As many organizations begin to start their strategic planning for the coming year, this is a great time to step back and answer three key questions:
“Where are we now?”, “Where are we going?” “and “How do we get there?”
Business leaders with a strong sense of planning and goal-setting know the benefits of plotting the most direct course to get where they want to go and achieve superior results—faster! In other words, they create and follow a Strategic Business Plan that will answer these critical questions that solidifies their:
Vision: Long-term goals.
Mission: What the business does.
Values: The company’s core values.
Strategies: Distinctive competencies the company must have or develop to gain and keep a competitive advantage.
Objectives: Define success in terms of planned and measurable outcomes.
Action Plans: A prioritized list of the specific tasks to be performed.
Why Strategic Planning Matters to Your Business?
A top cause of business failure is not having any type of strategic plan. If a business has very little strategy and plan for where it is headed, it will wander aimlessly without priorities, wasting resources and time, and with employees confused about the purpose of their jobs. This is why B2B CFO® is passionate about providing strategic planning expertise to help business owners plot a course that paves the way to higher levels of success.
A structured and documented strategic planning process is about getting from Point A to Point B more effectively, efficiently, and allows for fine-tuning alone the way. Here’s a general time-line to consider:
1. Initial “kickoff” session with your company’s management team, to overview the Strategic Planning process that you
will begin to embark on.
2. Intensive and comprehensive strategic planning, which may be off-site for one day, or spread over 2-3 mini-sessions. During this first planning session you will work on:
• Complete SWOT analysis to uncover what are the company’s differentiators. Focusing intentionally on the company’s key strengths, weaknesses, threats or opportunities that can lead to more effective business decisions for the coming year.
• Management team will formulate 5-year, 3-year and 1-year goals.
• Once short and long-term goals are established, documenting the action steps and the plans to set the path to get there and achieve goals is critical.
3. A quarterly Strategic Planning “accountability” session. Establish half-day strategic planning sessions to review progress towards meeting your goals. Are there gaps in your plan? Have certain occurrences derailed the plans? How can you get back on course? Who is accountable for achieving these goals?
4. Do not lower goals if they were achievable. Setting even audacious goals is what makes the company have a clear purpose and vision that everyone on the team is on board with. You are helping them to change prior complacent behavior—the point of strategic planning! If you allow old habits to creep back in, resign at the end of meeting!
5. Know when it is time to course-correct. Assess if the next three quarters ahead are still good goals based on the review of all revenue growth, market conditions, and more. Take into account if anything external has changed or if the SWOT analysis changed significantly to the point it would impact your overall strategic plan. Take the time to access:
• Results YTD vs. planned targets? Where did the company plans fall short?
• From that point decide: do you stay with the goal, take action to “catch up” by Q2, Q3, but get back on pace to original target/goals? Do you keep the plan, but “shift” time-line forward? Do you lower the goals, which makes sense sometimes because the first goals were too aggressive in reality.
6. Establish the action plans to get you to Point A to Point B. Each objective should have a plan that details how the objective will be achieved. The amount of detail depends on the complexity of the goal. Your action plans will make sure the company’s vision is made concrete and whom will be tasked to use strategies to meet your outlined objectives. Accountability, communication and transparency are key to creating and staying on course with your action plans. You will encounter obstacles that hinder plans. Let’s face it, business is an adventure and an adventure, by its very nature, brings about unexpected challenges. Being able to better deal with those challenges is at the heart of planning ahead. Strategic planning helps you to see your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
Strategic planning also helps you to take advantage of opportunities and deal with the competition and other threats—and better overcome obstacles. Remember, strategic planning means plan for change.You may start off your year energized about your new plans and goals. But with the day-to-day running of the business, a lot of time goes by before you refer back to that plan—if at all.