Strategic Planning: Demystifying Strategic Planning (Part 1)

In the first instalment of a five part series, Enda Larkin, author of How to Run a Great Hotel, seeks to demystify the strategic planning process for hoteliers, particularly those in small and medium sized operations.

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Demystifying Strategic Planning (Part 1)

If you were driving somewhere you had never been before, you would probably use a map to guide you. Well, you would, if you wanted a hassle-free trip. Without the map, you are more likely to get lost, and even if you don’t, you are certainly leaving things to chance.

The same applies to achieving success in the hotel business which, as you well know, is also a journey of sorts and one with many twists and turns, so having a map to keep things on track is useful. In fact, it’s vital, because getting lost in a car is one thing – losing your way in business life is an altogether more serious prospect.

Some hotel owners and managers do lose their way – not because of any lack of ability or effort – but due to the fact that they don’t fully think through what it is they are trying to achieve. They might talk about their ‘goals’ for the business but they fail to define what these are in practice, or indeed to plan how to realise them.

Sure, they might have a general idea of where they are going, but this can be as loosely defined as to ‘outperform our competitors’ or ‘maximise profit’. Achievement, in any walk of life, is all about focus and direction: in business terms, this means defining clear and measurable goals and planning back from them. In other words, it involves building a strategic map.

Building a Strategic Map for your business

The ability to create a realistic strategic map for any business begins with having strong stakeholder-focus and any hotel has a variety of stakeholders:


The differentiation between Primary and Secondary stakeholders is simply the degree to which they exert influence over, or have impact on, the running of your hotel. Those who have significant influence and/or impact are seen as primary stakeholders and as such require most attention. Secondary stakeholders are not unimportant; it’s just that they are unlikely to have the same degree of power over the choices you make. However, their needs do need to be considered and addressed where appropriate.

The foundation stone of creating a strategic map lies in placing primary stakeholders at the forefront of your thinking, in terms of the business decisions taken. It also means recognising that the path to success lies in satisfying their needs because, in doing so, you are ultimately satisfying your own.

Guided by strong stakeholder-focus, strategic planning is essentially about trying to answer four age-old but vital questions:

A strategic map helps a business to become outcome-driven and as a result, this reduces (but of course cannot eradicate) the risk of failure. Naturally, it will always be necessary to respond to changing circumstances; for example, most hoteliers undoubtedly have to take difficult decisions to get through the current recession. However, armed with a strategic map, any such short term decisions are not taken in isolation; the map creates a context for all activities and informs every decision taken.

NEXT: Read Part 2 Now … How to create or revise a strategic map in practice.
INDEX: view all articles in this Five Part series

About Enda Larkin: Enda Larkin has over 25 years experience in the hotel industry having held a number of senior management positions in Ireland, UK and the US. In 1994 he founded HTC Consulting, a Geneva based firm, which specialises in working with enterprises in hospitality and tourism. Since that time, he has led numerous consulting projects for public and private sector clients throughout Europe and the Middle East.
He is author of Ready to Lead
(Pearson/Prentice Hall 2007), How to Run a Great Hotel (How to Books 2009) which expands on the themes highlighted in this article, Quick Win Leadership (Oak Tree Press 2010) and The Impostor Leaders which is due to be published in 2011. He may be contacted via or at

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