The Benefits of Strategic Planning with Michelle Hanton OAM - Conny Graf

I am very excited to welcome Michelle Hanton OAM to the show today. Michelle is a multi-award winning business strategist, an innovator, a mentor and a facilitator of strategic planning workshops that provide a crystal clear pathway to achieving goals - large and small. 

We will talk about how she found her jam with strategic planning and also how she not only uses it in her business and with her clients, but also for her private life. Listen in to hear how she made a very big goal of hers happen, to go live and work abroad for 1 year. We also talk about all the awards she has and whether or not she strategically planned to get them or not. 

If you find value in this conversation with Michelle please share the episode with one or two of your friends or family members, because if you find value in it, they will too, especially if they have big dreams and goals. 

Michelle Hanton OAM

Michelle specialises in strategic planning, helicopter perspective overviews and workshops that provide a crystal clear pathway to achieving goals – large and small.

Possessing an exceptional ability to create positive change for both business and communities a testament to Michelle’s talent is the numerous articles, podcasts and TV programs, including “Australian Story – In the Pink” in which she has featured.

AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS

  • 2010 – Life Membership Australian Dragon Boat Federation
  • 2008 - OAM in Queens Birthday Honours for services to women’s health
  • 2004 - Telstra (NT) Business Woman of the Year
  • 2005 – Finalist Australian of the Year (NT) Awards
  • 2003 - National Winner Avon Spirit of Achievement Award
  • 2002 – Finalist - Administrator of the YearFinalist - Masters Sportsperson of the Year, NT Sports Awards
  • 2001 - Chief Ministers Women’s Achievement Award
  • 2001 - State Winner of National Australia Bank Community Link Award - Health Category
  • 1997 Winner - NT Export Award for ManufacturingWinner - Gold Coast Fashion Award
  • 1997 Winner - RAQ Fashion Award for Active Sportswear


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Reading instead of Listening (Transcript) 

FYI: this text is not polished, I try to keep it as close as possible to how the guest expressed herself/himself . 

Conny Graf
Welcome Michelle I'm so excited and honored to have you on my podcast.

Michelle Hanton
Thank you, Conny, it's a pleasure to be here. Thanks for asking me.

Conny Graf
Well of course of course and we're talking about strategic planning, which is something that I really like to talk about but first I would like to know a little bit more about you and how you found strategic planning for you and that this is your jam.

Michelle Hanton
Okay, so it's, um, it didn't happen overnight like a lot of people I've had a very varied career. Starting my working life in London working in the world of private banking, Swiss banks, Arab banks, etc. and moving around the world doing different kinds of jobs, corporate work, etc stints in government, but one of the things that with hindsight, as I got older, a little wiser perhaps, experienced, is I realized that, you know, everything comes down to what is known as strategic planning. Now when you work in the corporate world strategic planning is very boring and everybody's eyes glaze over and they go oh my god no I can't sit in a strategic planning meeting, and they have to of course. And what used to come out at the end is a great big, bulky documents like really bulky.That really was sitting in the back of the cupboard because nobody wanted to read it.

Conny Graf
I don't think anybody ever reads that thing, at least from my experience

Michelle Hanton
Exactly, I think it was you know maybe I miss judging them, but I think it was one of those things that you kind of had to do, from the corporate perspective, but what I do what my jam is, when I realized, you know, how important strategic planning is when you think about: You have to have a direction that you're heading in. And to me what strategic planing is, and all the big bulky ones are exactly the same, it's just they don't articulate it really simply in everyday person language is, it has a pathway. So you know where you're going, it's very big picture. And I really love working, particularly three years, usually three to five years but my favorite is a three year. And so, it's about where you want to go, knowing what the end goal is, and then figuring out and plugging in all the steps that will take you there. And there are a bunch of things you know it sounds really, really simple. And it is really simple, but simple should not be confused with easy.

Conny Graf
Yeah, exactly, and so, of course I have to ask now, since we both had the experience that these plans usually sit in the cupboard somewhere if even anybody remembers that they even have one they for sure don't remember what is in it so how do you make sure with your clients that they actually do look at it and remember what's in it. What's the trick.

Michelle Hanton
Okay. So the trick is to keep it to two pages.

Conny Graf
Okay, awesome. That sounds good.

Michelle Hanton
Yeah, and to actually have it really clear, nice two pages, and what I always say to my clients because I'm mainly now work with small businesses, which is where I love to be, because you can really see the progress. So coming back to small business, a lot of small businesses don't do strategic planning because they just think it's, you know, way too difficult. And it is complex, as I say, but they also can't afford to go through the process because you actually need to be guided through the process to come out with something that is workable to come out with this two pager. So, to answer your question What I say is, once that it's nailed down to those two pages, print it out, laminate it and stick it on your office wall where you can see it, and refer back to it regularly and use it as a tool. I like to use the word, your guiding star. So that's how I see strategic planning being and when you've got your plan it becomes your guiding star.

Conny Graf
Yeah, I would have just called it the compass basically or like where you're heading. And it's so funny because, like, especially when you start a new business or like that from my experience I come from the finance world too like you. People have so much resistance to planning, budgeting, and finances but nobody would get into like if they wanted to travel somewhere nobody would just get in the car and start driving, somehow, and wondering why they haven't arrived yet after three hours. And yet, then they start a business, and have no clue, they just start, and so i don't know .... How do you convince these people, or are the ones that come to you already convinced they need it, or how can you convince people that they need strategic planning.

Michelle Hanton
So that is a that is a really great question. Conny, and the answer is this. I don't think you can convince anybody they need strategic planning. When people start a business, there are two kinds: one type of personality that plans everything out and they'll do the strategic planning etc. And particularly if it's a business that's going to involve a lot of money and they're going to have to be borrowing money, they need to present a business plan to financial backers. So from your strategic plan comes your business plan. So they tend to have done that. But then, the other group, which is the more common is the people who are very enthusiastic and very passionate know their subject, and they decided to open a business. Now quite often, particularly my clientele, they come from a corporate world. And it's very different when you switch from corporate to working for yourself. Totally different, because you have to provide your own paycheck. So, what tends to have happened is they will have had money to start their business, they have been in business for maybe two years, two to five years usually, and they run into bumpy ground. And there's no clarity about where they're going, they stop. They may be losing their passion for what they've started. And this is where I can show them, this is why you need a strategic plan and here's how it's going to help you business. That's what all of my clients, basically, end up doing is some strategic planning, because then that gives them that, as you use the word compass. It gives them that compass but it gives them the steps by step. What they need to put in place in order to achieve that goal, and reignite the passion for their business.

Conny Graf
Yeah, I can totally see that because if you don't have a plan you're just going around and then business gets hard and then you have nothing to look forward to, and that's the other thing that's the soft thing that strategic planning gives you too like that thing that you know where you want to end up to and you haven't actually defined once. And what I feel too is like a lot of people never think where they actually want to go with it so if you're going through strategic planning you're actually really thinking for yourself, where you want to go and then the motivation and the inspiration comes back once you revisit your two page plan that your honor all according to Michelle.

Michelle Hanton
I yeah but it's not according to Michelle it's according to you. I just draw it out so on the bridge, if you like, but the answers lie within the individual, and it's just a matter of having somebody who... so my methodology is perhaps not so traditional but it's about having somebody that will help draw from you, what is deep down but you have not explored and helping you get it down on paper, and asking the difficult questions, so that as you say Conny, you end up with what you want to where you want to go, and through that process what's super interesting is quite often people go, you know what, this isn't what I wanted at all. It's been pressure, like peer pressure almost everybody else is doing this so I need to do this.

Conny Graf
Yeah that's a perfect segue to my next question so I would assume that strategic planning can help us in our personal life a lot too, especially as you just said that with the business you may come up with: Oh, wait a second, that's actually not what I wanted to do. If you actually go into kind of a strategic planning for your personal life, you may figure out too that you're completely on the wrong path in your personal life. Have you had experience with that, yourself or with your clients?

Michelle Hanton
Yes, I have on both fronts. Let me tell you a little story from my personal side and how I used it myself. So what happened was probably about, maybe 10 years ago now. Yeah, it's about 10 years ago now, I decided that I wanted to go back to live in Europe, and to work in Europe but not in the UK, right on mainland Europe somewhere. So of course I didn't have enough money to go and live for 12 months and not work, right. The skills that I have, you know the strategic planning or my business skills, weren't going to cut it because I didn't have strength in the language. I have a smattering of German a spat smacking of Spanish, Italian, but not enough to actually work and command a good salary. So I'm thinking to myself: now how do I do this, this is my, this is my goal, my ambition. My marriage had broken up and my daughter was about to finish university in a couple of years time so I thought how do I make this happen for me? So I took everything that I teach my clients and show everybody else and I applied it to myself. So after doing my research, I came up with what I needed to do so my goal was to live in Europe for 12 months, and to be able to earn money. I didn't care, exactly how I did it, but I was able to eliminate a bunch of things, so corporate out, front of house while needed strong local language skills out, so I was able to look at what was left for me. And what was left was to teach English. Now you need qualifications, speaking English is not enough, and you need an EU passport as well, which I had the right to. So I had to reapply for my British passport get that back again so I have a EU passport, which is now out the door with Brexit. But more importantly, it was to learn to teach English. So I enrolled in a course, it took me four years to go through this process, at the end of which I had my teaching English as a second language qualifications. I worked in the business as well, and what I did is I volunteered because I needed practical hands on teaching experience, I volunteered in the Migrant Resource Center for refugees coming into Australia, and that gave me my teaching qualification and allowed me to go through the exam. So in the end, that's what I was able to do. I got a job in Spain, and I lived there for 12 months. But in the meantime, I also need to supplement my teaching income. I went on Upwork because they have this big siesta in Spain so you only work a few hours a day teaching. I went on Upwork, and I put myself out there as a freelancer, and closed my consultancy business down for basically 12 months while I had my sabbatical.

Conny Graf
That's awesome, four years I mean you were committed you really wanted to go to Europe, so that is awesome. And probably without strategic planning, you wouldn't have made it there, it might have just stayed a dream.

Michelle Hanton
Exactly, exactly. And so, my message here is always to say. You have to take actions to make your dreams a reality. Every dream if you are able to analyze it, and put goals around it, and steps to take you there, you will achieve it. But it's going to be very strategically mapped out and you need to know what you're doing, and follow it, each step of the way.

Conny Graf
Mm hmm. What do you say to people who say I don't want to be strapped into something so rigid like a strategic plan Do you have less rigid things to do?

Michelle Hanton
This is the thing, it's not really so rigid. Let's rewind a little bit, it's not so rigid, if you are clear on what you want to achieve. So that's what you want to achieve so your vision, your mission, that usually doesn't change, how you get there, can change. So the route that you take may change, and when you've got this plan in place you've got your KPIs key performance indicators, or milestones, whatever word you want to use, you've got these little goalposts along the way. Now, something may come along, say, an opportunity in your life or family hickup etc. that throws you off kilter, and you can't be rigid you can't say well I have to do that that and that. But what you can say is, that's my goal that's where I'm going I'm going there in three years I'm going there in five years. That's what I said, I still want to do that but this is what's happened. You can tweak how you get there. And if an opportunity comes along, particularly for small businesses, or even on the personal level, what I call shiny objects

Conny Graf
Yeah, that's a dangerous part I think these days that's the dangerous part and that's why strategic plan is so important and that you actually whenever an opportunity comes along that you actually compare that with your strategic plan and make sure, it's in line with where you want to go and not just some nice detour or some diversion from it. And sometimes what I come across is that shiny objects they become even shinyer when the steps in your strategic plan are maybe a little uncomfortable and you're kind of start wandering over there...

Michelle Hanton
Exactly, Exactly. And then what I always say to people is ask yourself this question: If I pursue this object is it taking me where I want to go? And if you can answer yes, then by all means, pursue that. Because it's a different way of getting to your final objective. So that's thing, life is uncertain, so you've got to have that flexibility. We can't be too rigid and that's why most people in small business are working for themselves because they want that flexibility they want that freedom, and not follow what the boss says you know we have to do this and we have to do that.

Conny Graf
Well, and especially when you come from corporate where it's like a mamut and like we said there is these huge plans that actually after you birth them in hours and hours of meetings nobody looks at them ever again. So yeah you want to stay flexible you want to stay the course but you want to stay flexible in how you get where you want to go.

Michelle Hanton
Exactly.

Conny Graf
Now very cheeky question for you because I know you do have a lot of awards , so I want to know was that strategically planned that you did all these awards.

Michelle Hanton
No, not at all. Not at all. Yes, I've got a lot of awards, and what I will say is, they come, that kind of thing happens, if you're doing a good job, the accolades will come. But if you set out specifically to achieve them, I don't think that's the right approach to anything because you're not really giving back to your community, you're not really developing you're just focused on, on looking good. I think if you talk to the bulk of people who have won these kind of awards, the awards are secondary and I have this thing which I do talk about in some of the speeches I've given, which is, it's not the winning that matters. It's what comes after the winning. So it's what you do, before you got the award, but then more importantly is what do you do after it. An award it's just a title, it's just maybe a nice little certificate or a check or a nice little shiny thing to put on your mantelpiece, but that's not important, it's inanimate.

Conny Graf
It's a recognition for what you doing, and I knew your answer would be that way I was still wanting to ask it because, I always need to ask some cheeky question. So is there one of these awards that you're most proud of, or that you can actually use the most now. Like you said, it's what you do after with it, that you that you're most proud of and that you can use the best now after you received it?

Michelle Hanton
Okay, so there two, the first one is the Telstra Business Woman's award which is a very prestigious award in Australia, and it was when I won it, which is some years ago now, it was widely recognized. I got letters of congratulations from all these people that I really hadn't heard of which is very nice and opens the doors. So when you have that title you know Telstra business Woman of the year, NT, it opens doors people sit up and listen because it's judged by an independent professional panel of accountants and all these other corporate high fliers. So I am very proud of that one, and it was great leverage it still has to this day, a lot of leverage and it opens up and alumni that you enter. There's all sorts of things that go on, from a business perspective it's great. The other one that I'm very honored to have received is the Order of Australia Medal, which is awarded by Her Majesty the Queen, as we're Commonwealth, and the Queen's Birthday, honours. What happens with that one, I have since found out, is you are nominated and it takes about two years for them to go through this whole nomination process and vet you etc. and decide whether that will be bestowed upon you by Her Majesty. So I was very very surprised, overwhelmed, very proud to receive that for my work and my contribution to women's health.

Conny Graf
So who did nominate you then, that was not you the way I understand, that wasn't you

Michelle Hanton
Yeah, none of these awards were eligible for self nomination.

Michelle Hanton
I don't know to this day I don't know. It's a group of people that are involved, I know that part of the nomination process is they have to have a pile of referees for you they have to have letters of support they have to talk about what you've done that makes you stand out from the rest of the people, what you've done that's special. So, and that goes to an awards committee to vet. So it's quite a complex process. Since I received the award I found out more about the nomination process and how it works. I was always a little.... what should I say.... I didn't like to use the title OAM, and I felt a bit reluctant to use it, and a dear friend of mine she since passed away, she said to me, Michelle I need to tell you something: a lot of people went to a lot of trouble to nominate you for this award. You've got it, now you need to use that title, otherwise you are disrespecting their efforts! Well, I never thought of it like that, so now I use it.

Conny Graf
Yeah, and so you should. I think you can be very, very proud of that and, in turn, I'm very very honored to have you on the show and also like we know each other a little bit better because we're working on a project together, a collaboration together with Julie and so I'm really honored too to have you as my friend, and do that you were on my podcast. Do you have any last words of wisdom or a secret tip that you want to really get out before we wrap this up,

Michelle Hanton
I think, words of wisdom, secret tips, what I want to say to anybody listening to anybody who feels overwhelmed and confused, etc. Believe in yourself, the strength lies within you. No one else can give you that, and no one can take it away from you. You may need guides, you may need mentors and they will come into your life naturally, at the right time. As long as you believe in yourself and the power that you have. Don't give that away.

Conny Graf
Yeah, beautiful, beautiful Michelle. Thank you so much for being onthe podcast, and for sharing your life story a little bit with us how you got to strategic planning, and I hope most people clue off now that it doesn't have to be that huge package somewhere in the drawer but that it can be a two page on your wall that inspires you every day.

Michelle Hanton
Yes, thank you, Conny it's been my very great pleasure.

Conny Graf
Thanks so much. Bye Bye.

Michelle Hanton
Bye.

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  • Hi Conny,

    What a delightful conversation…and guest!

    You’re both certainly right about the disdain for planning! How can one get to where they are going without a plan!

    I think some of this is the thinking “I don’t have time to stop working & create a plan” but as the saying goes…

    “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” (btw, i don’t think it’s been documented conclusively, but I’re often read that this was first attributed to the wise American statesman, Benjamin Franklin!)

    The way I look at planning is it’s an <> in your goals, be they business or personal! If you’re not invested enough to create a simple plan — understanding important milestones to get you there — you’re probably not very committed to those goals…

    Thanks for this great conversation!

    • Conny says:

      Thank you for listening Karen, you are so right, if you’re not invested enough to create a simple plan with milestones you are probably not committed to these goals. I heard just writing down goals means you will reach them more likely, now imagine what happens with a plan.

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