When you first started your business you had a great idea, along with the desire and passion to succeed as an entrepreneur. Implementation of that great idea and the perseverance and disipline to stay on course represent some of the greatest challenges faced by business owners. Unfortunately, the statistics show that only 50% of new businesses survive past 24 months, and only 20% reach the five-year milestone. Development and successful implementation of a solid strategic plan is a key to significantly improving your ability to succeed. It’s also an acknowledgement you need to work strategically ‘on your business’ in addition to working ‘in your business’.

In my experience as a business coach I find that most small business owners do not have a well developed and documented strategic plan. This is particularly so for ‘solopreneurs’. While they may have initially put together a business plan during the start-up phase, a strategic plan serves a different purpose. It is a living document that is used to regularly review progress on implementing your business vision, revise and make course correction decisions. Small businesses can follow these six steps to develop a simple strategic plan.

  1. Document your business purpose, highlighting your unique value proposition to prospective clients. Focus not only on ‘what’ you do, but also ‘how’ you do it and most importantly ‘why’. This business purpose is the basis for your business mission statement.
  2. Describe your desired future state vision for the business. This vision should reflect a picture of your business in 5 or 10 years’ time. Also briefly describe the values you will adopt in achieving this vision.
  3. Step three involves the identification of the key strategic goals which you will need to achieve to reach your future state vision. Goals should have a timeframe no less than one year and often 3 years or more. You should streamline and prioritize down to less than 10 key strategic goals, with 5 to 8 being an ideal number.
  4. Analyse and document the gaps in your business between current state and desired future state. And perform a SWOTT analysis to support this analysis (identification of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and trends). This analysis will help to confirm and prioritize goals and action plans.
  5. In step five you will develop your business strategies that you will need to implement to achieve your goals and get to your future state vision. Think of strategies as your selected solution path, or course of action that collectively act as a road map for your business. To help with this step try breaking down strategies into the following eight categories: marketing, sales, service delivery, financial management, human resources, operations, IT, and risk management. For small businesses sales and marketing strategies often become the dominant areas of focus but it is critical that you address all eight areas.
  6. The final step involves the identification of specific tactics, projects and action plans to implement the strategies identified in step five. Action plans should have a timeline no longer than one year, and I recommend that business owners focus on their 90 day action plan, which can be further broken down to monthly, weekly and even daily actions.

Armed with this completed six step strategic plan, it’s critical that you don’t just file it away in your desk. Keep the plan with you and review it regularly. Now that you have a documented plan, you should focus on implementing the action steps, measure results, and then critically assess your progress on a regularly scheduled basis. As a minimum a monthly review of your progress against strategic goals is appropriate. Be prepared to assess, take corrective action and modify plans when results are less than what was expected. And if you’ve set weekly and daily action plans, your review of results should follow that frequency. Creating a simple scorecard to document progress can help in keeping you on track and recognizing your progress.Sounds like a lot of work? Entrepreneurs wear many hats and the workload can be overwhelming. But it need not be so. With proper planning, the use of good business tools and a disciplined approach this process can be streamlined.  If you have staff, spread out the workload. For small business owners it’s important to have a support structure in place. That might include a business mentor, an advisory board, a trade association, or a business coach.

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