Every entrepreneur has heard that having a written strategic business plan helps. A good plan can help business owners and managers appraise new ideas, make more consistent decisions, orient employees, monitor progress, defend their requests for financing, know when to expect major investments, and design incentive systems that are complementary to their strategies. There is now debate in key business literature about whether business plans should be written by business owners themselves or through the use of “bottom up” communication in which staff-level employees contribute to the planning process. Some studies reveal that many business plans are insufficiently accurate, but overall, most business owners would still like to have written plans.
Their problem is not a lack of belief in the value of planning but in the assumption that they cannot afford the cost of time expended. Busy entrepreneurs don’t have much time available to reflect, write, rewrite, and debate strategy. They’re right. They need an easy, cheap, non-disruptive way to get a plan written. Fast-growing companies, in particular, cannot stop to prepare a plan. They have to keep moving and not lose momentum. But there is good news for busy entrepreneurs. The strategic planning effort can be integrated into their schedules if they piggyback the process onto other major improvement efforts.
For example, some growing companies face chronic cash flow problems. When the leaders of cash poor companies finally decide they are going to do some focused problem solving, a parallel process of strategic planning can be done at the same time. The owners and managers will need to address several strategic issues, premises and priorities to resolve a chronic problem such as poor cash flow. Why not use the meat of that analysis and those discussions to get the strategic plan going at the same time? A look at the questions used in a strategic-plan outline will also help the managers take an objective look at the cash flow problem and not miss an essential element in their problem-solving analysis. Other typical chronic problems of growing companies that are excellent bases for parallel problem solving and strategic-planning processes include high turnover, low profitability, poor internal communication, and lack of quality control. Each of these problems could benefit from strategic analysis.
Other companies can piggyback their strategic planning process onto research efforts. By the time most business owners decide to invest in some outside research or analysis, they want it to be cost efficient. Why not have the research feed the strategic plan at the same time? Product-trend research, competitive analysis, and market research are all excellent springboards into strategic planning. We have seen several businesses successfully get into strategic planning through the use of graduate-student interns.
Still other companies can piggyback their strategic planning onto team building. It’s one thing that managers of different departments within a business can share.
There are several books available in local bookstores that contain sample outlines of strategic business plans. Plus, small-business development centers in the area have free literature available.
The outlines exist. Motivated, efficient entrepreneurs will watch for cues within their businesses for strategic planning to occur along with and parallel to problem solving, research, or team-building efforts that will be taking place anyway.
Known as The Growth Strategist®, Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP, helps businesses achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through a combination of speaking, consulting, executive coaching, authorship, and growth financing. Aldonna can be reached at www.ambler.com or 1-888-253-6662.