Developing a strategic plan for your business is a necessary step every owner must take to ensure success for your company. While there are many ways to go about the process, all strategic plans must answer the basic questions:
- Where are we now?
- Where are we going?
- How will we get there?
Where Are We Now?
I find it best to look at strategic planning as a cycle. Assuming you work on a calendar fiscal year, start your planning in early October, develop your budgets (based on your plan) in November and implement in January.
Begin with an assessment of why your organization exists. What are your guiding principles? What are the core values and beliefs of your organization? Conduct a formal SWOT Analysis to determine areas in need of change. The idea is to build upon a company’s Strengths, shore up Weaknesses, pursue Opportunities and recognize Threats. It is critical to honestly examine your current strategic position relative to what is happening both internally and externally to determine the areas in need of change.
Where Are We Going?
As a former athlete and coach, I have always heeded the advice that you must have the ability to see yourself succeeding in order to actually succeed. Business is no different. All business success stories begin with a vision. The really important step is to commit your vision to paper so that you clearly articulate your business and personal goals. If you have partners, they must be included in the planning. And whether or not your spouse is a partner, I highly recommend including him or her.
Once you’ve assessed your current state, it’s time to look at the future you want to create for your organization. It’s helpful to focus on two broad elements:
- Your sustainable competitive advantage which is basically what your organization can do better than any other organization.
- Your vision statement which is where you formulate a picture of what your organization will look like in three, five and ten years.
How Will We Get There?
Knowing how to fulfill your vision is the “meat” of the strategic plan. It’s also the most time consuming. There are usually a number of routes from your current position to your future position. Picking the right path shall determine how quickly or slowly you fulfill your vision and realize your plan.
When we begin work with clients, we ask them how they got to the point where they are now. It’s not surprising that most of their timelines include false starts, pitfalls and detours. As we work together through elements like measurements and outcomes or strategies and tactics, clients can begin to develop organizational initiatives that help them achieve their goals and objectives.
It’s never too early to start thinking about an exit strategy for your business. Even if it’s ten years away, make sure the steps you take now add value to your business.