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Strategic Planning...why is this necessary?

Is it really necessary for my organization to have a strategic plan in place? Absolutely!!
Having a strategic plan is similar to a road map. If you're driving to a new destination and want to get from point A to
point B, you would ensure you have a map with directions (or nowadays...a cell phone with GPS.) If you have your own business or work for a company, there are goals set in place. A strategic plan is simply a tool that provides your team and organization a sense of direction, outlines measurable goals, guides day-to-day decisions, as well as aids in monitoring progress towards goals and overall growth. Having a good strategy dictates "how" you travel the road you have selected and effective execution makes sure you are checking in along the way. Move at a pace that works best for you and your team and if you follow the steps below, you'll have an incredible plan in place before you know it! Ready to get started?!?

First thing first...what's your company's "superpower?" The result of a well-developed and executed strategic plan is to develop a competitive advantage. You ask...what is a competitive advantage? Business lingo aside, it simply means: What can your company potentially do better than any other company? Understanding your competitive advantage is critical. It is the reason why you are in business. It is what you do best that draws customers to buy your product or utilize your services vs. your competitor’s. Extremely successful companies deliberately make choices to be unique and different in activities that they are good at and they focus all of their energy in these areas. You may decide to incorporate your competitive advantage into your mission and/or vision statements.

Everyone's on a Mission...what's yours?

One of the easiest ways to showcase your organizational values is through your mission statement. It defines what an organization is, why it exists, its reason for being. It's typically a short written statement describing a company's function, markets and competitive advantages; business goals and philosophies. It also serves as a guide for day-to-day operations as well as serving as the foundation for future decision making. If you don't have one, it's never too late to write a mission statement. Simply answer the following questions: What is our business? What are we trying to accomplish for our customers? What is our company’s reason for existing? Now that you have your mission...onto the vision...

Visualize the Future A strategic vision is the image of a company’s future – the direction it is headed, the customer focus it should have, the market position it should try to occupy, the business activities to be pursued, and the capabilities it plans to develop. Forming a strategic vision should delineate what kind of enterprise the company is trying to become and infuse the organization with a sense of purposeful action. One of my favorite sayings...Dream Big! To write a vision statement, answer this question: What will our business look like in 5 to ten years from now?

Take an Inventory The SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis helps you look critically at your organization.

It is a tool to help produce a good fit between a company’s strengths and its opportunities. Assess your strengths and weaknesses by answering these questions: What do we do best? Where are our areas for opportunity and improvement? What are our company resources – assets, intellectual property, and people? What are our company capabilities (functions)? Assess your opportunities and threats by answering these questions: What is happening externally that will affect our company? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor? What are the driving forces behind sales trends? What are important and potentially important markets? What is happening in the world that might affect our company? Every business has different needs, but I would suggest you conduct a SWOT analysis at least once every 6 months, or whenever a significant decision is to be made for your business or external factors are looming, that can impact your business.

WIFM...what's in it for them? If you want to move your company from being successful to wildly profitable, you need to meet your customers’ needs and wants better than your competitors do. Develop a customer profile by answering; What are our customers' needs, motivations, and characteristics? How do we uniquely provide value to our customers? What should we improve to grow our customer base?

Write Your Goals and Objectives Goals and objectives are like stair steps to your mission and vision. Realistic goals and objectives are developed from the SWOT analysis and customer profile. Objectives set the agenda, are broad, and global in nature. Write 2-5 objectives that give action to your mission & vision and will take a few years to achieve. Next...develop goals to achieve each objective. Goals should be measurable, quantifiable, and support your objectives. Effective goals must be measurable, have a timeframe and everyone needs to be held accountable for their part/role. Make sure both your goals and objectives build on your strengths; shore up your weaknesses, capitalize on your opportunities and recognize your threats.

Assess Your Resources Now that you have completed your goals and objectives, it is time to do a resource assessment. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to all well laid strategic plans is time and money. As with every business, budgets are never big enough to do everything you want to do. Prioritize key goals by asking: Do implementing the goals make financial sense? Do you have the resources to achieve your plan?

Take Action Tactics set specific actions/action plans that lead to implementing your goals and objectives. Basically, write a to-do list for each goal. A quick way to develop your tactics is to answer this question: What roadblocks exist to achieving my goal? Use the answer to develop action items for each goal. Assign responsibilities and deadlines to ensure implementation. A great method to get buy-in from your team is to assign a goal to everyone on your team. Ask him/her to write the action plan for that specific goal and be responsible for making sure each task is accomplished.

Keep Score In step six, you wrote goals that were measurable. Put these measurements and targets on a scorecard (I personally have found Excel to work well), which acts as an instrument panel guiding your company towards achieving your vision. With the scorecard, you can actively track your progress on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Make Strategy a Habit A leader devoted to the successful implementation of the strategy and plan is key. The plan needs to be supported with people, money, time, systems, and above all communication. Communicate the plan to everyone in your organization. Hold a monthly or quarterly strategy meeting to report on the progress toward achieving the goal. Don’t forget to take corrective actions when needed and adapt as the environment changes.

New to the "SWOT" analysis? Check back next Sunday for an in depth discussion on SWOT analysis and free downloadable template for your use!!

Have a wonderfully productive week and close some deals sporting some red heels!!


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