Strategic Planning - Work On Your Business, Not Just In It
Well run companies don’t rely on blind luck to build a successful business. The best run businesses have a thoughtful and thorough approach to planning for growth.
Like driving a car, a business owner needs a solid grip on the wheel and to pay close attention to what’s up ahead, as well as what’s coming up from behind. Also much like driving a car, the real power to accelerate growth comes from using the technology available to make informed decisions on the direction your business is headed and how fast you want it to get there.
Strategic planning is important for your business regardless of which stage of the business lifecycle you’re in. Thinking strategically is an opportunity to steer your business in the right direction and keep you on the road to success. Many business owners tend to be more tactical vs. strategic with the belief that they don't have time to focus on their business strategy.
More than just wishful thinking, strategic planning is an ongoing process involving systematic identification of opportunities and threats. You use this information to drive what you are trying to achieve and how you measure success.
Navigating a Strategic Business Roadmap
You should begin by discovering and validating the ‘why’. We began with our company mission, why GrowthForce exists - our mission is to reinvent the world of small business accounting so profoundly that our clients never go back to the old way.
Your business may be in a pivotal phase, and you may need to dig deeper into what makes your company successful or not successful before stepping on the gas. After we reviewed and redefined our mission, we got the key leaders in a room to do a SWOT analysis of our core strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
A SWOT analysis of your business, not just at the start-up stage, can help you reshape the way you view and do business. Gather your pit crew, the key stakeholders in the business – production, accounting, marketing, and HR, and delve into the good, bad and ugly of your business. Transparency needs to be the best policy. This way you emerge with a real perspective of where your business stands and what issues matter most to the success and longevity of your company. This will make it easier to set goals for your business.
You acknowledge why your business exists, but to really rev the engine for growth you should start with the end in mind. Where do you want your business to go? How do you want to get there? What are your business goals?
Fueling the engine for business growth
Once you have a high level view of your business purpose (mission = why), and your business objectives (SWOT = what), then you work backwards with the end in mind to define how and when. Identify how you are going to get there - your Strategic Initiatives. At GrowthForce, we asked ourselves:
- What do we need to focus our non-billable time on to reinvent the world of small business accounting?
- How are we going maximize our Strengths and leverage Opportunities?
- What can we do to minimize our Weaknesses or mitigate Threats?
Too many priorities mean nothing is a priority, so each stakeholder needs to buy into one initiative at a time. What is the most important strategic initiative for Sales, HR, Service, Operations, Finance....right now? Then define the major milestones to measure success.
Finally, be sure to use the tools and information available to you for review and analysis of your goals to be sure you're business is on the right track for success.
To quickly summarize, the four steps for successful strategic planning include:
- Knowing your purpose
- Setting your goals
- Aligning your people
- Monitoring your KPIs
Once you're set on the main purpose of your business, and you've set goals based on the direction you want to take your business, aligning your people will help your business gain traction. When you start with the end in mind, it will help you and your staff to have a clear view of the key performance indicators (KPIs) you need to monitor to drive growth in your business.
In the driver's seat of business growth
The benefit of being the business owner is you get to decide how detailed your strategic planning process will be and, therefore, how much time and money you are willing to spend on managing your strategy. The bigger the company, the bigger the investment of time and money needs to be. But when it’s done right, you will be able to see the forest and the trees. Ideally, your strategy will link four types of plans: long-term plans, medium-range program goals, short-range budgets and daily operating plans.
While strategic planning can put your business in the fast lane for future success, you must resist the temptation to revert to cruise control, as a plan cannot replace wise decision-making based on current circumstances. Instead, your plan should be a flexible systems approach to help guide your business through situational changes, including crises, to reach your desired goals.
If you go down this road, you’ll find establishing a shared vision with measurable outcomes and using actionable financial intelligence, will help institute a framework for better decision-making throughout your company. Thus, leading the way toward growth and success for your business.