“Cut the crap! You need a strategic plan!”
Yeah…that’s what I blurted out. Right in the middle of the people’s intense conversation. Shame on me!
It’s not like they were talking to me.
It was just a case of good food taking over my psyche, that made my mind drift to the conversation at the table next to mine.
And I couldn’t believe my ears!
There was a small business owner, who described himself as an entrepreneur running a business with 32 employees, pontificating on the virtues of being in business for 18 years, and never having done any strategic planning.
He went on to explain that he had no plans, to ever waste time, with a strategic plan since he knows everything about his business. Moreover, he does not need any outsider to come in and tell him how where to take it.
"Strategic planning is for big business!" he exclaimed.
It was then, before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “cut the crap! You need a strategic plan!”
Oh My! Finally, I was openly admitting that I was completely tired of hearing this "strategic planning" ignorance from small business owners.
Finally, I was no longer going to stand on the sidelines and let you stifle your chance to knock out the competition.
And I knew exactly what I was going to do about it...
I was going to give you some FREE information about a strategic plan.
So, let's jump right in.
What is strategic planning?
First of all, it's not a waste of time. Neither is it a substitute for your own leadership judgement.
Keeping it simple for you, it's actually a reality check on where you are and a process for developing effective strategies to move you towards your desired outcomes.
The process usually involves evaluating both the internal and external environments of your business. This then allows you to devise strategies are flexible and dynamic and will help you to adapt to any changing environment.
If your strategies are carefully selected, they will give you a sustainable, competitive advantage in your marketplace or your niche.
What leads business owners like my "dinner friend" to say that strategic planning is for big business, is that it is a common and smart approach, to have your strategic planning activity, facilitated by a disinterested third-party.
I have facilitated many strategic planning processes and written many strategic plans, both in the for-profit and the non-profit sectors. Many were for small businesses, whose owners never saw their size as a barrier to strategic planning.
So you see, strategic planning is NOT the prerogative or purview of big businesses. Even small businesses can benefit tremendously, from taking their business through a facilitated strategic planning process.
What is a strategic plan?
A key output of your strategic planning process is a document which captures the strategies you selected to grow and scale your business in the next 1 - 3 years.
This is your strategic plan.
It is also a tool that you can use to unite, motivate and lead your team, along a clear and focused path to achieving the results that were identified in the planning process.
You shouldn't confuse it with a business plan. The business plan outlines the entire operations of a new business and indicates the amount of finance that you need to make the idea a reality.
The strategic plan essentially looks at where your existing business is and determines where you want to go in the future.
So here are 9 reasons you need a strategic plan...
1. Clarifies your growth strategy
A well crafted strategic plan presents a picture of your key priorities for the period, the strategies to implement them and who is responsible for what.
In this way, everyone in the business is "on the same page." This makes it easy to keep check on implementation and to revisit strategies which are not working as expected.
2. Increases stakeholder support
Having a strategic plan elevates you to that elite group of small businesses which actually have a strategic plan.
When you develop a strategic plan, you send the clear message that you’re serious about the business, you know where you want it to go and how to take it there.
This excites your stakeholders, including your customers and makes them willing to give you their support.
3. Promotes team building
The ultimate goal of your strategic plan is to enable your team to focus on a select set of desirable, clearly articulated outcomes.
A well organised strategic planning process either involves key members of your team or all your employees, if the business is really small.
When all your team members have been a part of the strategic planning process in one way or another, they all have a keen interest in having the plan succeed.
This cohesion around the strategic plan is a sound foundation from which to build further agreement in other areas of your team.
4. Represents a great training opportunity
Most business owners will have their strategic planning facilitated by an experienced Facilitator.
When this is the case, with access to so many employees, a skilled Facilitator will turn the process into a valuable training exercise.
This is one of the best and most important training exercises any small business can ever take part in.
5. Leads to focused selecting of business opportunities
Because a strategic plan brings much clarity to where you are going with the business, it becomes like a laser for selecting business opportunities.
Without such a plan, you might be inclined to use a scatter shot approach to selecting business opportunities, choosing those that your gut tell you are good ones.
Because you are clear about where you’re going, you can identify and strategically go after only those opportunities that fit your objectives and goals.
6. Improves your marketing approaches
A strategic plan encourages you to conduct market research because this is one of the key things that drive meaningful strategies.
This means you will know who your main competitors and customer are at any point, and also what they are doing.
With this intelligence and the clarity of a strategic plan, you can remove the inconsistencies among your brochure, website, sales collateral, etc. Furthermore, it allows you to creatively differentiate yourself in your market.
7. Improves the flow of revenue to your business
During the strategic planning process, estimating the expected revenue is a key activity.
If forces you not only to estimate the amount of revenue, but the sources as well as the flow of that revenue.
With this information, you are more likely to hit your targets because you know what they are and you have chosen meaningful strategies to achieve them.
8. Serves as a staff retention tool
It is common knowledge that promotion opportunities are limited in small businesses.
In working on strategic planning with my clients, I have encouraged them to make that employee who would have been promoted if a position was available, the Plan Champion.
The Plan Champion oversees the implementation of the strategic plan which is a significant responsibility.
This helps to retain a key employee who might otherwise have gone in search of greener pastures.
9. Reduces the feeling of overwhelm
So you have gone through the strategic planning process. You now have a strategic plan. Everyone is clear on the desired results and their role in helping to achieve.
This takes the proverbial load off your back!
You no longer have to be figuring out things on the fly and trying to be putting out fires. Oh no! you know have to work with.
This reduces and even eliminates that awful feeling of overwhelm!
Your next "strategic plan" steps
I know that sometimes you take positions based purely on your gut feelings or without sufficient information.
While I know that's that not the best thing for your business, I understand how it could happen.
But you can't, and I know that you won't, continue down that path now that you've read this post. You're way smarter than that.
So if your business is ripe for it, begin your strategic planning right away. Because, you do need a strategic plan!
And if you're not sure where to start, get someone experienced in the process to assist you.
To your strategic planning success...