Why do I need Strategic Planning?

Have you ever noticed similar businesses in similar marketplaces can have profoundly different levels of success?   Have you ever wondered why some businesses achieve great results, while others struggle to survive?  There are a lot of variables when trying to identify the correct formula for success, and nobody ever  gets them all correct, but all successful businesses have one common denominator.  They prepare, review and execute some type of strategic plan.

There are lots of books and resources available to follow for strategic planning, but the secret is to make sure at the end of the day the strategic plan is yours, for your business, and you understand how to make it happen.  The following illustrates some basic steps to formulate your strategic plan:

  1. Decide what is important for your organization.  This is your opportunity to communicate to your employees your vision for your organization.  This could include the markets you want to dominate, but also the values and ethics you want your employees to portray when representing your business.  Once your employees understand this, it will be easier for them to make appropriate decisions when challenged with day to day issues.
  2. Define the goals of your organization.  This is important because it sets the expectations for the organization and provides a metric for measuring success.  These can be financial goals like revenue growth or gross profit margins, but you need to include the pathway to accomplish each goal.  In order to achieve your financial goals include your vision to make it happen.  If it is based on your products, it could be investment in R&D, an alliance with a strategic supplier, or additional feet on the street to make it happen.
  3. Do you have the right people to execute your plan?  It is easy to create a goal to double your revenue, but can your current organization deliver?  This step is very important and probably requires the most time.  Create a vision of the structure of your organization in 1 year, 3 years and 5 years.  Then build a financial plan that gives you confidence you can bring in the right kind of talent at the right time.  Having the right people in the right positions to accomplish your goals is essential to executing your plan.
  4. Assign responsibilities and create a timeline for execution.  Some of the best ideas to grow companies are sitting on the back bookshelf in the CEO’s office collecting dust.  A working strategic plan has to be a living, breathing process.  Assigning accountabilities and expectations are essential, along with mechanisms for following up.  Initially you may want to hold weekly meetings to assess your progress, identify your obstacles and continue to push forward.
  5. Make your progress visible to your employees.  It is very difficult to expect your organization to carry your vision and achieve your goals if they don’t know them.  You can publish charts on your intranet, recognize individual accomplishments, and provide rewards for key efforts.  Sometimes this can be as simple as buying a sheet cake for the 10am break to recognize an accomplishment or milestone.

These steps highlight some important elements of good strategic planning, but more thought needs to go into specific issues within your business.  In the heat of our day to day battles and struggle to make sure we meet the next payroll, sometimes we lose the vision of where we want to take our business.  A good strategic planning process puts us back on track and provides the road map to accomplish our goals.   The execution of a good strategic plan will always uncover more obstacles but at the same time bring new opportunities into focus.  If you would like to learn more about strategic planning or other issues challenging your business, please contact me for a free consultation.

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