A Strategic Plan is very different from a Business Plan. A Strategic Plan sets forth a timeline of specific tasks that need to be completed in order to make your Business Plan a reality. It’s a specific list of objectives to reach specific goals.
This time, more than any time of the year is a perfect time to revisit our Strategic Plan, or build one if we don’t have one.
Even experienced business owners can benefit from using a Strategic Plan as an integral part of their business. It is so difficult to manage all of the loose ends and chaos that can occur when running a small business. A Strategic Plan helps tremendously.
A Strategic Plan is essentially a checklist of things that need to be completed in the next month, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months. It takes your business plan to the next level when you are trying to decide where it is most effective to spend your time. In a lot of ways the Strategic Plan is the how-to of your Business Plan.
Yet, even if you haven’t created a Business Plan I challenge you to sit down this week and start off 2014 with a powerful head start…A guaranteed way to make more money than you would have otherwise…A way to save wasted time and unnecessary poor decisions…the answer: build what I have termed the Dynamic Strategic Plan.
Now some of you will feel isolated or alone in this process. Some of you may feel that you have too many Chiefs and not enough Indians to make a meaningful decision. Here are some situations that could be facing some of you:
- Individual owners. Anybody that has owned their own business knows that success can often turn on one simple principle: self-discipline. When you own your own business, there is usually no one leaning over your shoulder making sure you are working the hours you need to and focusing your energy on the right tasks. A Strategic Plan can give you a regular road map to keep you focused and help you set goals.
- Partnerships. A Strategic Plan in a partnership doesn’t have as much to do with self-discipline as it does accountability. It is so important for partners to meet on a regular basis to discuss, strategize, decide, assign, and then document every decision they are making as a partnership. It is so easy to forget who is doing what and why you decided on a certain course of action in the business. In difficult as well as successful times, the Strategic Plan is oftentimes the glue that can hold a partnership together.
- Board of advisors. Whether you are an individual owner or have partners, a Board of Advisors could be a huge resource to you in implementing your Strategic Plan, reviewing it on a regular basis, and being held accountable. This is much more than the “mentor” that may have helped you in the design of your Business Plan. This should be a group of professionals with experience and education in your industry that can give you feedback on a regular basis. At the most simplistic level, this board could be a group of family or friends you take out to dinner once a month to get their ideas and feedback, as well as report back to them regarding your accomplishments. Everyone loves to give free advice over a nice dinner. Don’t underestimate the power of this resource.
I outline the steps to create a Strategic Plan in my book “What Your CPA Isn’t Telling You” and also suggest that there certainly isn’t a universal equation or approach to creating a successful and meaningful Strategic Plan. Of course, many would concur that simply going through the exercise of setting some goals and objectives for the year would be more than most business owners do. In fact, many entrepreneurs would agree that it is extremely difficult to see the Forest through the Trees.
But in an effort to help through the process, I suggest there are four essential steps to creating a Dynamic and Impactful Strategic Plan.
Step 1: Create the Necessary Sections for Your Strategic Plan That Make Sense to You.
The following sections are what I feel are the bare essentials of a good Strategic Plan and what you should consider each time you sit down to plan:
- Organizational or management issues
- Product development
- Personal training and education
- Employees and vendors
- Managing by statistics
- Marketing tasks (based on your Marketing Plan)
Again, in my book I (more specifically Appendix E) I discuss some questions and/or topics in detail to consider in each of the above categories. Some of these include Organizational or management issues, product development, systemization, and Managing by Statistics, just to name a few. Of course these are not conclusive and just a starting point for you as you review and build your 2014 Strategic Plan.
Step 2: Create a Timeline for All of the Action Items to Occur. Don’t stress about this process. All of your objectives and tasks to complete from the different sections above should be commingled in an overall timeline. Don’t set up a checklist for each category. Put them all in one master timeline that should be broken into 3-month, 6-month, and the entire year of 2014.
In this section of deadlines and timelines, I like to try and set specific criteria to show the objective has been met, or in a partnership, or a board of directors, specifically assign people to complete specific tasks so there is accountability for each action item.
Step 3. Revisit your Strategic Plan Regularly. Don’t leave your Strategic Plan in the drawer. I in fact love to carry mine around with me in my bag and take it with me everywhere I go. I like to review it on airplane rides or weekends when I have a free minute and the pressures of the workweek aren’t bearing down on me.
In fact, I suggest you update your plan monthly, or at the very least review it every three months. Review it constantly, and stay disciplined! Make sure you are making notes to your plan whenever you have a “brilliant idea.” Don’t say to yourself: “I need to do that next quarter when I review my plan.” Write it down now!
Step 4. Continue to Manage by Statistics. Track your success or failures. Track the numbers and try to quantify your progress when possible. Your numbers and reports, even if you are only keeping track and reporting to yourself, will consistently tell you if you are headed in the right direction. Don’t get discouraged. Make changes as needed. Being a business owner means change. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it, and become accustomed to it.
In summary, don’t let the first week of January get by without writing down a 2014 plan. More specifically let me suggest you take a trip down to Staples or Office Depot one evening this week or on a lunch break and purchase a Moleskin diary. These are small, sleek and easy to carry around with you. Take the first few pages to write down your Strategic Plan and do the best to create a timeline and list some of the assessment criteria you will be using to measure your success. Don’t be afraid to make some goals. I promise it will help you focus on your priorities. Good luck!!
Mark J. Kohler is a CPA, Attorney, Radio Show host and author of the book “Lawyers are Liars- The Truth About Protecting Our Assets”. and “What Your CPA Isn’t Telling You- Life Changing Tax Strategies”. He is also a partner at the law firm Kyler Kohler Ostermiller & Sorensen, LLP and the accounting firm K&E CPAs, LLP. For more information visit him at www.markjkohler.com.