Strategic planning involves setting overall goals for your business and developing a plan to achieve them. Whether your firm is trying to grow its client base or increase profitability, strategic planning helps you focus on what matters most. It also provides a framework for day-to-day decisions, so managers can act with your larger strategy in mind. Strategic planning can help you address issues before they escalate into crises, and it allows you to take a proactive approach rather than simply responding to the environment.
The first step in strategic planning is to identify the current state of your business, which may be accomplished through interviews, surveys, data analysis and external and internal benchmarking. Having a consultant or experienced business manager assist in this step can be helpful.
During the development phase, you’ll create an outline of your organization’s vision for the future, which should include short-term and long-term goals and objectives. This step is usually the most time-consuming and involves analyzing industry, consumer and competitor trends. It can also involve developing core values and departmental objectives.
After identifying your vision and objectives, you can begin to develop a strategic roadmap by establishing a timeline and determining key performance indicators (KPIs). You’ll want to clearly communicate these goals to your team and establish yearly objectives that are aligned with the longer-term strategic goal of your business.
A strategic roadmap can be useful to you and your management team during times of change, such as when your firm is preparing for growth or expanding into new markets. A clear vision can keep you on track, and the process of developing a strategy can foster communication amongst management and employees and allow them to feel more engaged with the company.
Strategic planning can help you differentiate your firm from competitors. While this isn’t always an easy feat, a competitive advantage can help you stand out from the competition and attract clients or customers. Examples of a competitive advantage can include offering exceptional customer service, providing a unique product or brand or creating a partnership with another business that can provide your clients with additional value.
Many organizations struggle to successfully implement their strategies. They’ll invest a lot of time in the planning process, but after the plan is complete, it’s common for it to simply sit on a shelf or get reviewed once a year. Having a consultant assist with your strategic planning can help you avoid this fate, as they will be able to serve as your “strategic conscience,” ensuring that the plan is continually implemented and monitored. It’s also a good idea to set aside a certain amount of time for planning each year, so that you can revisit and update the plan regularly. It should be an ongoing process that helps your firm thrive.