Create a Strategic Plan

Business planning is a powerful tool for achieving company goals. By setting an objective and devising a road map for reaching it, you can systematically move your company in the direction you want it to go.

Use the following format to create your business planning objectives and involve your team to move toward them.

Set Goals

The first step to business planning, of course, is to determine what you want to achieve. For example, do you want more customers, to launch new products, or to sell your business? Set an overall vision for your business for the next year (or three or five), and have a manageable number of key goals within that vision. For example, your vision may be to be the premier maternity wear outlet in your city. Your key goals may be to grow your revenues and customer base, increase awareness of your store, and launch a new line of products.

Make sure your goals are ambitious enough to be exciting for you and your team, but manageable enough to be attainable.

Create the Plan

Once you have your goals, you can then create your roadmap to get there. The more detail you develop in your plan, the greater your odds of success in achieving your goal, since business planning requires you to think through the possibilities that any change may involve. Here are some of the key questions to address:

  • Who will your customers be? How many will you have, and what percent of revenues will each major customer or set of customers, require?
  • How will you get new customers? What tactics will you use, what will those tactics cost and who will manage and provide those services?
  • What staffing will you need to achieve your goals? What skills and experience will they need, and what will they cost you to hire and employ? What kinds of contractors and other vendors will you need, and what will they cost?
  • What facilities and equipment will you need to achieve your goals? Will you need to expand your inventory? If so, how will you make those arrangements, and what will they cost?
  • What will your finances look like? What will your revenues be, and what will it cost you to attain those revenues? If you will need credit to expand your business, how much will you need, what will it cost and where will you get it?

Involve Your Team

Involving your team in the goal-setting and business planning process can have a number of benefits, of which two critical ones are a stronger plan because of their different points of view, and their support since they contributed to plan development. Scheduling regular planning sessions keeps the process moving forward. Assign specific tasks to individuals who can move project components forward individually or in small teams. For example, a project to find new sales opportunities could be tackled by your sales or customer service reps, who might have gotten good ideas from prospects and customers. If your goal is to secure better vendor agreements, involving your accountant or bookkeeper might provide valuable assistance to the process.

Even if many people will contribute to a strategic plan, one member of your team should be responsible for moving the process forward. This person is "on the hook" for making sure that work on the strategic plan does not get pushed aside in the daily busy-ness of running the company.

For additional information on or assistance with business planning, visit the Small Business Administration site, your local Small Business Development Center or call the local office of the Service Corps of Retired Executives.