Small Business Strategic Planning

Chess Picture

I found myself laughing (at myself) reading an article in the June 2014 issue of Inc. magazine. Perhaps you too can relate. The topic was strategic planning, and as the author, Randy Myers appropriately acknowledged,

“As entrepreneurial milestones go, this isn’t one that inspires founders to crack open the champagne and toast a Big Moment. Strategic planning smacks of something tedious or grimly bureaucratic: a time-sucking exercise that pulls people away from their real jobs to no good purpose. It may even seem like a genuine threat to the nimbleness and flexibility that most entrepreneurs thrive on and credit for their success.

Why go to the dark side? Because it can shed a lot of light on how to move forward. And, approached with the same energy and focus that you bring to every other aspect of your business, it can yield tangible benefits in relatively short order.” [All bold italics mine]

In larger organizations and businesses, strategic planning happens as a matter of course. There is a set time at some point during the year when the troops are gathered, plans are made and steps to achieve those plans are formulated. Unfortunately with smaller businesses (those with a 1-5 person staff) there often is no set time or process to undertake strategic planning.

I should say at the outset that I do not consider myself an expert in strategic planning. But, as I have been crafting my strategic plan for 2015, I thought that some of the methods I am using may help other small business owners.

I started with “in an ideal world this is how I would grow my business, this is what I would accomplish and this is what I would bring in in income in 2015.” Unsurprisingly, this yielded some pretty hefty goals. And now the real work begins- how to accomplish these goals?

I have found that I need to take the year’s goals and break them down by month and in some cases by week and by day. Working this process is beginning to create a solid picture and plan of how I am going to actualize these “year” goals.

Here is an example:

One of my three goals for next year is to develop more small business classes which focus on sharing organizing and productivity tools. This is all well and good but it is extremely vague and it may as well be a wish without more specifics. To make this goal a reality, I have determined that I will offer one “public” class of some kind per month and strive to have one “hired instructor” / paid speaking engagement per month. Taking the public classes a step further, I am working on what specific classes I will offer when, where, and at what rate. I also need to determine how much time I need to develop each class, what the marketing and materials expenses will be, how much lead time I will need to publicize the classes, etc. Once I get clear on these pieces then I will take each specific class and block off “x” time per week so that I continually and steadily make progress on my monthly (and thus my yearly) goal. I will need to take similar steps with my “hired instructor” goal as well as the other two business goals that I have. I don’t want to just wish, I want to grow my business and have a great 2015!

What business goals do you have for 2015? What is your plan to accomplish them? Dream big and then drill down to the basic steps you will need to take to make them a reality. Without goals you will simply react to whatever shows up (believe me, I know) and before you know it you will be far from the shores of your core business. Without the solid steps to accomplish these goals, however, they will remain obscure and lovely but not actualized.

Here’s wishing all of you fabulous small business owners a fulfilling and profitable 2015!

For very good expert advice on Strategic Planning:

Yes, You’re Ready to Do Strategic Planning, Randy Myers

5 Steps to Solid Strategic Planning, Tom Searcy

Why Your 2015 Strategic Plan Will Fail, Les McKeown

Beware the Limits of SWOT Analysis (5 Strategic Planning Mistakes to Avoid), Paul J.H. Schoemaker