What the Heck is Strategic Planning and How Do You Do It?

Many people have heard the term but are unsure what strategic planning is. Strategic planning is a process that helps leaders design their organization’s destiny with intention, instead of simply reacting to what the world throws at them. If you own a small business, you might think strategic planning sounds like corporate hogwash. Even if you see value in it, perhaps it seems daunting and boring. Frankly, if done poorly, it can be all of those things.

By helping over 20 businesses a year in many different industries do strategic planning, I’ve had the benefit of LOTS of cycles of learning. So I am confident to say that my version of strategic planning, which I call Own Your Future, provides the structure to get business and life-altering results, is fairly straightforward to follow AND is fun. Boom!

Even if it isn’t possible for you to work with me right now to do strategic planning, you can get started on your own. Since it is my vision to double the small business success rate in America, I’m willing to give away a skinnied-down version of my 5-Step Own Your Future, Strategic Planning process right here in this post! So dig deep, have some fun and Own Your Future!

Step 1: Identity

In step one, start with building a solid foundation.

  • Values and Behaviors: Take some time to journal on what you stand for and how.
  • Mission: Think about why your business exists (not just what you do). For more on this, check out my Tear in My Beer post.
  • Core: Are there any aspects of your business that must always remain?

Step 2: Inspiring Future

You likely started, bought or took over your business because you envisioned an exciting future.  Amid the daily challenges, you might struggle to keep that alive.  You’ll more easily muster the energy to power through those challenges if you have a long term vision. It has to be BIG, like leaving a legacy so it is compelling enough to keep your fire going. A near-term vision is helpful too as it is inspiring, attainable and a great motivator for staying the course.

Dive in to Step #2: 

  • Develop a Near-Term Vision (the “next level of better” in terms of money earned, time required, work quality and customer satisfaction). Pick an approximate date you’d like to achieve that Near-Term Vision. Maybe it is 6 months, a year or 18 months out.
  • Now, develop a Long-Term Vision (a legacy you’d like to leave). For example, mine is: To double the small business success rate in America.

Looking for further inspiration? Check out my Double Vision

post for more on how to establish both a near and long-term vision. 

Step 3: Current State

With this next step, you’ll take a look at what you have going for you that will help you achieve your near and long term vision. Maybe you have a unique and super effective process, or there is a global trend towards buying products like yours. You should also make yourself aware of the things that stand in your way like new regulations in your industry or a marketing-savvy competitor.  

In the Own Your Future strategic planning process, I encourage participants to be thorough in thinking through what’s currently working and what’s not for various aspects of their organization. To help, I offer my System Elements model. Check out the short video here.

Step 4: Architecture for the Future

This is definitely a Catalyst-only step (since I invented it) and is one of the reasons my clients’ strategic plans produce better results than the average strategic plan. In this step, put your near term vision at the top of the page. Next, identify each of the groups of people who need to do something in order for your vision to become a reality (e.g. employees produce a specific average of products per week, customers buy a certain amount of your products or services). For each, think about what you’d imagine that group of people would need to think, feel and know that would motivate them to do what you’d like them to do. The last part of Step 4 is to brainstorm things you could do to influence what those people think, feel, know, so they are motivated to do what you’d like them to do. I understand this is the trickiest step. Email me directly if you’d like a template for completing Step 4. You might also check out this video on the model. 

Step 5: Goals & Strategies

Hang in there, you’re almost done! To close the gap between the current state and your desired future, develop 10 or fewer SMART goals, and a handful of strategies for each.  For a refresher on my version of SMART goals, check out this post.  A strategy is an approach you are going to take to reach a goal. Pull strategy ideas from your Step 4 brainstorm on what things you can do to influence your customers, suppliers and employees. And remember, you can always email me directly if you would like templates to help compile your answers for any of the steps in the Own Your Future process.

There you have it, your very own strategic plan. Next you can start taking actions to implement those strategies. Review and adjust your goals and strategies throughout the year. Don’t forget to celebrate your wins! That reminds me of an upcoming post. Stay tuned for:“Why looking for a Gucci purse online is totally part of strategic planning”.