While most business owners know how important it is to develop a strategic plan, they may not know where to start or may struggle to carve out the time required to develop one.
Put simply, strategic planning allows you to take your company vision and convert it into measurable priorities that your teams can easily and effectively action. It is your roadmap to the future success of your business.
The benefits of developing a strategic plan for your business are all-encompassing from improving revenue and profit margin, better managing cash flow and resource planning, to managing your customer relationships and building company culture.
At Trinity Advisory, we’ve seen many organisations struggle when it comes to crafting and executing their strategic plan. Here are our main tips to help you get started:
Identify key stakeholders & timeframes
Make sure you have the right people in the room before you start. These should be the people who will need to be accountable for the success of the strategic plan moving forward. If you’re a larger organisation, this will generally include cross-functional team members from Management, Finance, Operations, Sales & Marketing etc. However, if you are a small business owner, this may only include you, your business partner/s and your accountant. Either way, it’s important to have the decision-makers in the room.
You will likely need more than one meeting to flesh out all the elements of your strategic plan. Work out how often and how long the meeting will take place for you to gain real value from these meetings, then set a timeframe for completing your plan.
Gather relevant data
In order to correctly roadmap your strategy, it is essential that you have access to insightful reporting and financial data. You’ll need to have this information handy and share it with your key stakeholders before you meet. There are two types of data:
It often helps at this point to develop a SWOT analysis – Strengths and Weaknesses are your internal factors; Opportunities and Threats are your external factors. Knowing these before you move forward will help to ensure you build a realistic strategy. You may choose to gather the information beforehand and then develop your SWOT analysis as part of your Strategic Planning meetings.
Determine Your Business Goals
Now that you have your stakeholders in a room together and you have all the relevant data at your fingertips, you should first take time to run through or nut out your business goals. Goals are important because they provide your organisation with a clear vision and create measurable targets for employees so that everyone is working towards that vision in a systematic way.
Your Business Goals must be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Time-bound. Some organisations call these Business Goals ‘rocks’, which is based on the metaphor that if you start by putting sand into the jar, you will not have room for rocks or pebbles. Your ‘rocks’ are the most important goals determined by the business so any activity in the organisation should be working towards one or all of these ‘rocks’.
A good way to organise your business goals is by using the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) method that groups goals into four categories – financial, customer, process, and people—and then helps to translate these goals into performance measures, which is essential for tracking and measuring your strategy going forward.
At this point, you may want to revisit your vision statement to ensure they are aligned with these business goals. If you don’t have a vision statement, now is a good time to develop one.
Now that you’ve determined your business goals, it’s time to brainstorm and gather ideas to help your organisation meet these goals. This is essentially a mind dump exercise, but it would be beneficial to have the brainstorming structured so that you are a) putting ideas against the specific business goals or categories that it aligns with and b) putting ownership to each idea – so naming the person or department who would have overall responsibility for that activity.
Make sure that all stakeholders have access to the internal and external data and/or SWOT analysis so that this information is at the forefront of everyone’s mind during the brainstorming process.
A good way to organise your brainstorming sessions is to have smaller working groups who each discuss and write down their own ideas. Often people feel less exposed if they can have smaller group discussions and put their ideas forward to the larger group in an ‘anonymous’ way. This will also allow you to see those items that pop up more frequently, suggesting their importance.
Develop a 3-5 year strategic plan
Now that you have your ideas listed, you can categorise these ideas into ‘Priorities’ by determining a) their level of impact b) their level of ease and c) their level of cost. This will help you to identify the ‘low hanging fruit’ activities that can be done quickly and easily versus the longer-term projects that may require more time and resources. It will also help you to resource plan for these activities.
There are many templates available for organising your 3-year plan, depending on how detailed you want your plan to be. At a minimum, you’ll want to include:
Launch your strategy
Now that you have your plan, you’ll need to communicate it throughout the organisation and ensure that all stakeholders and employees are aware of what they are required to do and by when.
You’ll need to work with internal and external parties to ensure that you have the resources required to successfully achieve your strategic plan. Will you need to hire more staff, find new suppliers for additional raw materials or organise support from external agencies? And of course, these things will all likely require more money.
So, before you launch your strategy, make sure you have all your ducks in a row.
Once you’ve launched your strategy, you’ll need to think about how you will be tracking and measuring your results.
Start by building a ‘Dashboard Report’ that includes all your Goal KPIs with the option to capture updates on major projects and milestones. Then set up regular meetings with the key stakeholders who can provide this information. This could be weekly, fortnightly or monthly – depending on the regularity of the information you are reporting on.
Creating this regular reporting structure will help you identify if things are ‘On Track’ or ‘Off Track’, allowing you to take corrective action if need be.
Remember, while your Strategic Plan should be followed as closely as possible, it should also provide enough flexibility to allow you to pivot and innovate in response to your results and the changing market.
Of course, underpinning all of this is having access to accurate data and financial reporting. A good accountant can help you develop this reporting, and a good business coach can help you develop your strategy.
Trinity Advisory is not just an accounting firm, we specialise in Business Accounting and Coaching for SME's. If you’re a small
business owner who needs help developing your strategic plan, scaling your business and growing your profits, then get in contact
today to learn more about our Pumpkin Plan Business Coaching