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7 Steps to Jump Start Your Strategic Planning

7 steps to jump start your strategic planning

How much time do you spend on strategy and business development for your business?

Think about this for a moment:  The CEOs of Inc. 500 companies regularly spend 50 to 90 percent of their time on strategy and business development1.

Even if you aren’t an Inc. 500 company, you can benefit from some of the same tools that successful business owners use to grow their businesses. Putting a little time into strategic planning for the year (or for any 12-month cycle) is well worth the effort.

The strategic planning process doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require that you set aside a little time from your regular work schedule. Remember the adage:  failing to plan is planning to fail.

Follow these steps for your planning process:

  1. Determine key team members from finance, customer relations, employee management, marketing, and sales to include in your planning sessions.
  1. Set aside time for the planning process and a location that will allow everyone to focus and freely interact. Consider at least a half-day of time and a location away from your business.
  1. If you haven’t already done so, determine your business’s mission, values, and vision. If you have existing mission, values, and vision statements, revisit and refine them because as your business changes and grows your missions, values, and vision will evolve.
  1. Use a SWOT (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) analysis to take a closer look at your business and to help define the focus of your strategic plan. As the business owner, keep in mind your personal business goals, but make sure you stay open to feedback and ideas from your team members. Their perspectives can enhance your full view of your business and bring new ideas and approaches to the table. There are many tools to help with SWOT analysis such as WikiWealth’s free SWOT Analysis tool. In addition to asking your strategic planning team to think about the business’s SWOT areas, provide them with these questions to review and contemplate prior to the planning meetings:
  • Where must our business excel?
  • Is our sales process effective?
  • How do customers view our organization, our employees, and our services?
  • What were the most frequent customer complaints in the last year and how can we improve through them?
  • What were the most frequent customer compliments in the last year and how can we further enhance those areas?
  • How do internal business processes affect our customers’ experiences?
  • Could our business processes be more efficient? If so, how?
  • What are our most important financial objectives?
  • What investments will be made this year?
  • How will our business get efficient returns on those investments?
  • How can our marketing efforts improve or expand?
  • How can our employees be developed as our organization’s greatest asset?
  • Are our employees satisfied and productive?  Why or why not? What steps must we take to improve satisfaction and/or productivity?
  • Which of our business functions need repair?
  1. Define a clear set of goals for the year. After a thorough brainstorming session, develop each goal into actionable objectives that have deadlines.  Ensure that each objective adheres to SMART principles: Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Realistic – Timely
  1. After identifying your goals and objectives, spend time clarifying how improvements will be implemented and ways to continue creating value for customers. Assess and rate, by importance, the goals to concentrate on each quarter with monthly initiatives to be executed to move the plan forward. And, ensure that you include plans for ongoing communication about your strategic goals that help engage employees companywide. (Forbes magazine has a series of articles by Holly Green that discuss ways to inform, inspire, and engage your employees.)  Finally, map your goals and objectives on the calendar.  This becomes your strategic plan.
  1. Monitor and maintain objectives by holding to the established deadlines and scheduling monthly or quarterly review meetings to hold each of you accountable to moving the plans forward.

Create, execute, and monitor for success!

One last note….sometimes it’s difficult to look inward to evaluate your company or to remain a neutral party as ideas, strengths, and weaknesses are discussed. A business coach is trained for these functions and can help you with these steps —or can lead the entire strategic planning process.

Additional guidance for strategic planning is available from the Small Business Administration’s free 30-minute online course; or visit your local SCORE chapter for resources and volunteer mentors



Melissa Marsh, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a human resources consultant and founder of HRinDemand, a human resources company in Reno, NV, offering expert guidance and easy-to-use tools to help small businesses with employment regulations, compliance, employee relations, and company growth. Subscribe to HR Tips for more human resources news and tips.


1Strategic Planning for Dummies, Erica Olsen


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