How to create an Implementation Plan: Turn your agency’s strategy into reality

Written by: Karl Sakas

As an agency owner, you want to turn your ideas into action—but that’s hard to do alone. Great strategies don’t work without implementation, as I learned in agency operations.

In my work as a consultant, I help agency leaders create custom strategies to reach their goals—and build concrete implementation plans to help them turn their new strategy into reality.

Today, we’ll go behind the scenes: I’ll share my step-by-step process for turning your agency’s strategy into an implementation plan.

I’ll also walk through a composite example—growing agency revenue profitably from $3 million to $8 million—so you can see examples of specific implementation steps. Let’s dig in!

10 Steps to Create Your Strategy Implementation Plan

Here are the 10 steps I use—and that you can use, too!—to turn your strategy into an implementation plan:

  1. Start with a strategy first: As Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” Once you know the direction to go, you can work backward to get there.
  2. Define your long-, medium-, and short-term key performance indicators (KPIs): This helps you turn long-term goals into short-term goals that you can actually manage. For example, you might want to increase your agency’s revenue 3X over 5 years. You won’t get there immediately—but you might set a goal to grow revenue 50% in the coming year, to support the five-year trajectory.
  3. Convert your long-term goals into shorter-term S.M.A.R.T. goals: Building from step #2—using the S.M.A.R.T. goals framework—you’ll break the big pieces into smaller pieces so you can assign them out to people on your team. Delegation helps you reach your goals faster and get more off of your plate as an agency owner… if you do it right.
  4. Organize key decisions using my “Values, Goals, and Resources” (VGR) framework: Determine where you want to go (Goals), your motivation for getting there (Values), and the time and money and people who’ll support the process (Resources). By reducing “decision fatigue,” the VGR concept also applies as you manage your team, advise your agency’s clients, and make big (and not-so-big) decisions about your agency’s future.
  5. Choose a project manager (PM) to lead the implementation plan: It’s hard to project-manage your own implementation plan—and that’s especially true when you’re an agency owner implementing your business strategy. For most agencies, your implementation-plan PM might be your COO, operations head, or your executive assistant. If you don’t have a dedicated person, you could enlist a virtual assistant or another detail-oriented person on your team. Be sure they have enough business experience, since you need them to push back on obvious challenges. And you’ll ideally involve them as you build the implementation plan, instead of just throwing a completed plan to them later. A great PM is worth their weight in gold.
  6. Consider change management including the stakeholders involved: Most employees don’t love change—at least initially—even if the changes will ultimately benefit them. Be sure to “code” (or “map”) your team by the four stakeholder categories to inform your rollout: Champions (10%), Helpers (20%), Bystanders (60%), and Resisters (20%). Keeping an eye on the future, your plan will need to include how you’ll announce it to your agency and how you’ll share ongoing updates with everyone about progress. Don’t announce a big initiative without having a concrete method to share updates. Change management can be a delicate thing, especially when you try to improve things too quickly.
  7. Obtain feedback on your implementation plan before launching it: You’ll want to “stress test” the implementation plan before you make it official. Your team and your advisors will surely think of things you missed—which is an invaluable asset as you move forward. Better to catch any potential problems before you start the roll-out.
  8. Get buy-in from your leadership team before your roll-out: This is a natural step after getting their feedback—and it’s critical to do this before you publicly announce the implementation plan to the entire agency. Because your executive managers are your day-to-day ambassadors and will be making the plan change(s) happen, you want them supporting—rather than undermining— the changes. Getting buy-in from them first can save you from a host of problems later.
  9. Be realistic about the implementation timeline—because everything takes longer than you expect: Most things in life take longer than planned, so be realistic and build this in from the start. For example, when I lead an Agency Roadmap project—which includes creating a custom strategy plus a custom implementation plan—a 3-point strategy typically produces 20-40+ implementation steps. Considering that agencies tend to pursue big goals, I might spread 30 implementation steps over 6-12 months (depending on the size of the team supporting the owners on the changes), instead of cramming the steps into 2-3 months. Remember, “realistic” is a key step in the S.M.A.R.T goals process.
  10. Balance “quick wins” vs. long-term progress. Typically, high-impact changes take time to implement. While you’re working on those, I recommend finding “quick wins” that you can complete easily and early. This hybrid approach helps you keep up the momentum as you work toward longer-term goals.

Now that you’ve got the 10 steps to turn an agency business strategy into a custom implementation plan, let’s consider an example.

Example: Growing an Agency from $3MM to $8MM in Five Years

Want to grow your agency? Once you have your growth strategy, you need to turn it into an implementation plan. Let’s walk through a composite example, inspired by my Agency Roadmap projects: growing an agency from $3 million to $5 million in revenue in five years.

  1. Decide what you want to accomplish. For instance, you might initially be thinking: “I want to grow my agency.”
  2. During the strategy-development phase, consider how the strategy fits into your overall priorities, define metrics, set short- and long-term KPI goals to measure your progress, and (ultimately) create an overall strategy to organize things.
  3. After creating the strategy, it’s time to turn the strategic points into reality—by creating the implementation plan:
    • In this example, imagine you’ve decided (among other things) that you’re going to grow your agency from $3MM in revenue (at 12% net profit margins today) to $8MM in future revenue (at 20%+ net profit margins).
    • Let’s also assume you’ve decided that you can realistically reach that goal within 5 years (if you average 22% annual growth).
    • Further, you’ve decided (during the strategy-development process) that growth will come via 3 prongs: 30% from growing existing accounts, 50% from selling existing services to new clients, and 20% from selling new services (to a combo of new and current clients).
    • From an implementation perspective, we know there are a range of potential implications: doing upsells within account management, building your pipeline, upgrading your sales process, creating new service offerings, and ensuring you’re delivering the work profitably.
  4. Make a list of implications for each strategic goal. This includes people (both clients and team), processes, business development, and more.
  5. Turn the strategic goal into implementation steps. Realistically, this strategic goal example (growing from $3MM to $8MM in five years, while boosting margins) would easily have 15-20 implementation steps over the next 1-2 years alone. Keep in mind that implementation steps may be directly OR indirectly related to the outcome. For example, you might choose to implement a client satisfaction survey to lay the groundwork for future upsells; the surveys aren’t directly related to the strategic goal, but they’re an important contributor to the goal. In contrast, a more direct step would be to do a mini-project to choose which new service(s) to add.
  6. Repeat this process until you’ve identified all of the implementation steps to support the strategy. Get your team’s help, to find things you might have missed. And ideally, identify which person on the team will lead each step (even if they have others supporting them).
  7. Triage the list of steps to identify what has to happen when. For instance, you might choose to do three items in the next month, another four items the month after that, and so on where some of the items in the list may be ones you’ll do in, say, “12+ months” (and you’ll assign them out later, once you make initial progress… and identify what needs to change along the way).

Now, you still need to make it all happen… but it’s a lot easier when you’ve created a step-by-step implementation plan first!

Want my one-on-one help creating a growth strategy for your agency—or turning that strategy into a concrete implementation plan? Let’s chat.

QUESTION: Where do you currently struggle with implementation at your agency?

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