Every successful business has a plan and knows where it is heading in the future. Setting a plan with goals, target dates, and a purpose should be finalized before embarking on a business. Taking the time on an ongoing basis to review the company's past performance, and predict its future performance, gives it a road map to follow.

Without strategic planning, which is knowing the current state of your business and where you want it to go, most businesses will fail. A strategic plan allows you to see what is important, how to get there, the pitfalls to avoid, and the noise to ignore. Below we discuss some of the reasons why strategic planning is important and how to implement it.

Key Takeaways

  • Strategic planning is crucial for a business as it creates a map for a business to follow and course correct when need be.
  • The first part of a strategic plan is the business plan, which outlines the purpose of the business, budgets, goals, and the mission statement.
  • Making time to evaluate your business on an ongoing basis will allow you to determine how well your results are adhering to your plan. This will allow you to make adjustments or double-down on how the business is being run.
  • Communicating your strategic plan to your employees is critical so that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
  • Reviewing and following up on your business will highlight strengths and weaknesses in your business so that you can continue with what works well and eliminate what is hindering the growth of your business.

Making a Business Plan

The very first strategic planning most businesses do is a business plan. When you first start your business, you will likely have prepared a mission statement, a budget, and a marketing and promotion plan. The business plan is a good first step, but it needs to be reviewed and updated as the business continues and grows. If you shove it in a drawer and let dust gather on it, it won't serve as the foundation of your business, as it was meant to.

Using Goal-Based Planning

How you go about conducting strategic planning will depend on many variables, including the size of your business, the time frame included, and your personal preferences. The most common style of plan is goals-based. In this type of plan, you set goals for the business (financial and non-financial) and map out the steps needed to meet those goals.

For example, if your goal is to have $100,000 in revenues next year, the steps to get there might include bringing in five new clients a month and attending three trade shows. Whatever the goals you set for your business, they should be concrete and measurable so that you know when you reach them.
Another method of strategic planning is mission-based.

When you first started your business, you likely developed a mission or values statement, outlining the purpose of your company and its overall reason for being. A mission-based strategic plan ties each part of the plan into the mission, to ensure that the company is always operating in the service of that mission.

For example, if your mission statement is to be recognized as a leader in the financial services sector and to help families become financially independent, your strategic plans should address how you will meet those goals.

Making Time

It can be difficult to find the time to plan your business. Other, more pressing priorities, like trying to bring in revenue, may grab your attention; however, carving out time regularly will help you keep on top of your business.

Blocking off a few hours a day or week to focus on your plan should be part of your business operations. During that time, you can examine the prior week's financial performance and update any marketing initiatives to make sure that your business is on track with your initial plan. If it's not, then you'll need to make adjustments to get back on track.

Regardless of how often you plan, make sure that you set it in stone in your day planner. Block off the time and don't let anything else get in the way. Turn off your cell phone and, if at all possible, go somewhere away from your office to plan in order to minimize distractions.

Promoting Communication

As a business owner, you will most likely have employees. It is critical to inform them of your strategic plan so that they are on the same page and working towards the same goal as you.

Including your staff in your strategic plan will instill a feeling of responsibility in their jobs that will help ensure productivity.

For example, if you have a sales team and your strategic plan involves bringing in five new clients a month, your sales team needs to be aware of this so that they know the goal to achieve. If they don't, perhaps they would be under the assumption that bringing in two new clients a month is excellent, when in actuality, it is only 40% of your goal. Without clear communication to your employees, your business will be a boat set adrift without any course to follow.

Following Up

A critical part of the planning process is reviewing your previous plan and comparing it to your actual results. Were you able to bring in five new clients last month? If not, why not? Tweak the plan going forward to account for changes in your business or the general economic climate. The more experience you get with the planning process and with the operational side of your business, the more accurately you will be able to plan.

Once you have had your business running for a while and block out time to follow up on your strategic plan, you will be able to determine where the strengths and weaknesses in your business lie. This would allow you to correct course, perhaps changing your business plan and goals slightly to focus on your strengths, while allowing you to eliminate your weakness, making your business stronger and increasing the likelihood of achieving your goals.

The Bottom Line

Planning out the future of your business is the best way to ensure success. Creating an initial plan and communicating that plan to your employees will ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal.

Taking out time to review your business's results and comparing them to your plan will help ensure that the right policies and procedures continue whereas those that are not benefiting the company will be removed. It may seem awkward and difficult at first to create a strategic plan, but with practice, you will be able to move your business in the right direction.