BUSINESS STRATEGY & GROWTH • December 21, 2015
2 minutes Read
By Rieva Lesonsky
Does strategic planning sound like something that only huge corporations do? In reality, a strategic plan is a valuable tool that can help even the smallest business thrive and grow into the future. Year-end, when our minds are on making resolutions and changing our lives, is the perfect time to sit down and formulate a strategic plan. Here’s how.
1. Review the state of your business right now. Hopefully, you’re using accounting tools such as QuickBooks to track and monitor your company’s cash flow, sales and other financial benchmarks. Get this data, and any other information such as customer lists and website analytics, in front of you. Also grab your business plan, (hopefully, you have one).
2. Assess any problems. By reviewing the information I mentioned above, perhaps you’ll notice that your sales have been stagnant for the past six months, or that you’re running into cash flow problems at the end of each quarter. What steps can you take to solve the problems you’ve spotted? Do you need to reach out to more prospects, hire a salesperson, or obtain working capital to tide you over cash flow humps?
3. Plan for the future. In addition to strategizing about how you will solve problems, now is also the time to envision how you want your business to grow. Where do you want your business to be in one year, three years, five years? Perhaps you want to open a second location, add a product line to your service business, or launch a website as an additional sales channel for your retail store. Don’t be afraid to think big — jot down all your ideas.
4. Consider your personal goals, too. The nice thing about being a small business owner is that your life is intimately entwined with your business goals. If you want to buy a home, work fewer hours, or retire in the next few years, what would you need to do in your business to achieve that personal goal? For example, if you want to spend more time with your family, you may need to hire a second-in-command to handle some of your workload.
5. Assess your competition. A good strategic plan can’t be created in a vacuum. Consider your key competitors, and what threats and opportunities they present for your business. Also think about trends in your industry, your local economy and the national scene. How might these affect your business in the coming years, and how should you respond?
6. With all these thoughts on paper, select the key goals you want to focus on and create an action plan. Determine what you will need to do to achieve the results you want in the specific time frame you’ve chosen. Then break everything down into shorter-term goals — annual, quarterly, and for the coming year, even monthly. Once you have set these goals, you can develop action steps for achieving them.
If you have employees or partners, be sure to involve them in developing your strategic plan — it will get everyone equally excited about achieving your big goals.
Small business influencer Rieva Lesonsky is a guest blogger for CAN Capital. She is a nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship and has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years.
Photo credit: iStock/Thinkstock
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