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Three Questions of a Solid Strategic Plan

Posted on in Growth Strategies, Process Improvements, Business Operations

A year may seem like a substantial amount of time, but for the businesses that don’t plan accordingly, the year will pass just as quickly as it came allowing their competitors to dominate the market. This is why a great Strategic Plan is crucial to a successful year. With 2018 more than halfway over, it is time to step back from the day-to-day operations and start asking yourself and your team: where is our business now, where do we want to take it and what do we need to do to get there? Though constructing a solid strategic plan can be difficult and stressful at times, if you chunk it down in manageable phases such as: getting started, three crucial questions to ask and execution, you can get there pretty easily.

For any business, a strategic plan is one of the most critical aspects to a successful year. The business that doesn’t prepare for the future, and has little idea of where it is headed, will wander through the year making changes and decisions that aren’t pointing in any one direction. As your company continues to grow, make the proactive choice to plan for the changes and difficulties that inevitably partner with growth.

A lack of strategic planning can leave your company vulnerable to the competitive market and tirelessly fixing problems that could have been mitigated beforehand. A well thought-out plan will provide your business clarity, direction and focus, which will give you and your team confidence that you are heading in the right direction. For employees, it is much easier to come to work every day knowing what he or she is working toward, and his or her progress in getting there. Give employees a scoreboard that measures results and you will see things getting done.

Simply Getting Started

Half the battle with anything in life is getting started. Getting started with your strategic plan can be something you want to continually put off for another day, but you don’t need to tackle the large questions right away. A great way to start writing your plan is to begin with something as simple as a SWOT analysis of your company. This will be good time to sit down and reflect on yourself and your business without getting too caught up in the details. Once you finish your analysis, you should have a good base that will lead you into the three main questions to ask while making a strategic plan.

When coming up with a strategic plan there are three main questions you need to ask yourself and your team. Though it is only three questions, each question contains a subset of inquiries that will force you to take a look under the hood to see just how your business is operating.

Question 1: Where is your business now?

This should show you how well your business is operating internally. What is it that drives its profitability? Who within the company creates the most value? And how does your business compare to your competitors? To correctly answer this question you must be as practical and realistic about the cause and effect of how your business operates. Take the time to look at the details so you can have a reasonable perspective on where your business is succeeding and where it is bleeding. Once you have informed yourself and your team members on your current operations it is time to start projecting what your goals will be for 2019.

Question 2: Where do you want your business to go?

This is the main question when creating a strategic plan. Your plan should be set up with growth in mind and write down the necessary steps you have to take to achieve the growth you want during the next year in business. What will be your priorities in 2019 and what will be your mission statement? The key here is the word priorities. You will not be able to do everything you want to do in a year. Prioritize and focus. Focus on two to three things that if achieved will greatly impact your business. Leave the rest for the next year or subsequent years. Create a vision with your end in mind that is backed by values, techniques and measurable goals which will motivate you and your team to stay on track. A strategic plan does not require you to flip everything upside down, rather it gives you the opportunity to tweak the parts of your business that need work so you can have a fine tuned machine that will drive profitability during the next year. 

Question 3: What do you need to do to reach your goal?

As Stephen Covey said, begin with the end in mind! Every goal needs a detailed map in order to navigate your way through the hectic year. This is the part that should keep you on track with expectations and deadlines. Don’t be afraid to get lost in the details here. A successful plan needs a lot of preparation and thought in order to be executed correctly. Will you need to make changes in personnel by hiring or promoting? Does training need to take place? Will there need to be changes with financing to implement your goals?

Question everything so when the time comes you will not be blindsided by a problem (and expect there to be problems because there is no such thing as a perfect year!) An in-depth plan will keep you on track, motivate you throughout the year, and limit the roadblocks you run into. As mentioned earlier, set measurable goals and develop a scoreboard that the entire company can see throughout the year! This works wonders.

Now What? Execution Time.

Before you are ready to execute your plan, you must first create an execution plan within your strategic plan. Essentially, a plan within a plan. This will be the section where you set deadlines, layout budgets and assign responsibilities to designated employees. Take this time to get the key employees on board with the set goals and objectives for the next year. This is a crucial part because it will take everyone being on the same page to keep the plan running smoothly. Using a project management tool for your plan can come in handy. There is a free version of Trello that works really well and you can add unlimited team members.

When the new year comes around, execution begins. It is imperative that you manage the changes diligently. Change can be a difficult process for many but it is up to the key employees to lead by example and keep everyone on track. Keep a close eye on the progress and don’t wait until the third quarter to review your progress. You should be meeting with the department heads in charge of executing the plan regularly to make sure you are seeing the results you expect, and if not, why.

As we creep closer to 2019, don’t push strategic planning off. It will take deliberate decision making that requires your time and energy. In the end, remember to question everything and never skip over the little details. Start small with your SWOT analysis, then move on to three key questions. When it is time to execute your plan, stay patient and allow your plan to play out. A strong strategic plan will have you well-prepared for the year ahead, able to adjust quickly when needed and ready to take on your market competitors.