Strategic planning for small business can be a useful exercise but doesn’t have to be complicated.
One day, after a long, offsite, eight-hour strategic planning meeting, Dina and Kevin ran into each other in the hotel lobby after dinner. Physically and mentally exhausted from all of the discussions and interactions, Kevin sank into one of the plush red chairs in the hotel lobby and sighed, “I can’t believe we are doing this again.” Dina, a relatively new member of the team, asks “What do you mean?”
Kevin responded with just that bit of disdain expressing sarcasm and hopelessness “We’ve met each year for the past five years, and the problems haven’t changed. We keep choosing different methods, doing the same exercises, but it doesn’t change anything?”
Have you ever been there? Attending long, all -day meetings, taking time out of your life to plan for the future of a business or ministry, only to produce a document that gets shelved for the tyranny of the urgent? Reams of paper list what should change, but in the end, there’s very little willpower or effort allocated to make the leaps needed to get where the company wants to go. Everyone involved wants their issue to be the top priority, and no one is willing to consider what’s best for the overall organization.
Too often strategic plans take a ton of effort and result in little change. But there is a way to avoid the heartache, tiredness, and stress involved with strategic planning, especially when you are a small business.
Most strategic planning methods emerge from the high-level corporate strategy designed for large multi-national organizations. These approaches are difficult to adapt to smaller more nimble entities. When you are a small business, you can cut back on the time and resource requirements for strategic planning by asking yourself and your team some critical questions.
These questions help you do four things
When you ask questions one and two, you are asking “What’s happening in the world around me?” These questions help you consider where you and what you are doing compared to the rest of your industry, competitors, and the overall business climate.
When you ask questions three, four, and five, you are also assessing where you are, but you are making observations about your customer needs and dreaming bigger dreams.
Question six is about measurement. Measuring the distance from where you are to where you want to be. This question is all about deciding what needs to change. This step will help you identify what should be a priority and what can wait until later.
Finally, questions seven and eight are about designing your roadmap for getting there. You wouldn’t take a journey to an unknown place without your GPS or a roadmap, would you? These questions help you identify what you will really need. Most strategic plans stop with the gap analysis, but to really be effective, immediately go into solution design for your highest priorities. In this way, you will take on your challenges, also capitalize on your opportunities, and design a usable roadmap for the future.
Small business owners wear many hats and strategy is one of them; however, it's not a hat you have to wear alone. A strategist who can see the big picture and each of its parts in detail will take you a long way towards accomplishing your goals.
Whether it is for a new initiative or new opportunity, or you are trying to solve a festering problem, a talented strategist can usher you through the planning process and help you accomplish your highest priorities. Look for someone who not only helps you plan but strategizes to win. As Sun Tzu said, "victory is won through your strategy before you begin the war."
Click here to learn more about developing a strategy that leads to your desired success.
by Pearlina Simmons