Strategic Planning Made Easy: Ten Simple Steps

You'll reathe easier once you have a strategic plan in place.
Women business owners seem to equate Strategic Planning with having a tooth pulled. It’s not that hard, I promise! It’s well-known that most successful female entrepreneurs regularly complete a strategic plan.

Any size business; from a mom-and-pop to a corporate giant, can achieve great things with the help of a thoughtful strategic plan.

Some business owners are just plain afraid of planning, or don’t know where to begin. Let’s simplify it.

Here are some basics to keep in mind; this is not about a to-do list.
This is about the big-picture; where you are going, how you’ll get there, and why you are in business in the first place. It’s about measuring the progress.

Get the picture of the finished project in mind first, and then plan how to make that happen. You can always make changes as you move along.

I’ve put together the ten simple steps to take for a great Strategic Plan:

1) Begin with a list of five or six core values by which you want your company to operate. Be honest with yourself. If fun is part of your culture, say so. If intensity is part of your culture, write that down! There is no right or wrong here.

2) Write out your company’s brand promise. This is simply the one promise to your customers that is written is stone. For example, our brand promise for EWF International is “Real-life, real-time business help in a confidential community of peers.”

3) Define what you really want to see. Get clear on what you want your company to look like in the long run. Write down in present terms what your company looks like in five to ten years from today.

4) Set big goals. Don’t think small here. Remember that goals are desired outcomes, not a description of actions or activities. For example, “Achieve 95% customer satisfaction” as opposed to “Improve our customer service process.” Your goals should be big, ambitious and achievable, but not an impossible fantasy. Choose three to five big goals that you want to accomplish in the next five years.

5) Now it’s time to crunch numbers. Choose three to five key metrics that drive your business. Of course everyone tracks income and expense, but what key numbers, ratios and percentages, specific to your industry and your business, do you need to faithfully track weekly and monthly? Don’t overcomplicate this, simply ask yourself, “What numbers need to go up or down for this business to be successful?”

For example, if you’re in retail, you might want to track profit per square foot. A professional services firm might track billable hours. You might track client retention or profit per client. While there isn’t one set of numbers relevant to all businesses, you know best what needs to be measured in your business. Then choose one critical number that needs to be watched carefully and consistently. Often this is a measure of some activity, one aspect of the business or someone’s job. For example, how many sales must be made annually to support business growth? How many items must be produced monthly to exceed expenses?

6) Next, determine what actions need to be taken in the next 90 days to move you toward your goals. For example, technology improvements, marketing connections, staff training, new equipment, better financing, certifications, strategic alliances. Every 90 days, review these actions determining yet other actions for the next 90 days.

7) Determine accountability. You must determine who is responsible for what by when. You might create a small three column chart to track this.

8) Plan to celebrate. You and your team will work hard to make this happen. Plan how you will celebrate. What’s the reward? Will it be bonuses or some new piece of technology you’ve wanted, a company party, whatever sounds fun to you, and valuable to the goals.

9) Next, have everyone set weekly priorities, and from those priorities each will choose their #1 priority. This simple process, when written and tracked faithfully (important part) will create the biggest difference in your organization.

10) Above all, don’t worry about perfection and keep it simple. Your plan is not for world consumption, it only has to make sense to you and your team. The purpose is to be focused and intentional, yet flexible, and willing to learn along the way.

Strategic planning doesn’t have to be hard! As a female entrepreneur, it’s one of your most important responsibilities. Use these ten steps as your guide and have some fun with it.

I’d love to hear about your results!

Author of Why Women Run Smaller Businesses Than Men, founder of EWF International® and creator of The Alpha Mare Academy™, Darcie Harris is an international speaker, trainer, author, media resource, award-winning consultant and champion for female entrepreneurs.  &

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