Small Business Strategic Planning: 7 Tips to Transform Your Company

by Mike O'Neill

Are you a small business struggling to figure out how to make it to the next level? Have you become stagnant at this point, and you can’t seem to break through to that other side?

Maybe you have a specific goal in mind or a bigger picture of your company and what you want to achieve.  The time is now for you to develop your small business strategic plan. 

A strategic plan for small businesses includes outlining the process used by your leaders for achieving long-term business goals. A strategic plan works as a roadmap for your company to identify your major goals and what you'll have to do to make it happen. 

It’s essential to have goals, but it’s equally important to have a plan for how you’re going to achieve them. Without a plan, it’s harder to hold people accountable for every step required along the way. As a small business owner, you need metrics, assigned roles, and a regular communication cadence if you’re going to transform your company.

It may sound too overwhelming, trying to develop a small business strategic plan to transform your company, but it doesn’t have to be. At Bench Builders, we founded our company to help leaders overcome these everyday challenges.

Keep reading for seven tips to transform your company so you can see just how beneficial and straightforward it can be to create a strategic plan for your business.

1. Include the Right People in the Right Environment

Small businesses face the challenge of being more strained for resources than a larger company. Small companies typically don’t have dedicated employees for tasks such as research and development.

Regardless of size, every business leader needs to be thoughtful about the future of their company. Having a thought process in your head isn't going to be good enough. Lack of structure can result in poor decision making about new products, what equipment to purchase, whom to hire, and sales & marketing strategies.

We understand that small business owners may be hesitant to share information out of fear that it will fall into the wrong hands. You may keep a tight-knit circle with whom to have these strategic conversations.

The problem here is that the people closest to the customers are the ones with the most useful information about their issues and potential solutions. At Bench Builders, we encourage our clients to include as many people as they can in their circle. Those whom they can trust and can think strategically, which should turn out to be a wider circle than you expected.

When you choose the right people and widen your circle, you’ll create a safe harbor — a place where business owners and employees can have strategic conversations. But, you’ll also need to make sure physical environments are suited to creativity. 

2. Gather Data and Expect Preparation

The pressure on small business owners is immense. Thoughtful strategic planning can chart a course to a successful future for the business, with much more clarity and less stress. 

Having access to relevant trade-related data is a primary barrier for most small businesses. However, there is so much free information out there that can provide a small business with significant value, such as the Bureau of Economic AnalysisBureau of Labor Statistics, and low-cost research tools like GutCheck It

Strategic planning is very much garbage in, garbage out if you do not prepare properly. Every leader and employee participating in strategic planning should expect to prepare for a strategy conversation. They can do this by learning new information or learning more about the operations of the business.

3. Build Your Plan

Small business owners often have a lot of anxiety about creating a strategic plan. But, writing out the strategic plan is the easy part, especially if you work through these steps. Components of a small business strategic plan should include an executive summary, SWOT analysis, financial projections, external factors, competitive analysis, market analytics, action plan, and a vision map.

To conduct a SWOT analysis, you’ll want to gather the data from the previous step and input from your business leaders, customers, and any external marketing data you may have. Upon gathering this information, you’ll have a way to identify your strategic position in the market. This information can clarify your strategic goals and help in developing future plans.

Another key to building your plan should include the development of a vision. Using the information gathered in the SWOT analysis, you should consider your road map for the future. We elaborate on this more in Step 5.

And lastly, with this step, you'll want to include your company mission statement. Some companies fall short when it comes to knowing the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement. They are not interchangeable.

4. Focus on Growth and Value

Often small businesses engage in operational planning and mislabel it, calling it strategic planning. By continuing to do what you've always done is not a strategy at all.  Instead, focus on how you will grow your small business, what particular products you should create, and what service innovations are the most beneficial. 

Most of all, consider how these will improve your customers' experience. Not only should you focus on the growth of the business, but you need to focus on how this will provide value to your customers.

5. Organize and Launch

The single most important thing that needs to come out of your small business strategic plan is the unity of 3-5 overarching goals that serve as your script for your leadership team. You should illustrate this in some fashion, like a map, a visual plan shared with everyone on the team. 

Without an actionable plan, you won't know where you're going. When action items are organized by their objectives, the objectives are visible, actionable, and remain alive even after the team has completed the task. 

The most successful companies have outlined a clear intention. The step here is to work on converting the strategic plan into the company DNA. 

A company can do this by:

  • Sharing the vision map with the trusted group of people 
  • Build a company scorecard
  • Tie the leadership team’s performance back to the strategy
  • Celebrate wins
  • Discuss losses
  • Engage all employees in the process 

6. Execute Relentlessly and Assess Risk

Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Meet with your team every month to review the action plan. Do not let this one slide. Risk assessment is a vital part of strategic planning. Here is where a small business will identify its weaknesses and risks and be constantly aware of them. 

Some questions to discuss at every meeting:

  • What strategies do you feel have the most significant impact on achieving the vision of the company?
  • What strategies do you feel have the most significant impact on achieving the mission of the company?
  • What types of impact should you prioritize?
  • How do we expect our competition to behave?
  • What objectives should you handle urgently?
  • What tactics should be employed to execute the strategies?
  • What resources are available?
  • How should the resources be allocated?
  • How should the strategic plan be measured in terms of progress?

Staying on top of the risks associated with a small business's strategic plan will help the company get ahead. It will allow leaders to take a proactive approach to act quickly to resolve any problems.

Once you've developed your strategic plan, it's vital to begin implementing it. To do so, you must first communicate it to everyone in the company, which is why meetings are so critical. While email, conversations, and the sharing of documents help, meetings (in person or virtual) allow for a clearer understanding.

7. Think of Strategic Planning as a Process

In the final stage of small business strategic planning, you must review your plan and make changes accordingly. Reviewing your strategic plan involves analyzing the amount of progress made, the data gathered, and the employees’ feedback. 

Small businesses run on all types of cycles. Strategic planning may be annual or quarterly, but it must be a repeated process. It isn't a situation where you create a small business strategic plan to transform your company and then expect to walk away from it once you're done.  

Great business owners become great leaders, and they inspire others with their vision. Reinforce your plan every day until your employees learn it, understand it, and buy into your vision. 

Bench Builders was founded to help business leaders overcome the daily challenges we see as we work with companies of various sizes. We understand the difficult situations top leaders face as they strive to grow and improve — and we know how to help guide your team using a combination of experience, skill, and proven tactics.

Are you ready to build a better small business strategy? Let’s talk. We can discuss what you need and what we’ll do to help you get what you want. If we think we can work together, we’ll keep talking. If not, we don’t. Simple as that. No sales pitches. Just honest conversation.

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