. Two is better than one, so make sure you leave time to assess changes that you made in previous meetings.

How are things working out, and/or are you making progress? Never assume that your business is at the same place it was during the last meeting. The goal is to make progress, and monitoring your progress is motivational.

4. Review where you need to go by assessing previous goals and determine if they still are relevant.

It’s OK to change your direction, mind and/or decide a goal needs to go into the trash can. Focus on building upon what you already have, determine what is still relevant and if anything new needs to be added or anything old needs to be thrown out.

5. Prioritize.

You’ve heard the importance of prioritization hundreds of times, but it’s necessary to know what needs to be done and in what order. One of your key jobs is deciding what needs to be done “next” and communicating that to your team.

Your staff members may have trouble prioritizing because they don’t always have or understand the whole picture. Helping them to accomplish just one thing forces them focus. And accomplishment drives accomplishment.

When firm owners shift their focus away from the strategic plan itself and onto implementation of that plan, their businesses really start to take off.

Remember, a plan is just a plan. You must make it a reality. Creating a new plan over and over really doesn’t get anything done at all.