All businesses are unique, but one thing many successful business owners have in common is the practice of strategic planning. This plan is used to ensure they have an understanding of their vision, their goals, and the steps needed to make these ideas a reality.
A strategic plan is “a systematic process of envisioning a desired future and translating this vision into broadly defined goals or objectives and a sequence of steps to achieve them” according to BusinessDictionary.com.
All business owners should develop and frequently revisit their strategic plan. The definition includes the reasons why it’s vital to business success, but I will break them down further below.
Have you ever gotten in a car destined to have the best vacation ever without your GPS turned on or a destination in mind? I doubt it. Moreover, if you did, it’s unlikely that your trip was successful.
Whenever you take action, you have an idea of what you want your result to be.
When you get a haircut, you envision a specific style.
When you paint your bedroom, you know the emotion you want the color to evoke.
When you get married, you envision living happily ever after with your spouse.
Strategic planning allows you to do the same thing.
Envisioning a future for your business takes you out of the present and catapults you into the future, so your actions are working towards reaching your target.
Having a vision for your future allows you to set goals or objectives that will enable you to work towards that vision.
Setting proper goals is crucial for any business because it takes your vision and makes it more concrete.
Your long-range travel goal is to visit every continent by your 60th birthday.
How will you turn that dream into a reality? It starts by setting broad goals. You don’t need to define every detail from the beginning, just developing a general understanding is a great start.
These broad goals alone will not turn your overarching vision into a reality, however, identifying them start to make your concept more concrete.
Now that you have an overall vision along with broadly defined goals or objectives, strategic planning calls for you to break down each goal into actionable steps that make it achievable.
Having a vision is excellent and setting goals is even better, but without the actionable steps that follow, your goal will likely never be achieved. The steps turn it into a plan which is what every business owner needs.
Your vision, goals, and plan are the trifecta that make up strategic planning.
To continue with the example that was provided in the previous section, let’s take the first goal and break it down into actionable steps.
I will travel to Europe by my 35th birthday.
What steps will make that possible?
Now you have a plan that will help you reach your goal!
If you find yourself still asking, “What is Strategic Planning” or want a more in-depth explanation of what a strategic business plan is and the benefits of strategic planning you can read another blog post I wrote on this topic entitled The 5 Benefits of Strategic Planning For Your Business.
I included a strategic planning example related to travel because we can all relate to the concept. As simplistic as it seems, that’s ultimately how simple your business strategic plan can be.
Just remove the travel elements and replace the vision, goals, and plan you have for your business.
If you think you can travel to every continent before you’re 60 years old without goals or a plan, then by all means, maybe you don’t need to implement strategic planning in your business.
However, if you’re like the rest of the world and realize that goals and a plan help you to reach your vision faster, it’s time to implement one now.
If you already have a strategic plan that sits in a folder on your laptop that you never refer to, it’s time to pull it up.
A strategic plan is a living document, as your business grows and changes so should your vision, your goals, and your plan.
Develop your strategic plan, regularly revisit it and update it. That’s the key to successful strategic planning.
If your company has employees, full time or part time, it’s essential that they be up to date on your strategic plan and follow it with fidelity. Gaining employee buy-in and engagement is crucial to business success.
If you’re looking for a tool to help you improve your employee engagement, you need to download a free copy of my book, “5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.” You can download your copy here. Its features best practices for getting your employees engaged in your company’s success. Strategic planning is most beneficial when everyone is on board and committed.
The term strategic planning is frequently used in business, but you might find yourself asking, “what is strategic planning?”
Implementing strategic planning sets a business up for success. If you analyze the name, strategic planning is simple. It’s a process of planning the actions you take in your business strategically instead of making decisions on a whim or duplicating the efforts of other successful companies. However, there’s a bit more to strategic planning than meets the eye.
According to BusinessDictionary.com, strategic planning is “a systematic process of envisioning a desired future, and translating this vision into broadly defined goals or objectives and a sequence of steps to achieve them.”
To develop a full understanding of what the strategic planning process is, let us discuss the three steps further.
As a business, you must have an idea of how your business will look in the future. How will your business operate six months, one year, or five years down the road? What will your business structure be? How many employees will you have? What will your profit be each year? Without the ability to conceptualize a future for your business creating a strategic plan is unattainable.
Once you have a vision for the future, it’s time to make specific goals to help that vision come to fruition. The best way to set goals is to make sure they’re SMART. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
An example of a SMART goal is, I will increase my consulting clients by 25% within the next 12 months.
It is specific and measurable because I can determine if my clients increased by 25% within 12 months by analyzing my metrics.
It is attainable because I set a reasonable goal.
It is relevant because the goal relates to my business.
It is timely because a realistic time frame is included.
Once you have your vision and your SMART goal, it’s time to develop a strategy to reach your objective. This is done by creating a step by step action plan.
Using the SMART goal I developed in step 2, if my goal is to increase the number of consulting clients I sign by 25% within 12 months I must
Creating specific action steps takes your vision from an idea to a goal to reality.
Completing the three-step process of strategic planning leads to numerous advantages in your business. Below you will find five significant benefits of implementing strategic planning.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Business Employment Dynamics, 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 50% fail by their fifth year, and only 30% of companies make it to their 10th anniversary.
Having a strategic planning process in place increases the likelihood that you are making decisions that will lead to the long-term success of your business. Your vision, goals, and plan of action are all surrounding the ultimate goal of your company advancing, therefore increasing longevity.
When you have a specific vision with SMART goals and an outlined plan, there should never be a question of where your business is heading. Having a sense of direction will guide all of the decisions you make in your business. You will be able to effectively steer yourself and your employees as you make day to day decisions, increase efficiency and proactively work towards your goal.
Many businesses are suffering from copycat syndrome. They see other seemingly successful companies and copy their techniques without determining whether they best suit their business model. This leads to look alike companies being created.
However, when you develop a strategic plan for your business that’s unique to your vision and your goals, you are free to develop specific steps that work for you and you alone. You are free to show your marketing genius and creative ideas to reach your optimal level of success. Straying from the pact will set you apart from your competitors and provide you with a unique selling proposition.
In developing your strategic plan, you are developing measurable SMART goals. Because the goal is measurable, you can track your progress quickly and determine whether you are moving toward that ultimate vision. Evaluating progress helps you to identify strengths and weaknesses in your business, strategy, and employees. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses helps you to make decisions regarding additional supports you might need to bring on board or strengths you should utilize more as you work to reach your goal.
As a business owner, you are frequently inundated with tasks. The goal is to focus on the most critical tasks first. Having a strategic plan will help you to identify the tasks that are most important and likely to move you toward your ultimate vision. Those priorities are where the majority of your time, energy, and effort should be spent. When you lack priorities and view everything on your to-do list with the same urgency, you are failing to optimize your time effectively.
Strategic planning is more than just creating a plan for your business. It can be the difference between reaching your 10th anniversary, or not making it past year 5. With a world full of competition in every arena, it’s important to set your business apart and prepare your business for success. Implementing strategic planning helps you to reach your goals the SMART way.
When developing your strategic plan, employee engagement and support is a non-negotiable. If you’re searching for a roadmap to increase employee engagement, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement here. It’s packed with strategies you can implement to ensure you and your employees are on the same path to business success.
A very dear friend reached out to tell me she was hosting a 14-Day Examine Your Why Challenge. I graciously accepted the challenge. Truth be told, this challenge came at a very good time for me. You see, I’ve fallen off the “why wagon”. My poor blog has been neglected. I have been suffering from shiny object syndrome. Running from here to there, trying to be everything to every one and I lost sight of my mission. Has this ever happened to you?
Little did I know that when I accepted my friends challenge, it would be more than just examining my “why”. I felt called to begin writing on my blog again. Day 1 already has me thankful that I decided to examine my “why”. Here are some thoughts that came out of my time of reflection:
What are the 3 biggest barriers keeping you from reaching your ultimate dream?
I took a while to reflect on this. Here’s what I came up with.
I appreciate this challenge for giving me the kick in the pants I need to get back on track. I’m excited to see what the next 2 weeks brings. Have you been lacking focus? Do you need a kick in the pants? Let us know what you do when you’ve fallen off the “why wagon”.