When you fail to plan…

By Mark Wardell

We’ve all heard the expression, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I hate to say it, but your mother was right. Indeed this is a truth that holds equally for life in general and for your business. Enter the strategic objective. If you haven’t yet created a master plan for your business, now’s the time. After all, why leave your success to chance? Here’s how to develop a strategy that will ensure you achieve your business goals, whether that means tripling your revenues, going global, or spending more time on the golf course. 

Before you start, get in the zone.

This exercise requires that you cast a vision for your business future. Ask yourself, where do you want to be three years from now? What do you envision for the future of your business? For example, what size of business do you want to have? Where do you want to be located geographically? Who are your ideal customers? What do you want your own role in the business to be? Who do you need on board to support you? Get ready to dream big and put your vision down on paper.

Getting started: Putting your dreams on paper

Step 1:

In order to create a roadmap to your future business utopia, you need to start by knowing where you are now. So your first step is to define your “current reality.”

Use a SWOT Analysis to analyze your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Describe each in detail. By doing so, you’ll bring a greater sense of reality to the challenges you face moving forward.

Step 2:

Next, analyze your environment. Understanding your environment, including your competition, is paramount to understanding your place in the market. Ask yourself the following questions: What is your competition doing/likely to do? How sophisticated are your competitors? What technology is being used in your industry and what future trends should you consider? What are the international pressures, market conditions and economic climate you’re dealing with?

Step 3:

Now it’s time to take a critical look at the core of your business. You’ll want to be as detailed as possible when describing each of the following areas of your business. Vague ideas are much less actionable than concrete targets.

  • Leadership goals: For example, is your objective to move away from owner dependency? To foster a culture focused on continuous improvement? To develop a more time-conscious workplace? To more effectively engage leadership so everyone has fully “bought in” to the company mission, vision and values?

  • Management goals. For example, do you want to standardize your operation through detailed job descriptions and operational procedures? Will you schedule annual employee reviews? Or will you restructure staff meetings to make them more purposeful and effective?

  • Marketing goals. How are you positioned in the marketplace? What do you need to be more effective? For example, do you need new catalogues? Do you need an expanded customer base? Do you need more professional branding? Or how about a dedicated direct marketing team?

  • Financial goals. Will you restructure your finances to achieve better margins? Will you implement a series of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to help keep you on track? Will you improve your cash flow? Will you work more closely with your budget?

  • Operations goals. How do you see your operations developing? Do you see a broader product range? Will you implement guaranteed delivery times? Will you set the industry standard for customer service?

  • Sales goals. What will your sales targets be? Will you increase your number of dedicated sales people? Will you develop telemarketing scripts for outbound sales? Will you provide your salespeople with more training?

And finally, after you’ve addressed each of these areas and flushed out your vision, you’ll want to turn these notes into a presentation you can share with your whole team. This is a great way to get everyone involved and on board with the future of your company.

Yes, this process will take time, but in my opinion, a strategic objective really isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessary step in reaching your business goals. By developing this document, you’ll be able to identify the steps you need to take to build the high-performing business you’ve always dreamed of!

Mark Wardell is President & Founder of Wardell Professional Development (www.wardell.biz), an advisory group that helps business owners plan and execute the growth of their companies. The author of seven business books, Mark also writes regularly for several national business publications, including Profit Magazine, the Globe and Mail, and CGA Magazine. Email him at [email protected]

By Adam

May 20, 2011