How much time do you spend on strategy and business development for your business? Need a benchmark? Consider this: CEOs of Fortune 500 companies spend 50 to 90 percent of their time on strategy and business development1.
Even if you aren’t a Fortune 500 company, you can benefit from the same tools that big companies use to grow their businesses. Put a little time into strategic planning for the year (or for any 12-month cycle) and reap the rewards. I assure you, it is well worth the effort.
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The hardest part is finding time. Sound familiar? Whether it’s finding the time to start or following up with implementation, its always the same. Finding the time is the battle. The thing that works the best for me is to schedule a block of time each week and put it on the calendar. I’ve found that doing it in the morning is best for me because I’m less likely to blow it off and unfinished work from the day doesn’t seep into my scheduled time. The strategic planning process doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require that you set aside some time from your regular work schedule. Remember the adage: failing to plan is planning to fail. Once you’ve found some time, follow the steps below to start the planning process.
Tips to Create a Strategic Plan
- Determine key team members from finance, customer relations, employee management, marketing, and sales to include in your planning sessions.
- Set aside time for the planning process and a location that will allow everyone to focus and freely interact. Consider at least a half-day of time and a location away from your business.
- If you haven’t already done so, determine your business’s mission, values, and vision. If you have existing mission, values, and vision statements, revisit and refine them because as your business changes and grows your missions, values, and vision will evolve.
- Use a SWOT (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) analysis to take a closer look at your business and to help define the focus of your strategic plan. As the business owner, keep in mind your personal business goals, but make sure you stay open to feedback and ideas from your team members. Their perspectives can enhance your full view of your business and bring new ideas and approaches to the table. There are many tools to help with SWOT analysis such as WikiWealth’s free SWOT Analysis tool. In addition to asking your strategic planning team to think about the business’s SWOT areas, provide them with these questions to review and contemplate prior to the planning meetings:
- Where must our business excel?
- Is our sales process effective?
- How do customers view our organization, our employees, and our services?
- What were the most frequent customer compliments in the last year and how can we further enhance those areas?
- How do internal business processes affect our customers’ experiences?
- Could our business processes be more efficient? If so, how?
- What are our most important financial objectives?
- What investments will be made this year?
- How will our business get efficient returns on those investments?
- How can our marketing efforts improve or expand?
- How can our employees be developed as our organization’s greatest asset?
- Are our employees satisfied and productive? Why or why not? What steps must we take to improve satisfaction and/or productivity?
- Which of our business functions need repair?
- Define a clear set of goals for the year. After a thorough brainstorming session, develop each goal into actionable objectives that have deadlines. Ensure that each objective adheres to SMART principles: Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Realistic – Timely
- After identifying your goals and objectives, spend time clarifying how improvements will be implemented and ways to continue creating value for customers. Assess and rate, by importance, the goals to concentrate on each quarter with monthly initiatives to be executed to move the plan forward. And, ensure that you include plans for ongoing communication about your strategic goals that help engage employees companywide. (Forbes magazine has a series of articles by Holly Green that discuss ways to inform, inspire, and engage your employees.) Finally, map your goals and objectives on the calendar. This becomes your strategic plan.
- Monitor and maintain objectives by holding to the established deadlines and scheduling monthly or quarterly review meetings to hold each of you accountable to moving the plans forward.
Create, execute, and monitor for success!
One last note….sometimes it’s difficult to look inward to evaluate your company or to remain a neutral party as ideas, strengths, and weaknesses are discussed. A business coach is trained for these functions and can help facilitate.
Melissa Marsh, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a human resources consultant and founder of HRinDemand, a human resources company in Reno, NV, offering expert guidance and easy-to-use tools to help small businesses with employment regulations, compliance, employee relations, and company growth. Subscribe to HR Tips for more human resources news and tips.
1Strategic Planning for Dummies, Erica Olsen