5 Steps for Strategic Business Planning

Maze with word Plan-minFor the past few days (okay, off and on for a weeks), I’ve been gearing up for the New Year. It’s a good idea to review your plans on a regular basis. If not monthly, at least quarterly. For me, it was a time to assess the year as a whole, if I still want to continue in the same direction, and what’s been working well for the year. Well, as of last night, I’m good to go. I got my strategic business planning for the New Year out of the way.

If you haven’t, perhaps now is the time. You strategic plan is organic. It’ll change, likely before you’ve implemented it from beginning to end. And that’s okay. Your strategic plan isn’t meant to be a one-time creation to put on a shelf and forget. Rather it’s a document that you’ll use to create goals, determine how you’ll implement your goals and measure your progress.

Today, I’m going to share with  you the steps I follow for my strategic plan. Keep in mind, my way isn’t the only way. It’s just what works for me.

Step 1: Be consistent

reveal-unity-symbolMy entire business is guided by my vision, mission, and values. If you don’t know what those are for your business, you might want to start there. I like to identify 3-5 areas to focus on that will lead me toward fulfilling my vision, supporting my mission, and maintaining my values. It can be easy to go overboard and get bogged down with too many focus area. If you’re a large company or corporation, you can divide areas between departments to take on greater tasks. For me, I’m a solopreneur, and there’s a limit to what I can handle. Keep that in mind when you identify your focus areas.

Step 2: Review Your Business Plan

The business plan is a bird’s eye view of what you plan for your business. Think of it as a roadmap for your business. Prior to starting your business, it’s good to have one on hand. If you’re looking for funding, it’ll likely be required by the grantor. Many entrepreneurs write a business plan, stick it on a shelf, and forget it. Writing a business plan can be a lot of work. Consider taking that work and benefitting from it through out the months and years.

Business PlanSince the business plan is a roadmap, you can use it to measure your progress. Are you going down the path you’ve intended? What kind of bumps did you hit? What did you learn from following your plan? How can you make adjustments in the future to increase your success? There is so much you can learn from your initial plan. It’s a shame to not take advantage of all the work put into it.

I’m going to be honest though. When planning for the next year, I tend to save addressing the business plan until I’m done with all my other planning. Why? I tend to go delve pretty deep in a couple of areas. That is, I like to get pretty detailed with the marketing plan and financial projections. Exploring other areas first, allows me to summarize the areas in my business plan better. Keep in mind, a business plan isn’t the strategic business plan. Rather, it’s more of a summary.

Step 3: Develop milestones and Goals

SMART Goals Graphic-minThe business plan is a bit dumbed down from what I consider a great strategic plan. What makes the strategic plan so powerful are the detailed milestones and goals. A business plan brushes on milestones and goals, but typically doesn’t drill down to how you’re going to accomplish those milestones and goals in detail. That’s where the strategic plan comes into play.

Once I identify my focus areas, I use S.M.A.R.T. Goals and summarize them in my business plan. Then I break down my goals to include milestones. Since my iPhone is an extension of my brain, I set milestones as reminders and sometimes in my calendar, if I know I’m going to need to block time to get things done, have specific launch dates, or have appointments to keep. Milestones are great, because it helps determine if I’m staying on schedule, need to make adjustments to get back on track, or plan for delays.

Step 4: Develop a Marketing Plan

Marketing Mix Signpost With Place Price Product And PromotionI use my marketing plan to project my image and also attract customers. Your plan may include other focuses. Those just happen to be my two main purposes. I mentioned above, I like to detail my plan. This is where I do it. My marketing plan is strategy where I do all my market research and map out the activities I plan to do within the year. I go at it with the idea that I may need to be flexible and dates and projects may need adjustments.

Again… I use S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting. Since my marketing plan tends to be quite in depth, I summarize it in my business plan with a note to refer to the full marketing plan, which can be added as an Appendix, for those who like to keep everything together. Since I print my entire strategy, it ends up in the 3-ring binder.

Step 5: Create a Budget

FInancial planOkay. I admit. I’m a bit addicted to excel spreadsheets. There’s something about working through formulas that really piques my interest. I estimate all my expenses and income, as well as my capital purchases (when & amount), and chart it for each month. My financial projects include a summary, balance sheet, profit & loss statement, revenue projections, break-even analysis, cash flow statement, and whatever else I think is necessary to provide a complete picture of the year’s finances. Financial projects act as a wonderful way to budget and plan for the future.

If you’re looking for investors, lending, or other external support, you’ll want to include a good set of financial projects in your business plan. Since we’re focusing on a strategic plan, which is a bit different from a business plan, I like to summarize this area in my business plan then add the full printed projects as an appendix in my 3-ring strategic binder.


Final Thoughts

I’m big into digital sources. Typically, I will jot notes in digital formats and come back to it whenever. For my business strategy… no way. I’m sacrificing trees. Let this be the time you print out your work. Don’t let it get lost in digital folders. I keep mine in a 3-ring binder, so it’s easily accessible.