Many small businesses do not have a strategic plan. This may be because 1) they do not really know what it is or how to do one; 2) they believe strategic plans are for big business; or 3) it simply has not been a priority in the face of dealing with day to day, ‘more urgent’ matters.

However, if you want to grow your small business with purpose, if you want to work smarter rather than harder, and you want to lead like a seasoned CEO, a strategic plan provides the foundation and focus to help you drive your business in the direction you want it to go, rather than just having business ‘happen’ to you. A strategic plan helps to ensure the best use of limited resources so you don’t pursue opportunities that do not align with your goals and core capabilities. The strategic plan provides the blueprint to keep you on track in achieving you vision and goals.

Strategic planning for a small business need not be as complicated or time consuming as for a big business. It should however, identify what you want to accomplish, and how you intend to accomplish your it. Implement these tips to create a strategic plan for your small business.

  1. Involve all key decision makers. To have ‘buy-in’ everyone in the company should have some level of participation in the process. At a minimum, all the key strategic decision makers need to participate in the process.
  2. Set aside uninterrupted time. To give the strategic plan the time and focus it deserves, the planning team needs to have uninterrupted time away from the day to day operations. This means planning sessions should be away from the office.
  3. Have a clearly defined vision, mission and corporate values. Do not brush off or under-estimate the importance of these three critical components of a strategic plan. They set the direction and focus for the plan, and are the unifying elements that keep everyone in the organization moving in the same direction.
  4. Complete a SWOT Analysis. Before you can set direction of where you want to go, you need to do a thorough analysis of where you are now. This is accomplished by identifying your internal strengths and weaknesses and the external opportunities and threats in your marketplace that can help or hinder your achievement of vision and goals.
  5. Identify long term objectives (3-5 years) and shorter term goals (annual). These goals and objectives may relate revenue or profit margins, expansion into new markets or operational improvements.
  6. Name 3-5 key strategies. A small business should limit the number of strategies they plan to pursue. These should be key driving your business forward, and manageable based on your resources.
  7. Use a skilled outside facilitator. No business should try to facilitate their own strategic planning retreat. Seek the assistance of skilled facilitator experienced in strategic plan facilitation.

(Source: Sharon Macaluso, Area Director, University of Georgia SBDC in DeKalb)