Do I Need a Strategic Plan? Who Cares?

A strategic plan doesn't need to be overwhelming or scary. Read on as we review basic terminology and components of a plan and how it can help your business—and you.


The answer to these questions depends on how you define a strategic plan and how you will use it.

As owners and leaders of smaller enterprises, time and money are at a premium—there is never enough to do everything we believe we should be doing. Too many priorities create too much stress. We want more time for ourselves and our families. 

Is creating and documenting a strategic plan just another task, or a way to help reduce stress, free up time, focus on what we do best, align employees and stakeholders, and help our businesses run more smoothly?

You deserve all of this. A well-documented, communicated, and managed strategic plan can help you get there.

Before we explore the question of “Do you need a strategic plan,” full disclaimer: I love strategic planning. I find it exciting. The only thing more fun than creating and documenting a strategic plan is gaining alignment around expectations, executing it, and communicating progress.

I am a fan because I have seen strategic plans in action—helping leaders align teams, communicate to boards of directors, and feel the satisfaction of laying out and meeting measurable goals. I have seen chaotic change turn into manageable change.

Strategic plans provide business leaders with the structure to execute in a well-thought-out and disciplined way. But they don't do that by sitting on the shelf.

Strategic Plan Definition: Our Common Language

Strategic planning can mean something different to everyone. Let’s set a common definition of what we are talking about.

There are many popular frameworks and definitions that accompany strategic plans, including EOS Vision/Traction Organizer, The One-Page Business Plan, The One-Page Plan, etc. The frameworks are similar but differ in terminology. I will do my best to describe the components in a way to cover the various terminologies, so we are speaking the same language.

Strategic Plan Components:

Core Values: How we should/shouldn’t behave; our beliefs
Purpose: Why we are in business, our work each day, our picture of the future, our core focus
Targets/3-Year Picture: Where we want to be in 3-5 years, a picture of our business, target market, planned financials and other accomplishments, our customers’ view of our uniqueness, the promises and guarantees we will fulfill  
Goals/1-Year Plan: What we plan to do this year, annual priorities, critical numbers we will track 
Actions/Rocks: How we do it, planned and tracked in chunks (typically quarterly) to meet annual goals
Schedules: Who will do what by when—setting the stage for accountability management

RELATED: 3 Simple Brain Hacks for Goal Setting and Achieving

So, Who Really Cares About All of This?

First, let’s consider typical stakeholders and how the strategic plan can best help them help your business. Let’s explore stakeholder groups and ideas on how the strategic plan can influence their impact. You might think of others.

Current Employees: Our core values set expectations for how we treat each other and our customers. The 3-Year Plan and 1-Year Plan create excitement about the company’s future and help employees see why their work is so critical. Schedules directly communicate the significance of each person and the criticality of achieving commitments. The strategic plan is a critical component in new employee orientation, indicating what we expect from employees and what they can expect from others. It provides the foundation for holding people accountable and is most effective when linked directly to performance and compensation management.

Recruits: Our core values and purpose describe our culture and the work we do. Sharing this helps potential employees better understand the organization and decide if it is a good fit for them. It helps us make the same assessment, especially when linked directly to behavioral interviewing.   

RELATED: Employee Retention Challenges and Solutions

Customers: When we share our core values, purpose, long-term vision of who we are, and customer promise, we set the bar for what our customers can expect from us—and what we expect from them. This helps them decide if they want to do business with us. It helps our customer service team know how to interact with customers. To better understand this impact, think of some companies you love to work with and look for strategic planning components on their websites. (You might start with Southwest Airlines and Nordstrom, then check out COSE members’ websites.)

Advisors/Board of Directors: How do you get the most from expert advisors positioned to help with your business? You must provide the information they need to help you. Starting with your strategic plan. Get their expert input. Gain their alignment and, if needed, their approval. This will provide the foundation for what you communicate to them regarding the accomplishments and status of the business. It answers the question board members often have of, “So what?” when they hear your reports on accomplishments. It helps them evaluate business performance and provide valuable feedback.

Those with a Financial Interest: The strategic plan helps build trust with stakeholders, including those providing financial investment and support. It is the foundation for the details we provide, from what our business does and why, to target customers, financial projections, and employee plans. It’s the glue that ties the whole business story together.

Third Parties (Vendors, Consultants, etc.): As with our customers, our core values, purpose, long-term vision help us articulate the softer side of what we need from the third parties. It helps them understand what we expect and it also helps us decide who to work with. Not only do we want to encourage and support other businesses sharing our values, but it makes working together easier and more enjoyable.

You – the Business Owner/Leader: You have a burning vision for what you want your company to be. You know what it looks like and you believe you and your team can make it happen. The strategic plan is how you share what’s in your heart and mind. It’s the necessary tool for everyone to see what you see and feel what you feel. It paints the picture of your future and guides the initial steps to take you on your journey.

What’s the Answer? Do I Need It?

Consider the answers to these questions:

Do I need to better align my team around common culture and goals vs. individuals working on their own priorities?
Do I need a structure to communicate with my board, gain their input, and communicate progress on agreed upon goals vs. reacting to questions and changes in direction?
Do I need common messages to consistently communicate with customers, vendors, financial supporters vs. scrambling to effectively describe who I am and who I do business with?
Do I want to know when I have achieved measurable goals vs. chasing moving targets?
Do I want to manage change vs. letting chaos manage me?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you would benefit from a documented and managed strategic plan. Other side effects typically include improved business outcomes, reduced stress, freed up time, better focus on what we do best, employee alignment, and—yes—more fun running your business!

Watch for related upcoming articles on:

Strategic Planning: How Do I Get Started?
Putting the Strategic Plan to Work
Communication Planning
Accountability Management
Fractional Leadership: Can a Part-Time Leader Help Your Business?

Janet Gosche helps business leaders struggling with too many priorities by providing systems and tools to clearly define their business strategies and lead their teams to execute. Previously, Janet was a senior executive at Accenture, global practice lead at Avasant, and COO/CSO at cybersecurity firm JurInnov, where she focused on strategy, complex program management, vendor relationships, and organizational change. 216-496-6658.

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  • BBB business tips: Start your year off with a plan

    If 2020-2021 taught us one thing, it's that anything can happen. Be better prepared for whatever 2022 brings your way with these planning tips from Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland.


    If 2020 and 2021 taught us anything about running a business, it's that things might not always go as planned. Getting creative and having a backup can help your business when something unexpected happens. Better Business Bureau (BBB®) suggests starting the year off with a business continuity plan (BCP.) A BCP is a strategic plan for an organization to continue providing its goods or services through a disruption such as a natural disaster, fire, cyber attack, or public health emergency like the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
    Even if the chances of an unexpected disaster are low, they aren’t zero. According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, phishing and spoofing attacks were the most common cybercrime in 2020 and are one of the top scams targeting business, with almost one-quarter of a million victims and $50 million in losses nationwide. In 2020, lost business costs from a cyberattack accounted for nearly 40% of costs for a data breach, totaling an average of $1.52 million, notwithstanding the losses from other business disruptions. Having a BCP not only gives business leaders peace of mind knowing they are prepared to face a challenge like a phishing attack but can be used as a critical tool to continue or recover normal business practices. Businesses that aren’t able to create a BCP might have a longer recovery time from an incident due to loss of client data, productivity, and revenue. This in turn may have an impact on customer retention and could impact your business reputation. 

    When designing a BCP, it is important to consider these things: 

    1. Strategy and organization: Elements such as employee structure, skills, and communications
    2. Technology: IT elements such as systems, data backups, and networks
    3. Facilities: Physical infrastructure that may get damaged and need to be replaced

    Creating a BCP involves analysis, creation, execution, and evaluation. BCP’s should also be realistic and adaptable to unexpected obstacles. 

    BBB Serving Greater Cleveland has the following tips to help your business create a BCP: 

    Tip no. 1: Create a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). What is the impact of an unexpected disaster on your business? How does it affect business functions, resources, people, and suppliers? Your impact analysis should start with brainstorming scenarios of threat. Then create a concise plan with documentation that recognizes which processes are most important to your business. 

    Tip no. 2: Identify risks, vulnerabilities, and threats. Create a list of possible disruptions that may impact your business. This may include physical damage to property/equipment, supply chain or transportation interruptions, utility outage, and corruption of sensitive information technology. After you have identified possible risks, create a list of safeguards to help reduce these risks or improve recovery. For example, if an employee goes home from illness, you can implement an overnight cleaning to protect other employees or create an on-call system for when people call off. 

    Tip no. 3: Assign leadership roles. Identify a team to help implement your plan. This team will help create the readiness plan, including focusing on the cost of business disruption and solution costs for continuing your business. This plan should also include anyone who will know the plan well enough to train the rest of the employees. 

    Tip no. 4: Create a plan for workers and operations. A well-assembled BCP includes a list of priorities in critical business operations and time-sensitive tasks. The plan should also list administrators and contact information for emergency responders, key personnel, and backup site providers.

    RELATED: 3 things to know about starting a new year off right

    Tip no. 5: Create a disaster recovery plan. A disaster recovery (DR) plan is part of a BCP. However, a DR plan focuses on restoring IT infrastructure, whereas a BCP considers business processes, assets, human resources, and business partners.

    Tip no. 6: Store important documents. Creating a Business Continuity Resource Requirements document helps keep a clear view of what the business would need in case of a specific loss in resources. The owner should also create a BIA worksheet to analyze what operational and financial activities will be prioritized in the event of a disruption. 

    Tip no. 7: Test the plan. Training exercises will help to familiarize your employees with the plan, allowing for a better, realistic execution. Controlled training strategies, such as a simulation of a disaster, can help determine if the business will be able to carry on critical business functions.

    RELATED: Read more from BBB Serving Greater Cleveland

    Tip no. 8: Measure Performance. Management can then analyze the plan's performance to see if it fulfills its intended purpose. We recommend testing a continuity plan two to four times a year, depending on the organization's size and the number of business processes occurring between each test. 

    Tip no. 9: Continuously review the plan. Finally, it is crucial to determine the plan's KPIs by measuring if the recovery objectives were met. Management should assess gaps found in the implementation process and train staff accordingly. A periodic review of the plan will contribute to the plan's success. 

    For additional tips and resources, visit to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation.

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    Watch a recent GCP webinar about the importance of fostering equitable and inclusive economic growth throughout Greater Cleveland

    Fostering equitable and inclusive economic growth throughout Greater Cleveland is a foundational component of the work of numerous public and civic sector organizations. 

    In a recent webinar, we explored the efforts of three such agencies – the City of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA), and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD). Our panel discussed how each agency is actively integrating equity and inclusion into their missions, recent successes and challenges, and what opportunities lie ahead as our region prepares to emerge from the global pandemic. 

    Watch the recorded webinar below:


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  • The impact of company culture and tips for improving it

    Having a good company culture can help attract and retain good talent, and can have a positive impact on your bottom line. Find out how to improve the culture at your small business.


    Even a small business establishes a company culture. Having a positive company culture is important whether you have many employees or only a few employees. With the pandemic “great resignation” going on, a positive company culture can help you to retain your employees. It boosts employee morale and leads to increased productivity and efficiency in your workplace, as well as motivates employees to do better and makes them want to come to work. This helps your bottom line in many ways including being able to attract and keep the best employees, which in turn, helps you to reduce costs as training new hires can be expensive. It also helps cut down on absenteeism, workplace accidents and more.

    There are many reasons a company culture can be negative including lack of growth opportunities, lack of clarity and expectations for job responsibilities and performance, problems with leadership or problems with your company’s morale. These are all things that you should take a hard, honest look at. If you find you have a morale problem, you should take action as soon as possible to correct the problem. 

    There are many things you can do to boost company morale, whether your employees work in-person or remotely. Check out the following ideas.

    Recognize good employees for their efforts. This can be thru recognition in various ways such as a bonus, an award, a mention to other employees when there is a successful outcome, etc.

    RELATED: Why employee motivation matters more in a small business

    Listen to your employees. They can offer many excellent ideas whether at meetings, thru a suggestion box or by any other means of communication. They are often on the front lines and hear things that you may not be aware of.

    Offer your employees growth opportunities. No one wants to be in a dead-end job with no way to grow or improve. This also helps when recruiting new employees. 

    Offer your employees training opportunities. This can include in school or in company training programs.

    Offer other benefits. Consider offering your employees assistance with higher education, or personal assistance for health or personal issues. This will help them feel valued and important to your company.

    Organize team building activities. These can be beneficial to both in-person employees, as well as to employees who work remotely. These can foster communication, increase productivity and creativity.

    RELATED: Read more from Tim Dimoff

    Encourage frequent breaks. A coffee break can do wonders to re-incentivize employees. Discourage employees from working thru lunch or eating at their desks. If you can, have a breakroom that is nice and comfortable so they can unwind for a few minutes. This also fosters communication between employees.

    Encourage diversity. Bring in different talents, experiences and various skill sets. This can bring your employees together as a team and promote fresh ideas.

    Let go of any bullies or negative employees. This type of employee can completely hinder a positive company culture, as well as open you up to potential lawsuits.

    The best thing you can do for your company and your team is to embrace changes that positively benefit all before low morale takes hold. And if you already have good morale and a positive company culture, these steps will help you to keep good talent. 

    Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at

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    Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband is in the process of being deployed globally, and it's already here in Cleveland, but what exactly is it? Why is it so important?

    In a recent webinar, experts from Verizon discussed everything from the differences between 4G and 5G, as well as some use cases that show the power of 5G for manufacturing, healthcare, and more. We'll also touch on Verizon's local footprint, our corporate social responsibility approach and our investment in Northeast Ohio.

    Watch the recording below:

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    The webinar was part of the "But What Does It Mean?" series, devoted to translating research studies and data into meaningful action.

    Watch the recording below:

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