‘As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.’
- Antoine de Saint Exupery
It doesn’t matter what stage your business is at there is always loads of things to do. If you’re starting out you are flat out learning on the fly while wearing many different hats. As the business grows you’re putting systems in place and building your team so that you can begin to delegate tasks and leverage your efforts. A few years in your focus is on growth opportunities and managing the business. As a mature business you may not be working in the business but you are working on strategy and perhaps reporting to a board and shareholders.
The point is there’s always lot’s on, so you need a really clear and practical strategic plan.
If you dork out on countless business books, seminars and courses like I do then no doubt you have come across many different models for creating a strategic plan.
Many methods out there for creating a strategic plan are either too big picture with not enough focus on actionable tasks, or so complex and detailed that just the thought of creating the plans is overwhelming and as a result you don’t end up doing it.
You need to be real about what you can put in your strategic plan. In the book ‘REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’, which is one of my favourite books, the authors describe ‘planning as guessing’ and ‘Unless you are a fortune teller long term business planning is a fantasy, there are just too many factors out of your hands’. Jason and David also describe planning as ‘putting the blinders on’ as you’re closing yourself off to new opportunities.
While this ‘it’s OK to wing it’ view sounds extreme the authors do agree that short term planning is a worthwhile exercise, just avoid obsessing over following long term plans.
So, what is the ideal structure and timeline for your strategic plan?
Let me outline for you the strategic planning approach that works for me.
The 12 Month Strategic Plan
I find 1 year is the right length for a strategic plan. It’s long enough for you to set some big picture strategic goals without trying to guess what’s going to happen 3-5 years from now, but short enough to allow you to drill right down to daily tasks – which at the end of the day are going to be what matters to achieve your goals.
Set the Intention
First things first. When creating your strategic plan start with your purpose. This is your WHY. Ask ‘why am I building this business’. In my case, the purpose for A Business That Rocks is to help entrepreneurs build awesome businesses and lives. You should have your WHY top of mind every single day to remind you why you are in business.
What does success look like?
Next, you need to clearly articulate what you will achieve in the next 12 months. This can be financial targets, number of customers, brand reach, or a mix of a number of targets. I suggest no more that 3-5 big goals in a 12 month period.
Work Backwards – Annual Priorities First
Once you are clear on your purpose and yearly goals come up with the annual priorities required to achieve your goals. Annual priorities could include establishing a strategic partnership, over haul your web site or grow your database from 1000 to 5000. At this stage you don’t need to worry about how you’ll accomplish these priorities you just need to know what they are.
Looking at your annual priorities come up with the quarterly priorities you’ll need to undertake to complete them. Using establishing a strategic partnership as our example quarterly priorities could look like this;
Q1 – Meet with potential strategic partners
Q2 – Select strategic partner
Q3 – Launch pilot to prove up partnership
Q4 – Develop ongoing partnership
With your quarterly priorities sorted decide on the actions needed to complete them. Using the same example monthly priorities for Q1 might look like this;
Month 1 – Research what companies would be a good fit as a strategic partner.
Month 2 – Establish what I can offer each strategic partner and what the partnership could look like.
Month 3 – Contact potential partners and arrange meetings.
Guess what comes next?
You guessed it;
By now you can see we are simply drilling down to understand what we need to do each day to eventually achieve our annual priorities and stay true to our mission and purpose. Your weekly priorities are the task you need to complete to reach your monthly priorities.
With your weekly priorities clear, take a few minutes at the start of each week to schedule your daily priorities. I find completing my daily priorities first thing in the morning ensures I get the tasks done and can then enjoy the rest of the day knowing I’m doing what I need to do to achieve my goals.
This entire process should only take you a few hours and will really help you break down what you are trying to do in achievable steps. Broken down in this way your yearly priorities won’t seem so overwhelming. All you need to do is complete your daily task knowing that daily tasks compete weekly tasks, weekly tasks complete monthly tasks, and so on.
As well as the initial creation of your plan you need to review and update it daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. Your strategic plan must be in view at all times. Have it open on your computer, available on your mobile devise using a tool like Evernote, have hard copies stuck to your office wall and at home. This is a working document!!!
Once you have your strategic plan make sure your entire team has a copy of it so they know what they need to do to achieve the priorities. If you’re working solo then share your plan with your coach, mentor, friends or partner to keep you accountable.
This short 12 month strategic plan won’t stop you from exploring new ideas and opportunities but it will help you to decide whether a new idea or opportunity is in-line with your overall purpose and mission. Daily, it will help you to avoid distractions and procrastination.