When you started your business, you took those first few steps that put the business plan into motion and started inching things forward. But perhaps lately you’ve noticed that things have started to plateau and you don’t seem to be making much headway. You have a moderate amount of revenue coming in and have some guests, but things feel a little piecemeal. The reason that this is happening is likely down to the fact you are using your business plan to move your business forward.
There is nothing wrong with this approach, however, business plans by their very nature are primarily for starting. What you need to introduce to get your business off and running is a strategic plan. A strategic plan allows you to really focus on goals, to set priorities, make investment decisions and layout growth opportunities and how to reach them. This is very different from a budget, although this does make up some aspect of a strategic plan, it outlines a clear path toward different things you want to implement and how to proceed.
Build in Trials and Errors
A strategic plan is your concept and detailed steps to achieving a goal. However, there is no point putting this into practise if you don’t know it’s going to work. You may have a detailed plan to achieve increased revenue, improved margins and higher ROI. But you need to make sure that you have wiggle room in your plan for some of those steps, or possibly all of them, to fail. You will then need to have secondary steps to take if the ones you assume will work do not achieve the desired goal. The only way you can know if your plan is failing is by having measures in place that track your plan, thus avoiding being in a situation that runs your business onto the rocks before you can implement another plan.
Likewise, having metrics in place that allow you to measure your successes ensures that you can implement the successful strategies into other areas of your business. Success is very rarely something that happens through luck, it happens through planning, measuring, assessing and repeating. When you effectively cover those four elements you will be able to take your business into new areas and ensure that you do not damage things along the way.
There are a lot of strategic plans that include wording such as “leverage our world-class operating capabilities” or head-scratching aspirations like “reshape our pricing and trade strategy to effectively drive demand while maintaining market access.” At the end of the day, language like this means very little. Your strategic plan should be specific and direct in its goals. Including buzzwords and corporate speak into your strategic vision mostly demonstrates a lack of understanding.
Your plan may never be read by anyone other than you or your business partners, so there is no reason why you cannot use language you are used too. By keeping the language of your plan direct it can help you to focus the steps you need to achieve your goals.
Step Away from the Template
Templates are a great way for you to work out exactly what is needed to make a strategic plan for your business. If you have never put one together before, then getting online and searching for a template to use can be a useful way of understanding what needs to be included. Likewise, you may not have the funds to engage with a strategic planner to assist you. Once you have found a template that you believe will suit your purposes, avoid simply filling it in. When you fill in a template you can run the risk that you don’t truly challenge yourself with finding the best goals and the best steps to reach those goals.
By building your own plan based on a template you may be able to dig much deeper than you would have otherwise. To ensure your business grows to your expectations you will put together several strategic plans. An over-reliance on templates each time means you run the risk of having stale ideas and not truly getting the best out of your planning.
Challenge Yourself Through Questions
If you were running a large corporation or managing teams within one, the strategic plan would have many people involved, all with competing requirements and needs. This kind of environment can lead to challenges across business divisions that ultimately ends with a strategic plan that is robust and covers multiple needs. When you are operating in a small business environment, or as a sole operator, it can be difficult to replicate this situation.
Making sure you take the time to really challenge yourself through the process of creating a strategic plan will make sure that you have the needed steps that will drive your business to higher levels. It will also ensure that you have multiple ways to achieve those goals which will nullify some of the risks of running a business and taking a step into territory that you have not been in before.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- ‘what are the top two or three things that must go right for this strategy to work?’
- ‘If I pursue this strategy, what am I not be able to achieve?’
- “What specific capabilities will we need to develop for this plan to succeed?’
Strategic planning can drive your business to a previously unthinkable level and it can be the force that pushes you ahead of your competition. The challenge herein centres on how honest and direct you are with your outcomes and the effort you put into the process.