Strategic Planning: C-Suite Interview with Chris Lamphear, President, LL Custom Contracting

Strategic Planning interview with Chris Lamphear, President, LL Custom ConstructionQuestion to ponder: How high are your standards?

Every industry has a #1 leader, but why are they more successful than your business? One common answer is that they plan better and execute more consistently. Over 90% of entrepreneurs do not have a strategic plan for the next 3-5 years. Learn from a CEO who is building a business that will operate without him.

LL Custom Contracting is one of the fastest-growing home improvement businesses in Southeastern Michigan. Why did you decide to develop a strategic plan now?

We needed to develop a strategic plan because our customer base has ever-changing needs, and we want to be at the front line of that change in the years to come. In order to serve our customers to the best of our ability, we have to anticipate and embrace change. Plus, it truly helps us focus all our resources.

What would you say to any entrepreneur who currently does not have a well-designed plan for the next 3-5 years for their business?

If you fail to have a plan, you plan to fail. The market changes: Just look back and see how our previous generations did business. You must either be prepared or be like most of the companies in the book Good to Great. (That is, out of business.)

How will your strategic plan impact your desire to implement a bonus program for your employees?

By involving our entire team in the strategic plan and tying the results of the organization into a bonus structure, we will be able to keep everyone focused on their part. Along the way, they will get steady reminders verbally, visually and financially. Our continuously improving ability to deliver will also allow us to recruit and retain top talent, which is critical to our long-term growth success.

In terms of alignment, how does your three-person executive team contribute to the development of your strategic plan?

With the direct involvement of the team, we have identified the critical path, resources and strategies we need to reach each goal. When they are involved in creating the “what’s and how’s,” they are then able to have buy-in and execute the plan. Now that we have the three-year, one-year and 90-day plan in place, our focus has shifted to the plan’s execution.

What role does your new accountability system play in the execution of your strategic plan?

The accountability system is a quantitative way to give immediate coaching and feedback to all, because everyone wants to show that they met or exceeded their performance standards and scores. To give it more teeth, we have certain shared responsibility components on the scorecard in order to strengthen the teamwork needed to achieve our objectives. In addition, our new accountability system will provide a process to document each associate’s actual performance, which then becomes accurate data for additional compensation planning.

Regarding personal aspirations, how is your business’s strategic plan related to the long-term goals you have for your family?

The strategic plan was designed fulfill my personal goals, rather than trying to fit my personal goals into a life of business. This plan makes it clear that my family and my business will both get what they need and deserve. A business that can and will run without my daily involvement makes it exciting to get up every day and focus on executing our 90-day plan.

Because one of your growth strategies involves selectively buying other similar companies, how will your strategic plan play a role in your future acquisitions?

The strategic plan is focused on process improvement and overall growth. And with the number of “Mom and Pop” business that are expected to be available with so many Baby Boomers reaching that magical age, acquisitions will be a major part of maintaining our double-digit growth. With our process-driven focus, we will be able to assess other businesses and integrate them into our culture.

How will your operational plan help you and your management team focus on the right activities every day?

The operational plan lays out the specific activities and responsibilities for extraordinary customer service, as well as identifying who is accountable for the activities that get us there. By outlining the plan, we eliminate the confusion and avoid duplicating efforts. Delegation is becoming a strength of our company.

What are the top one or two most impactful ways that a strategic plan helps you work less hours, while at the same time continuing to experience double-digit growth each year?

The strategic plan ensures that everyone is on the same page and leading their portion of business, which takes the load off my plate. Knowing where we need to end up helps everyone make the best decisions at the right time without feeling like they need to ask me first. The answers are obvious when you can ask yourself, “Will this take us closer or farther from our target for the customer?” Our expectation is that each manager will have the systems and the confidence to make good business decisions that always delight the customer.

How will your operational plan achieve the greatest results for your customers?

We will deliver the ultimate customer experience with much less effort—and on time. Everyone will know their role and become able to comfortably and confidently make decisions. It’s already working: Our customers rave about our approach to communicate with them, which in turn drives our consistent customer referrals.

What is the one, best tip you would give any business leader who wants to add value to their current business while getting ready to sell in the next five years?

You need a strategic plan and documentation of past performance. The value of a company and the amount of parties interested in purchasing a business is greatly depleted without one. A good strategic plan will grow your business, show your progress and create exponential value in a company. Two types of companies get purchased: 1) Companies going out of business, being sold for pennies on the dollar, and 2) Companies with proven process, designed growth, and an engaged team making great profit.

Chris Lamphear can be reached at 248 632-1220


John Lankford

John Lankford was recognized as the 2007-2010 Associate Business Advisor of the Year in North America and brings proven executive experience and best practices to select companies every year. He served 18 years at the Executive Education Center at Ford Motor Company and is former Senior Director of Ascension Health Learning Institute. John has developed top leaders around the world in partnership with the University of Michigan Business School, the Center for Creative Leadership, Comcast University and GE University, to name a few. His business expertise has been tapped by prominent business media such as the New York Times, CBS and Dbusiness magazine and has been a syndicated business columnist. He is the author of The Answer is Leadership and Superstar for life…Career Transitions. John’s keynote speaking has landed him on the elite team that trains and certifies the new Executive Coaches joining the worldwide coaching community. John is also former Chief Executive Officer of the Innisbrook Leadership Institute. Lankford can be reached at [email protected] or call (888) 730-1950

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