In my last blog I talked about setting personal goals and resolutions. Buisnesses also need to plan where they are heading, what they need to do to get there, how they will monitor their progress and evaluate success. Whilst one cannot predict the future, one can anticipate and plan for what lies ahead. A strategic plan will help you to get ahead of the game. It is a way of consciously choosing to be clear about your company’s direction and proactively responding to a constantly changing business environment.
What will your business be like in 2 -3 year’s time? To help you put a plan together, you will need to consider the following 3 steps:
Where is my business now?
This stage involves analysing your company’s strengths and weaknesses, how well it addresses the needs of buyers and markets, and how it compares with its competitors. To help you do this and gain buy into your plan, involve the key people in your business and build consensus about what needs to be done and why.
Some questions to consider:
- What is the purpose of my business?
- What are we trying to accomplish for our customers?
- What does my company stand for and believe in?
- What is affecting my business and how? Think about: trends in the economy, recent or pending legislation, demographic trends, labour skills and competition, current and new competitors, current and new markets, customers, market size, your business capabilities and resources….
Exploring these will help you to weigh factors against each other to determine what your company should do and when and how to do it.
Where is my business going?
Where do you see your business in 2-3 times? What can you realistically achieve having considered some of the questions above?
You will also need to consider how you stand out from the crowd so that you can build your strategic plan on the basis of your competitive advantage.
Questions to consider:
- What is my distinct purpose?
- Why do customers buy from me instead of my competitors?
- What do I do better than any other company in my industry?
How is my business going to get there?
Now that you have an idea of where you are going, you need to set yourself some objectives, goals and targets to help you get there. Think about :
Strategic long-term objectives – How are you going to get from the reason why you exist to your future? What activities do you need to perform to get you to the vision that you have created? Holistic objectives should include financial, customer, people and operations
Short term SMART goals – convert your strategic objectives into specific performance targets. They state what you want to accomplish, when and how you are going to do it and who’s going to be responsible for what
Action plans – a plan of how you are going to achieve your goals, who will be responsible for what and within specified time frames
Key indicators – how are you going to measure and monitor the progress of your plan – what are you going to use as indicators?
Implementation – how are you going to communicate, support (time, money, resources) and implement your plan?
A strategic plan does not belong in a desk where it remains gathering dust. Use it to check your progress, evaluate how you are doing and remember that it is a road map. The route may be paved with pot holes and detours. There has to be some flexibility in your plan to take into account the changing environment
My top 5 tips to keep your plan off the shelf and live:
Get everyone involved and embed your plan into the culture and daily activities of your company
Keep it simple – put the key parts onto a poster. Place posters around communal areas in your company to keep your staff focused on your company’s direction
Hold monthly meetings with key members to enable them to report on the progress they (or department) have made towards the goals that they are responsible for
Hold quarterly meetings to assess the changes in the operating environment, monitor progress and achievement of targets and goals and to take corrective actions when needed
Celebrate success no matter how small to keep staff engaged and motivated
Have you set your business direction? Would love to hear if you have anything to add to the above and how you keep your plan live.