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Grow your business through strategic planning

Business owners must not forget the big picture. Find out how to create a strategy and stick to it!

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Business owners must not forget the big picture. It is very easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day muck and bullets, whilst your business gets left behind. So how do you create a strategy and stick to it? Strategic planning, done properly, can give you that edge to grow your business; without it, your business will not flourish. Just doing what you have always done is not an option in today's world. What is strategic planning? Strategic planning addresses the whole business; it is the big picture. Business planning relates to the tactics for achieving your strategic aims. Whatever organisation you represent, if you want it to grow and prosper, you need a plan. More accurately, you need a strategic plan that has the support of the shareholders and staff. That is a key point for success, engagement and ownership from key staff. How do you produce a successful strategic plan? Your organisation's long-term prosperity depends on identifying the handful of key issues, or ‘strategic elephants', that can make or break it in future years. Remember: if you get the big things right, the rest falls into place. Get them wrong, and the detail is irrelevant. You need a methodology that guides your Chief Executive and his strategic planning team through the jungle of data in search of these strategic elephants. To identify these key issues, you need to view the sales history and contribution of each of your key products or services, project forward optimistic and pessimistic forecasts for the next five years, set feasable targets, and analyse the gaps. If your forecasts fall short of your targets, you have a problem: you will miss your targets. When do the gaps become unsustainable? In the next year or in five years? This affects which strategies you choose. SWOT analysis Next, do a SWOT analysis for the business. That is: Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats If your strengths outweigh your weaknesses and threats, you can afford some calculated risk strategies. If your position is threatened, you must pursue cautious or protective strategies. This is known as your ‘strategic flavour'. Bringing your plans to fruition Now that you have decided which issues to focus on, the team needs to develop a set of strategies and action plans to deal with them effectively. The planning method needs to be simple, easy to introduce, inclusive of all key staff and, above all, practical. The planning team should include your senior executives, chaired by the CEO, but also engage key employees at certain stages. Many businesses prefer to employ an experienced outsider, who can greatly contribute to the efficacy of every strategic planning team and who acts as a 'facilitator' to the process, to guide them through it. Why do most organisations fail to produce a strategic plan that delivers growth and prosperity? They pass the buck by engaging strategic planning consultants to deliver the plan, resulting in lack of ownership, and therefore no ‘buy in'. They don't engage key staff in the planning process: your most important resource. They get bogged down in too much detail (wood from the trees syndrome). The plan sits on the shelf; it is not a working document and there is no engagement in delivery. Their performance measures are not linked to the strategies, so it doesn't happen. They don't know how to start! About the author Lionel Stanton is an Executive Associate of the Institute for Independent Business, with a network of 2,000 management consultants, covering every management discipline. Lionel has more than 30 years' worth of experience in consultancy and business management in both SME and corporate sectors, with specialities in strategic planning, project management and logistics.

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