Business Advice Blog

6 Ways to Ensure Strategic Planning Success

strategic planning

A company’s strategic plan is only as effective as the process that goes into creating it. If the approach is too rigid, hierarchical or only serves as an empty exercise, it’s unlikely the business will in any way benefit from the process.

If on the other hand, a company approaches the strategic planning process as a way to explore the opportunities (and challenges) facing it and its industry in the years to come, the results can be genuinely beneficial to everyone involved—from senior management to employees and anyone else affected by the eventual outcome.

Here are suggestions on how best to mold the strategic planning process to get the most from your expenditure of time and resources:

Make a top-level commitment to the process. The most effective way to guarantee a favorable experience is by signaling the CEO or business owner’s full commitment to the process. Find an opportunity for the business leader to describe the value of strategic planning to everyone within the organization and to talk about how each employee contributes to its eventual success. This sends the message that planning is key to the company’s future growth.

Review and refine your personal vision statement. Strategic planning represents a prime opportunity to review and change your personal vision statement. As we’ve noted elsewhere, “In a privately-owned business, the strategic plan for a company is not based solely on the assumption that the company’s goals and vision are to maximize profit. The strategic plan for your company must begin with your personal goals and vision.” As times and circumstances change, your vision might change as well.

Put together a great team. The more diverse your planning team is, the more diverse perspectives the process will generate. Ideally, says strategist Michael Girdler, “the team should include representation from anyone that can impact the plan or be impacted by the plan: in short all employees.” Enlist the efforts of “various departments of your organization—marketing, sales, and operations [and] evaluate the inclusion of vendors” as well.

Find a comfortable off-site venue. Regardless of the savings, you might find in staying onsite, generally speaking, strategic planning sessions are more effective when set away from the workplace. It’s not just getting away everyday office distractions; a fresh, different location helps participants stay focused on the purpose behind your efforts—thinking in an intensive manner about where the business is going and how you plan to get there.

“Test-drive” challenging scenarios. As part of the process, roll out five or six scenarios (both those likely to happen and those less likely to occur), based on how your business will probably fare in the coming year. Are you prepared for a sudden acceleration in sales? What if, conversely, you lose a major customer or two? Devise contingency plans so you’re better prepared for the unexpected.

With a plan in place, invite feedback. To truly succeed, your strategic plan must be embraced by the entire organization. Remember, your front-line staff—as well as those in other departments—often have valuable insights into product quality, customer service, etc. By gathering employee input, the final document will be richer and more effective in the long run.

“Consistent communication can keep everyone on the same page,” notes strategist Cara Ong, “and prevent conflicts from occurring before the official strategic and operational plan cascades down from senior management.”

Want to learn more about sales management and training? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

 

5 Growth Strategies for Businesses with Limited Capital

Cash Strapped, Limited Capital

Even if your business lacks unlimited capital, this doesn’t mean you can’t plan for ongoing or future growth. What matters most is doing all that you can with the resources you have.

Being cash-strapped “does not need to be the death nail of your business,” notes small business expert Melinda Emerson. “Hundreds of millions of people throughout history have started and maintained their own small businesses without access to an unending supply of cash.”

Here are five suggestions on how best to plan for growth when you’re working with limited capital:

1. Be realistic about your company’s growth potential. Prior to making the leap into scaling up, says Jim Morris, President and Owner of The Alternative Board Tennessee Valley, “the business owner should do a cash flow and working capital analysis to determine if the business can fund itself adequately as it grows.” Financial preparation, as well as a working knowledge of your company’s current and future needs, he adds, “must be evaluated to avoid cash problems and unpleasant surprises that can come with growth.”

2. Develop a focused marketing plan. To get where you want to be, your planning should include a focused marketing strategy. With your limited capital resources in mind, establish a marketing framework that combines an in-depth knowledge of your target audience with a comprehensive competitive analysis of the marketplace. This way, you “enter the fray” with a keener grasp of what expansion costs will look like over a set period of time.

3. Maintain a tight approach to hiring. Attempting to grow on a limited budget is tricky enough without going on a hiring spree. How much of your future growth depends on having a full-time staff? Where possible, look to outsource key operational activities to meet your expansion goals, without incurring added expenses related to payroll, healthcare and other legally mandated benefits. A lean workforce can help you shift valuable resources elsewhere.

4. Diversify or add a new offering. There may be ways to refine your existing goods or services to attract a broader array of customers (in addition to your existing customer base). Or you can explore a new offering that broadens the appeal of your company. When you diversify, you “also protect your existing customer base and create multiple income streams that can often fill seasonal lows and, of course, increase sales and profit margins.”

5. Boost your social media marketing activities. One path towards effective growth lies in leveraging the ever-growing power of social media. Numerous TAB Members have successfully harnessed that power to increase sales, including the following:

  • Boosting brand awareness by encouraging satisfied customers to post positive reviews on Yelp and elsewhere
  • Using a Reddit profile to generate new sales leads
  • Posting new content on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere that highlights your status as an industry thought leader (with links back to the “Learn More” page on your business website)
  • Synchronizing email campaigns with social media advertising for broader impact
  • Finding and attracting customers through unique Twitter hashtags

As long as you avoid the hard sell, social media is a fantastic venue for posting customer testimonials, details about a new product launch, news about special sales promotions, etc., without having to spend vast amounts of money on advertising campaigns.

Small businesses can’t match the resources of a larger competitor, but there are still many ways to plan for and achieve expansion. The key is a wise application of limited capital with the right growth strategy.

Want to learn more about strategic planning and price increases? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!