Plan the Work. Work the Plan.
Entrepreneurs understand the importance of strategic planning. Strategic planning provides clarification needed to pace business growth. It keeps you on track and on task. It helps avoid detours and prevents unnecessary and costly derailments. Although the payoffs are huge, few entrepreneurs take time to create their strategic plan.
One of the biggest roadblocks to strategic planning shared by many entrepreneurs is the lack of time available to actually create the plan. Before carving out the necessary time, strategic planning starts with the right mindset.
The Strategic Planning State of Mind
Many entrepreneurs feel their strategic plan needs to be completed in one sitting. Yikes! That's a lot of mental overwhelm. Strategic planning, done right, takes time. You want the opportunity to step away from the plan to thoughtfully consider the various elements of the strategic plan. The future success of your business depends on it. It can take 6 months (~20-25 hours) for busy small business owners to complete their strategic plan. And, that's okay!
Another mental hurdle some business owners face is the notion they need to pause their business during the strategic planning process. Nothing is further from the truth. You want to continue to grow your business during the process. The insights gained along the planning path have a positive impact on your business even before your strategic plan is complete.
The Plan for Strategic Planning
- Find your most productive time. Don't wait until you're mentally drained and physically exhausted to work on your strategic plan. Find the time when you're fresh, energized, and creative. The future of your business depends on it.
- Arrange 60-75 minute planning periods. Pierre Khawand, author of The Results Curve(TM): How to Manage Focused and Collaborate, discovered that the best results are achieved after 40 minutes of focused work following by 20 minutes of collaboration. This gives you the time to achieve results without creating a substantial dent in your workflow.
- Plan to plan weekly. Don't let too much time pass between your strategic planning activities. You'll feel like you're starting from square one. Done weekly, however, ideas, concepts, and direction are still fresh in your mind.
- Plan away from your regular workspace. If you're easily distracted or pulled by the needs of others, get away from your regular workspace. Your neighborhood coffee shop or library stops the interruptions blocking your strategic planning process.
- Break down the strategic planning process into bite-sized pieces. Don't overwhelm yourself with the entire plan. Break it down into manageable pieces. Doing so gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of each planning appointment and moves your plan forward. John Bytheway wisely said, “Inch by inch, life's a cinch. Yard by yard, life's hard.” That's certainly applicable to strategic planning.
- Commit to your plan. Entrepreneurs are notorious for minimizing the long-term wants of their business to attend to the short-term deeds. Think about it. Would you cancel an important meeting with a client? Of course not! Why, then, would you be so cavalier as to cancel any planning meetings with yourself? Be as committed to your planning process as you are to the needs of your clients.
Strategic planning isn't easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. Planning is a habit that every entrepreneur and business owner needs to hone to ensure they arrive at the destination they desire.
Earl Nightingale said, “Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”
Can I get an “Amen”?
If you don't currently have a strategic planning template in place, feel free to borrow mine. Download your free strategic planning workbook here.