A Strategic Plan for your Business Can Spell the Difference between Success and Failure

Did you ever hear the old saying: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got”, or “Without a roadmap, any road can lead to your destination, it just takes you longer to get there”? If we think about it, we often spend more time planning a vacation than we do about where our businesses will be a year or two from now. In fact, studies have shown that only about three percent of the population of the United States has a written and specific goal program.

The benefits of creating a strategic plan can be significant for any business: increased revenue, greater market share, improved performance and profitability, increased customer satisfaction, etc. Companies that are enlightened and desire to take their business to the next level or companies that are in dire straights often realize that they need a strategic plan to set them on a different course. But there is no reason why a company should wait for enlightenment or trouble to set a new course.

Every business plans to some extent, whether they realize it or not, in 1 of 4 ways: reactive, inactive, proactive or interactive. Reactive planning looks to the past, which results in a recreation of the past. Inactive planning evaluates the current situation and tries to maintain the status quo. Proactive planning, the so-called crystal ball approach, is done by attempting to predict the future. Interactive planning puts yourself into the future and allows you to invent a willed future. The result of interactive planning allows a business to create and control their destiny.

Strategic planning is the process of determining the future and what resources will be needed to achieve organizational goals. The basic outputs of the process are as follows.

1. Vision and Values: Big picture and “rules for the road” that creates the 5-year direction and the culture for the organization.
2. Mission Statement: Accomplishments for the next 12 to 18 months to draw closer to the Vision.
3. Critical Goal Categories: 3-5 factors that are individually necessary, and together sufficient, to virtually assure the achievement of the Mission.
4. Business Plan: Initiatives to pursue during the next 12-18 months (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.) goals under the Critical Goal Categories). As the plan is shared throughout the organization, individuals should develop their own goals to support these large initiatives or other ones to support the Critical Goal Categories.
5. The Market Plan: How to externally position the company in the new environment.
6. The Sales Plan: Strategy on engaging prospective and current clients.
7. Financial Projections: Budget that FOLLOWS the plan rather than DRIVING the plan.
8. Key Measurement Dashboard: Created as a mechanism to easily track progress.

The creation of an outstanding plan is not what will make it successful - it’s the IMPLEMENTATION of the plan that counts. The greatest plan that sits on a shelf accomplishes nothing. Monthly follow up is needed to assure that actions are taking place and key measurements are reflecting the planned improvements. The interactive planning process expects that adjustments to the plan will take place to achieve the desired future and allows for these changes to be made in a seamless fashion.

We’re now well into the year. Are you achieving your business goals? How does your current planning process work and does it help or hinder achievement of your goals? Timely adjustments to a well-conceived plan will allow you to achieve the success you always wanted.