The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of where your business currently stands and turn your attention to the future. What are your business goals for the year to come, and what kind of planning do you need to do to get there?
Strategic business planning basically answers three questions:
- How is your business performing?
- What business goals do you want to set for the New Year?
- What are the best ways to meet your goals?
Here’s how to plan out 2015 for your small business in more detail, by following these six steps.
1. Set Your Goals
The first step toward any strategic plan is to determine where you’re headed, so spell out in concrete terms what you’d like to accomplish this year. Be specific. Don’t just say you’d like to increase sales. By how much? In which area? How? The clearer you are, the easier it will be to map out ways to achieve your goals.
There are three areas to consider as you set your goals: 1. your vision for the business, 2. the mission of your business, and 3. your personal values. Your vision is what caused you to start the business in the first place. What did you see when you looked to the future? Why did you start this business? Your mission is the specifics of what you’d like to accomplish, whether it’s making the best widget available or serving the most awesome tacos. Your values encompass what’s important to you in the way you run your business. What would you like your employees and customers to experience?
Articulating these three things—your vision, mission, and values—will help you put a strategy in place to accomplish them. Your plan will affect everything from the number of employees you hire to the types of goods and services you offer.
2. Do a Reality Check
Now that you’ve analyzed where you’d ideally like to be, figure out where you stand in relation to those goals. Sales figures are one way to measure how you’re doing, but success can mean many things; it all comes down to what success means to YOU.
Money is likely a big factor, but it also helps to think in terms of what your community involvement is like, how green your business is, and what kind of programs you have in place for your employees. Again, measure yourself against your vision, mission and values.
3. Choose Your Focus
Once you know where you are, compared to where you’d like to be, you can start working out how to get there. Most likely, you’ll have more things on your list than you might be able to accomplish at once, so you probably have to narrow it down a little, or at least choose priorities, or an order in which to proceed.
Based on your resources and capabilities, choose a handful of specific targets and start planning. Choosing just a few things to concentrate on will help you achieve your goals in actuality. It may sound simple, but work toward your strengths and away from your weaknesses.
4. Know When to Say No
As you start coming up with ideas, always keep your vision for the company and its purpose in mind. Reject any strategies that don’t fit. You’ll also have to shelve ideas that you don’t have the resources for right now. They may be wonderful, but you’ll need the right people, facilities, time and money to put your strategies into effect, so don’t plan what you can’t pull off. Understand what you can accomplish and what you can’t.
If you have ambitious plans—and why not?—don’t be afraid to strategize how to get there down the road. You may not have the resources today, but part of what you’re planning for is to be able to develop in areas that will help you accomplish what you want in the future. Concentrate on how to grow your business, improve the products and services you offer, and improve the way you run your company.
5. Create Your Implementation Strategy
Your strategic plan amounts to nothing more than an intellectual exercise until you start to implement it. Your next challenge will be doing the work to execute your ideas, making changes, and monitoring their effects.
Figure out how and when you will address each element of your plan. For the implementation of your plan to be successful, it’s helpful to assign specific responsibilities, activities, deadlines, and budgets.
6. Evaluate Your Plan’s Performance
Strategic planning isn’t a one-shot deal, but an ongoing process. You will need to evaluate how things are going after you put the plan into effect. As you move forward, don’t be afraid to change course if something isn’t working out the way you thought it would, and don’t be afraid of a little discomfort as you alter the way you’ve been doing things.
Schedule the time to take a look at what’s working and what might need tweaking. Make sure you and your staff are clear about your goals and what needs to be done. For parts of the plan, you might decide on a daily or weekly check to see how the implementation is going. For other changes, monthly or quarterly reviews will do.
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