Strategic Planning for Small Businesses

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If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. When starting or running your business, having a roadmap is very important to your future. We realize it may not always go according to your plan, still when you take the time to clarify where you want to go, and the ways you’ll use to get there, you’ll always have a foundation and baseline to work from.

When it comes to developing a strategic plan for your small business, there are a few things you should consider. Here are some important aspects that will help you to create a strategic plan that leads to success for you and your business.

What is a Strategic Plan?

It can sound intimidating, but don’t let it scare you. Your strategic plan helps you clarify where you are, what resources, skills or assets you have to work with, where you want to go (goals), and how you will get there. Taking time to create this plan will also help you when it comes time to negotiate or secure small business loans or other opportunities down the road.

Strategic Planning Sets the Tone for Your Business

Vision. Who are we and where do see the business in the future? Articulate this as clearly as possible, for yourself, for your (future) employees, and for your customers. Outlines of what services you currently offer (or will offer) and your overall purpose are essential. Keep your vision strong by defining the core values of your business, and refer back to is it regularly, as it will influence the steps you take within your business.

Responsibilities. Responsibilities are part of  the marketing and operational aspects of your plan. You’ll know what you want to accomplish, and how it will be measured, now you’ll outline how to get there.

Outline who is responsible for what, and how to hold people accountable. If you don’t have a large staff (or any staff for that matter), simply make a list action items. As you grow, these lists can help you clarify what positions or job responsibilities you will need. Knowing what needs to be done can help in your process development down the road.

For business owners with a staff, put effort into making every member of your team feel like they play a part in where the business is going. Share the vision, and their role in achieving, it with them. Creating an environment that encourages ownership of your business’ successes will build a stronger team.

SWOT. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are important aspects of your business. Making this list helps identify places where you are progressing, and places where you may fall behind. Keeping these in mind and addressing them regularly will do a lot of the work for you. Knowing what you do well and how you can improve will give you an overall outline for how your business should tackle challenges. In addition, identifying possible opportunities in your niche market, and possible threats via the economy or competition will help you to be mindful of what’s happening in your market place.

Openness. Adapting to change is a huge part of planning for small businesses. Recognize that your strategic plan is a foundational piece, and will likely need updating as things change. So, make sure you do evaluate and adjust your strategic plan regularly based where your business is going. You and your team will need to come together to change your approach every now and then, and this is incredibly important in implementing a successful strategic plan. Celebrate your victories, but understand that your plan will need revisions to help you grow.

Small Business Strategic Planning Resources

  • SBA.gov offers a 30-minute webinar about Strategic Planning. You can get that here.
  • GROW’s Start Smart Course. This course is offered every month. Bring your business ideas and be ready for an engaging, hands-on class that will equip you to take the next step on your entrepreneurial journey. This workshop uses the Business Model Canvas, a strategic tool that can be used to develop a new business model or document an existing one. Learn more.
  • Small Business GPS “Business Basics” Cluster. This series of 3 courses over 3 weeks will help you with all of the business basics. The 3 sessions include:
    1. Strategic Planning: Expand the blueprint for your business by identifying the values of your organization and creating a mission and vision statement. Learn how to set goals and position your business for success. (suggested prerequisite: Start Smart)
    2. Choosing Your Business Structure: Which legal structure is right for your business? When you’re starting a business, the options can seem overwhelming. Explore the tax and legal implications of each option, find the one that is best suited for your business, and learn what the next steps are.
    3. Successful Relationship Building: Your business success depends largely on relationship building, but that requires intentionality, time, and confidence. Learn how to develop a relationship-building plan that will increase your network, your confidence, and your audience.

Learn more about this course here, or see when it’s offered on our events calendar here.

  • Smart Sheet. Some samples and free strategic planning templates are available here.

Forbes. For those who want to take a deeper dive into strategic planning, here is a helpful article from Forbes.com as well.