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.  janet@janetgosche.com 216-496-6658.

 
Share
  • Email
  • Next up: The Civic Sector Role in an Inclusive Economy
  • More in Operations
  • The Civic Sector Role in an Inclusive Economy

    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:

     

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: The Power of 5G and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • More in Operations
  • The Power of 5G and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

    Watch our recent webinar exploring the power of 5G.

    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:

     
    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: The State of Latino Entrepreneurship and the Impact of COVID-19 on Latino Businesses
  • More in Operations
  • The State of Latino Entrepreneurship and the Impact of COVID-19 on Latino Businesses

    Watch GCP's recent webinar exploring the State of Latino Entrepreneurship and The Impact of Covid-19 on Latino Businesses.

    In a recent GCP webinar, the Equity & Inclusion Division was joined by Marlene Orozco, Lead Research Analyst with the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and CEO of Stratified Insights, a research consulting firm. Ms. Orozco shared research on the State of Latino Entrepreneurship and The Impact of Covid-19 on Latino Businesses.

    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:

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: The transition from remote to hybrid work environments
  • More in Operations
  • The transition from remote to hybrid work environments

    Watch our recent webinar about creating a hybrid workplace that supports a mix of remote and in-office employees.

    The past year, lockdowns brought cloud communications to the forefront and have been critical to businesses enabling teams to work from home and continue to communicate with their co-workers, suppliers, and (most importantly) customers. We are now entering the next normal – a hybrid workplace that supports a mix of remote and in-office employees. 

    In a recent webinar, One View Communications, partnering with Broadvoice, outlined industry trends related to moving back to full time in-office work vs. splitting time in a hybrid environment, and how having the right communications and collaboration solution is critical to navigating the “hybrid” work world.

     

    Watch the recording below:

     

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Why Small Businesses May be More Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks
  • More in Operations
  • Why Small Businesses May be More Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks

    With more products and services being offered online and with the uptick in the amount of people working remotely, cyber security is an even greater concern than ever before. Learn how to keep your company safe.

     

    Since the pandemic, many small businesses are staying afloat utilizing cyber business methods, new technologies, e-commerce or online business sales, as well as using remote workers. While these changes may be good, they have also created new opportunities for cyberattacks. More than half of small business owners say they are more worried about potential cyberattacks since the pandemic began. It is very important that small business owners become proactive in protecting their information systems and in training their staff to detect any attempts at cyber-fraud.

    The vast majority of cyberattacks come through email scams and phishing attempts or malicious software. Businesses with more than 20 employees and those who utilize remote workers seem to be most at risk of a cyber-fraud incident. Additionally, the business sectors involving manufacturing, wholesale trade, and administration management are also at greater risk.

    A cyberattack on a small business can result in both stressful and financial effects. It can negatively impact everything from their banking information to business relationships and more. It is a good idea to invest in cyber insurance if it is available.

    RELATED: 11 tips for keeping your company secure.

    Additionally, there are a few other steps that a small business can take to help ward off cyberattacks including:

    • Train your employees about cyberattacks, how to detect them and how to avoid them.
    • Establish basic security procedures for employees, including using strong passwords, how to protect customer data and other vital information.
    • Update all devices to the latest security software, web browsers, and operating systems. Use antivirus software and firewalls.
    • Create a mobile device action plan to encrypt data for employees who are working remotely. Each employee should have a separate user account in order to trace any activity if there’s a problem.

    RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff.

    • Back up critical business data and store the information in the cloud.
    • Secure Wi-Fi networks with Service Set Identifier (SSID) and password protection.
    • Work with banks or credit card processors to safeguard payment information.
    •  Talk with other business owners and share information on known scams, attacks and best practices.
    • Report any cyberattacks to law enforcement or other authorities. Notifying the Better Business Bureau is also a good idea.

    It is more important now than ever to protect your information. Small businesses are vulnerable to attack but taking some precautionary measures will go a long way toward protection.

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy 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 info@sacsconsulting.com.

     

     

    Share
  • Email
  • More in Operations