by Alisa Kirk
Many businesses conduct strategic planning by the calendar year. The new/revised plan is implemented in January, and individual assignments and deadlines are handed out. Small businesses should always have a plan, but often the owners are too busy to create one, or don’t see the need for one. When I hear a business owner say that he/she doesn’t need a plan (or needs one, but hasn’t gotten around to it), my reply is, “How can you not have a plan?”
Every year (preferably more often), no matter how busy you are, you should take the time to think about your strategy going forward. Here are some hints to what you should be considering:
1) Do you still have the same mission and vision for your business, and is everything you’re doing supporting that mission and vision? Does everyone who works for you know what the overall objective of the business is? Take a careful look at your stated vision, and ask yourself if the business is still on track toward that vision.
2) Do you have an objective or goal for this year? In order to work toward the vision, you should have some strategy about how you’re going to get there. What is your goal for this year, for this month? Does everyone have an idea what they’re working for?
3) Assess where you are. I love watching the television shows where the chefs are competing for a prize. One of my favorite parts is when they give the chefs a box of unknown or limited ingredients, and the chefs have to make something wonderful from that box. What’s in your box? What do you have to work with, and what do you need if you’re going to move forward?
4) Look at the competition. Is your defined competitive advantage, or differentiation, still valid? Competition changes, grows, adds new ammo. Do another careful analysis of how you compare, including your customers’, employees’, and competitors’ perceptions.
5) Make sure your customers are still happy with what you provide. Is there a new service, product, or customer support that you can provide in order to stay competitive, match current trends, and aid growth in the coming year?
6) After all of the above is done, refine your plans for this year. What do you need to do to reach your objectives, acquire new tools and resources (including human resources), compete, and keep your customers happy in the next year, all of which still supports and leads toward your vision. Ideally, you’ll take a quick look at this plan each week or month and refine the action steps you need to take. Getting into the discipline of thinking about strategy will lead to a healthier business in 2017.