Your business plan put your dream in motion. Now it’s time to consider a strategic plan that will keep that dream moving well into the future.
Strategic planning considers your firm’s growth for anywhere from the next three to 10 years, depending on your needs.
1. Choose a strategic framework.
Several basic elements figure into most every successful strategy. The process often starts with three questions as the macro framework:
- Where are we now?
- Where are we going?
- How will we get there?
You and your team can start to answer these questions with a format such as the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis. This works well as an open, collaborative exercise–perhaps your team fills a wall with sticky notes to define your strengths and weaknesses as a company. This analysis can be especially helpful as you evaluate your competition.
2. Assess the marketplace.
Market analysis significantly impacts your strategic plan. You need to define the market size and growth, identify gaps and opportunities and establish your niche. To illustrate this process, we’ll use EcoSportif, a fictitious manufacturer of sustainable, eco-friendly sporting goods for kids. Here’s how this firm’s leadership could answer common long-term vision questions:
- State your mission/vision and values. EcoSportif’s founders want to teach kids the vital importance of eco-consciousness, by providing them with durable, eco-friendly and low-to-mid-cost products
- Identify your competitive advantage or unique proposition. EcoSportif sells its eco-conscious products at or below competitors’ prices. And no other U.S. manufacturer is exclusively eco-focused in the $15 billion sporting goods category
- List long-term objectives that carry out your mission, vision and values. EcoSportif could choose three-to-five-year objectives in these commonly discussed strategic areas:
- New customer targets. A new line of pre-teen sporting goods will fill a current market gap
- Added markets. Demand is strong in underserved Canada and Northern Europe
- Brand awareness exercises. Once the pre-teen products are out, national preschool franchises will be a primary business-sales target
For best results, each of these action items will include many short-term goals, along with suggested key performance indicators (KPIs) for each.
3. Check in with yourselves.
Review your progress quarterly or semi-annually. Many organizations tackle this step with the Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based (SMART) framework. These criteria help you to track, measure and revise your short- and long-term goals as needed.
As EcoSportif makes good on its virtuous goals, it could use SMART to assess and revise them several times. It’s inevitable that circumstances will change for your business, That’s okay–it’s all part of the process. As it reviews its criteria, the firm should consider how its achievements are contributing to the bottom line.
4. Nurture your people and relationships.
No matter how hard you work on your plan, it can’t come to life without buy-in from everyone you work with and strong relationships. Always:
- Empower your people. Don’t go at it alone. Vest your team in your dream by making it a part of their daily work
- Review vendor and/or client relationships. Is each contributing to your business-growth goals? If not, consider revisiting the relationship
- Broadcast your success. Sharing achievements, large and small, with your entire team builds morale and tells everyone that you’re a company that’s looking ahead and moving forward–and don’t stop
Need more information?
Consider consulting with an M&T Business Banking relationship manager as you draft your strategic plan. Visit a branch or call 1-800-724-6070 to make an appointment.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.