Small business owners can relate to the lyrics from an old country song—some days are diamonds, some days are stone. It speaks to the ups and downs of running your own business. For many businesses, the key to surviving these cycles is strategic planning. It confirms you’re on track in good times and puts you back on the right path during the bad. Here are some tips to help you get the most from strategic planning so your small business stays on an even keel.
Strategic plans help you identify what you want your business to be when it grows up—say three to five years from now. So don’t get caught up in the details. That will come later with operational plans.
Strategic plans deal with high-level things like your vision, mission and core values. Ask questions like: What are we trying to accomplish for our customers? Our community? What qualities should your staff have? Here’s a sample of some inspiring mission statements.
Once you lay the foundation with your vision and mission, strategic plans typically identify a couple of key initiatives. The number you choose will depend on the amount of resources you have and your capabilities. Competitive forces can often be another factor.
But the key is to ask whether it supports your vision and mission. Will it put you closer to your 3-5 year goal?
The tendency for some businesses is to develop their strategic plan, organize it in a three-ring binder and put it on the shelf. But, the reality is that it should be a living document. That means you should evaluate it on a quarterly basis. Tweak it based on new internal or external factors.
The strategic plan can also serve as your watermark to be sure you’re on track. It’s easy to get distracted by a new opportunity or challenge. So it’s helpful to have a constant to help you make better decisions. It can help you say “no” when needed.
Don’t develop the plan by yourself. Seek input from your staff, suppliers, and other stakeholders. It will serve two purposes. First, it allows you to get insights you may not have considered. And it helps get buy-in and commitment for your goals.
You’re going to need your team to implement the plan. The strategic plan helps you have a dialogue with them to ensure that you’re all working toward the same goal.
Need some help in developing your strategic plan? The Small Business Administration offers free online training. Their strategic planning class describes the steps in the process and provides tools to create a successful plan.