PIE: The Simple 3-Step Process for Creating Your Strategic Business Plan

Many business owners (especially those with a non-business background) struggle when it comes to creating a strategic business plan for their business. Chances are they’ve never ran a business before, and even in their “employment” days were not involved with the day-to-day business management.

So when it comes to running their business they struggle!

“Still need to figure out (sit down and actually learn) how to do this!” said one business owner to me earlier this week.

They have a dream for their business, are an expert in whatever it is they do, but have no idea how to take that idea/dream and turn it into a viable and profitable business… so they continue in a state of overwhelm and frustration, with a slow growing business.

Spending some time planning all of your business activities is crucial if you are to succeed long-term. It’s not just about planning your business – you need to understand the strategy behind what you’re going to be doing. And you also need to understand how all the different pieces of your business fit together to create one coherent business.

Today, I’d like to share with you my simple, 3-step process, for sitting down and crafting your own strategic business plan.

PLAN – schedule some time in your calendar to work on your business plan. Some people opt to take a mini-retreat away from their office. It could be spending the day in your local coffee shop, or actually going out of town for a few days. Or you could just schedule one or two hours and sit quietly in your office planning out your business (that advantage of doing in your office is that you have all your business information right there with you). Whatever works best for you is going to work best for your business. But the important thing is, you to schedule in the time to create your plan!

INVESTIGATE – what is it you’re going to be offering over the coming 90 days; 6 months; 12 months? I like to have a loose 12-month plan, but then have a very specific 90-day plan in place. It’s much easier to focus and implement with a shorter time-frame than it is to do so over, say, a 12-month period. Sometimes planning out so far ahead can feel overwhelming. But it is important to have that “big picture vision” in place so that you know where you’re heading.

Also when you’re deciding what it is you’re going to be offering ask yourself, “Does this make sense? Does it fit my big picture vision?” This is where understanding the strategy behind your business comes into play. It’s no good deciding you want to do a live event, or offer an online training course, if you don’t understand how this fits into your “Big Picture Vision”. All paths must lead you to that “Big Picture Vision”.

EXECUTE – now that you know what it is you’re going to be offering and when, it’s time to put that plan into practice. One thing that I do in my business is “reverse engineering”. I always start with the end date in mind and then work backwards. For example, if I’m offering a 4-part live training class on a specific date, what do I need to do to promote that training class, and when. It’s much easier to plan out the promotions if I work backwards from the start date of the class. That way too, I can see if I’m leaving enough time for the promotions or if I need to adjust something in some way.

So there you have my simple 3-step process for creating your strategic business plan. No go ahead and create your own!

(c) 2013 Tracey Lawton

The Strategic Plan For Your Brand

Solopreneurs and small business owners rise and fall on the marketplace perception of their brand, also known as one’s professional reputation. For that reason, the brand merits ongoing monitoring, enhancement and promotion as a component of strategies designed to support new business acquisition and encourage repeat business. The objective is to build and maintain a good client list. A useful way to review and evaluate your brand is with what many experts consider the gold standard of strategic planning, the SWOT Analysis.

SWOT is the acronym of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Every 18 – 24 months, self-employed professionals will benefit from examining the viability of their brand, to better understand what actions enhance the brand and what might weaken it. Conduct a SWOT Analysis and use what you discover as the foundation of a strategic plan for your brand.

Strengths: expertise, competitive advantages, A-list clients, referral sources, strategic partnerships, educational or professional credentials, financial resources, influential relationships. They are internally generated and within your control. Potential actions include:

  • Leveraging resources to upgrade the types of clients you work with
  • Increasing sales or billable hours by a certain percentage
  • Developing a strategy to obtain more repeat business
  • Developing a strategy that would persuade clients to hire you for more lucrative projects

Weaknesses: whatever challenges your brand. Competitors, ineffective marketing, poor customer service, weak perceived value of your products and services. These are internal and within your control. Potential actions include:

  • Determining which inadequacies have the most negative impact on revenues
  • Identifying gaps that can be quickly or inexpensively remedied
  • Understanding how to minimize liabilities—which business practices can you modify, professional credentials you can earn, relationships you can cultivate?

Opportunities: conditions that favor the attainment of goals. These are external and beyond your control, yet you may be able to retool and benefit from their presence. Good information about business conditions in your marketplace helps business owners to evaluate and envision the potential of short-term and long-term benefits and learn how to get the pay-off. Consider the following:

  • What new developments can you leverage to bring money and prestige to your venture?
  • Do you see ROI in offering new products or services?
  • Are there good clients you might successfully sign or lapsed clients who, with outreach, could be willing to reactivate?
  • Is there a niche market you can successfully enter?

Threats: conditions likely to damage your brand, or your ability to acquire clients and generate sufficient billable hours. These are external and beyond your control, yet you may be able to retool and escape or minimize the damage caused by their presence. This element requires your immediate attention, since it carries the potential to end, or seriously cripple, your brand and business.

Has an important contact left his/her organization, leaving you at the mercy of the new decision-maker, who has his/her own friends to hire? Or has there been a merger that resulted in the downgrading of the influence of your chief contact, who may lose the ability to green-light projects that you manage?

Has a well-connected and aggressive competitor appeared on the scene, ready to eat your market share and client list by way of a better known brand, more influential relationships, a bigger marketing budget, or other game-changing competitive advantages?

If your client contact has moved on, take that person to lunch or coffee and attempt to make the professional relationship portable. If your contact has lost influence in the new organization chart, take him/her out to coffee and get information about the replacement, who may hire you for the next project if it’s scheduled to start quickly.

If competition has intensified, do everything possible to offer superior customer service, assert your expertise, step up your networking, enhance your thought-leader credentials and nurture your client relationships.

Implementing a strategy of protective action, for example, a brand relaunch or a pivot into more hospitable business turf, might be necessary. Stay abreast of current and potential developments in the industries you serve. Communicate with clients and stay current as to the state of their priorities and concerns. Good relationships will give you the resources of time and information that will allow you to evaluate and regroup.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Build a Strategic Plan For Business Growth – Connecting the Plan

Once your company’s strategic plan has been completed and a “growth map” is in place, it is time to execute it. But unfortunately, the reality of business, with all its pressing concerns, can quickly cause plan execution to falter. The answer is not to try harder or make the plan an urgent priority. Instead, the solution is to integrate the plan into the company’s ongoing activities so that execution takes place as part of the normal course of business.

The most common and deadliest enemy to strategic plan execution begins the moment that a company’s long and involved planning process comes to an end. When executives finally turn their full attention back to running the company, there is often a pent-up demand for their time. Customers have issues, suppliers bring challenges and shareholders want immediate results. And that doesn’t include regulatory demands, legal considerations, human resource needs, etc. The list goes on, and unfortunately the “dust gathering” process for the strategic plan often begins before the ink is dry.

Even when executives make time to execute their plan, initiatives can falter as part of the company’s “project list”. The problem is that when projects are prioritized, strategic plan initiatives are nearly always labeled “important” rather than “urgent”. And urgent projects, like the ones that customers are waiting for and those that will increase cash flow, tend to be implemented first. So as the year progresses, strategic initiatives often fall behind and executives must be content to report the reasons. At year-end, it can become embarrassing for a company’s executive team to realize how little of their strategic plan has actually been implemented.

Instead of attempting to keep the plan in better focus or placing its execution ahead of urgent matters facing the company, the permanent solution is to integrate the plan into the company’s normal operations. This way, plan initiatives will not be seen merely as additional projects.

The first step to effective plan integration is to separate each plan initiative into “action plans”. For example, let’s assume that there is an initiative called “Build A Marketing Program That Targets Small Businesses”. This initiative can be split into 5 separate action plans, as follows:

1. Identify the products and solutions that will be required.

2. Develop tailored presentation materials

3. Prepare advertising and promotion plans

4. Initiate relationships with appropriate trade organizations

5. Create a sales target list, with contact information

Once action plans have been established, the next step is to assign responsibility for each of them. Although the company’s marketing executive would likely be responsible for the overall initiative in the above example, each of the 5 action plans should be assigned to an appropriate employee team. For instance, the Customer Service team can be responsible for action plan 1, the Promotion team can handle action plans 2 and 3, the Sales team can initiate the relationships with trade organizations in action plan 4 and the Sales Support team can create the target list in action plan 5.

At this point, the initiative has been pushed deep within the company. But an even further step towards integration is to make timely action plan completion a part of employee compensation. For example, when teams meet their goals for the quarter, which should include completion of assigned action plans, the members of those teams would receive performance pay in addition to their regular pay. Similarly, completion of the overall initiative can be one of the components of the executive team’s compensation.

With this level of integration, it will likely be rare for initiatives not to be completed on time. And yet, execution is not forced or placed ahead of other pressing projects. Instead, it is spread throughout the company and connected to routine employee compensation. While development of a powerful and insightful strategic plan is essential, execution by the entire company can make all the difference!