Owning a small business can be hectic. Between fielding customer concerns, managing employees and keeping up with bookkeeping and tax filings, you may feel like you’re stuck on an emotional roller coaster. But one thing that can help make all these obligations easier: strategic planning.
A strategic plan is crucial for maintaining small business operations and growth. It’s one of the most important tasks you can do for your company. Without guidance on what you should include or how to start, the process can seem daunting.
This 3-step guide will help you create a winning strategic plan for your small business so that you can go after — and achieve — the goals you set.
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is an important part of every small business owner’s toolkit. It’s a written document that helps you power your business toward success. It lays out how you will accomplish the goals and benchmarks you set earlier on.
Think of it like a roadmap for your small business — it identifies where you are now, where you want to go and how you're going to get there. A good strategic plan will guide your company through difficult times and help you identify opportunities when they arise.
What is a strategic plan vs. business plan?
A business plan is primarily for starting a business. It helps you identify goals and your vision for where you want your business to go.
While a business plan sets up where you want to go, a strategic plan describes how you’ll get there. It provides focus, direction and action to move the organization forward. A good strategic plan helps keep everyone, from founders to investors, laser-focused on where they are going and how they are getting there.
How strategic planning helps small business owners
You might think you’ve covered all your bases with a business plan. However, a strategic plan gives you clarity. Specifically, strategic planning can:
- Create a sense of purpose and direction
- Improve resource effectiveness
- Increase profitability
- Help you adapt to industry trends and consumer demands
- Put the focus on being proactive instead of reactive
It allows you to implement a step-by-step process to help you reach the goals you set for your company so you can stay ahead of the curve and on top of the competition.
What to include in a strategic plan for any business
As a small business owner, taking the time to identify where you’re headed and think through how you might get there can streamline your long-term success. A few essential elements are crucial to the success of a strategic plan, no matter what business you’re in:
Statement of purpose
Your company’s vision and mission statement identify what your business does and its purpose. A statement of purpose takes it a step further. It can include strategic objectives like a product launch or expansion project.
Strengths and weaknesses
Every business has strengths and weaknesses. A strategic plan helps you identify them. You might have heard of a SWOT analysis — SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It helps to build a foundation for making decisions to grow your business in the future.
The management process will look very different depending on your industry and business structure. If you have a board of directors, managers or multiple decision makers, what is the chain of command they should follow?
On the other hand, the management process is much simpler if you're a one-person operation. Still, you should have a process to identify strategic issues and make adjustments.
A strategic plan helps advance a business plan, and you’ll need a step-by-step roadmap to make it happen. What tasks should you take to achieve your company’s goals? The roadmap should include short-term and long-range planning to keep the team on the same page.
How to create a strategic plan in 3 steps
Every company has its own unique set of hurdles, and different strategies can work for different companies. But every small business can create a strategic plan by following these three steps:
Step 1: Define your purpose
Defining your purpose is like doing a self-assessment of your business. Take a hard look at your organization and how it’s running. Ask yourself:
- What are you doing?
- Why are you doing it?
- Where do you see yourself in two years, five years and ten years?
- What does success look like for you and your business?
These questions help ground your vision and purpose. Identifying the answers will help guide every decision you make for your company. It also allows you to clearly define what sets you apart from competitors or other companies that offer similar products or services.
Step 2: Identify and execute goals
A strategic plan is only as good as its goals. Figuring out what you want to achieve and how to make it happen are keys to making your overall strategy work. You’ll also need someone to head up your efforts, and you may want to assign a team to this task.
When identifying and planning to implement your goals, make sure they fit within (and support) your overall business strategy before moving on. Then, set aside time once a week or quarterly to see where you stand and adjust accordingly.
Step 3: Fill in plan details
Once you have your strategic framework, you’ll fill in all of your plan details — these details will serve as your roadmap to success. This will require some research to determine what you need to do to meet your goals.
Then, create a timeline to implement each step. Encourage your organization to be the best it can be, but make sure the goals are reasonably attainable.
How NEXT Insurance fits into strategic plans for small business
A strategic plan is a detailed answer to two critical questions: Where your business is now and how to get it to where you want it to be. To help ensure you have everything you need when it’s time to take action, be as detailed as possible.
Part of your strategic planning should include small business insurance. After all, how can you grow your business if you’re not protecting it from risk? That’s where NEXT comes in.
At NEXT, we understand that entrepreneurs juggle multiple responsibilities. While insurance is crucial to the success of your business, it shouldn’t be something you worry about. Choosing a small business insurance package can give you peace of mind to focus on what matters most — growing your business.
In less than 10 minutes, you can use our online application to discover policy options and rates. Get started with an instant quote today!