Strategic planning is the process of setting long-term goals for your business and developing a plan to achieve those goals. It involves stepping back from your day-to-day activities and asking where you want to take the business in the future. This can be difficult, but is essential to growing the company and taking charge of the growth process. Having a vision of what you want your company to be and how you plan to get there makes it easier to stay on course when business inevitably goes off track.

Strategic plans typically include a summary of the current state of the company and the environment in which it operates, as well as a set of goals for the future. Strategic planners also identify the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This helps the team understand how to capitalize on opportunities and mitigate threats.

Once the strategic team has agreed on the long-term goals, they need to decide how to reach them. The most effective way to do this is by using frameworks such as the Theory of Change or a SWOT analysis to identify the objectives that are most relevant, attainable and aligned with the company’s mission and vision. Strategic planners then break down each goal into a series of short-term tasks, desired outcomes and timelines for accomplishing them. They also consider resource requirements, such as staffing levels and premises, in the development of these action items.

Often, strategic planners develop a resourcing section that summarises the impact that the company’s proposed strategy will have on its resources. This is to ensure that the company can afford to implement the plan without putting unnecessary strain on existing operations. It is important that the strategic plan addresses all aspects of the business, including customer service, marketing, sales, product development and operational efficiency.

The final step in strategic planning is to record the agreed objectives and strategies as a physical document. It is also common to create a scorecard that compares actual performance to targets for each plan metric. Strategic planners need to be aware that their plans will be subject to change as the business environment changes, but they should review and update the strategic plan on a regular basis to ensure that it stays on track.

Stumbles in implementing a strategic plan are often caused by not communicating the plan effectively to the organization and providing the necessary time, money and resources for people to execute on the plan. Having an external facilitator can help ensure that the process is productive, and that all perspectives are heard.

Developing a strategic plan is one of the most important things that a small business owner can do to build a successful, sustainable enterprise. Whether it is used to develop a new business model, attract a new customer base or secure additional funding, a strategic plan will help a company to take control of its own destiny. Despite the fact that not all strategic plans will be perfect, those that are developed with care will provide an invaluable map for success.