I am always amazed at the number of people that do not have a proper business plan. I am equally amazed at those who feel that their fill in the blank plan will make them successful beyond their wildest expectations. What amazes me even more are those entrepreneurs and small business owners with or without plans that do not have a strategy or strategic plan. All the detailed planning in the world isn’t worth a darn without strategy. A well thought out strategy is an analysis of your business plan relative to the world around you. A Business Plan provides the roadmap for actions to be taken in the near term to achieve stated goals. Your Strategic Plan validates the expectation that those actions will in fact achieve those results and with what inherent risks. The strategic plan is a vision and roadmap to future success only to the extent that it is:
- Founded upon a rational vision.
- Impediments to the goal are anticipated and dealt with.
- The plan is flexible enough to respond to a changing environment.
- The organization responsible for making it happen knows the plan, believes in the plan and is motivated to make it happen.
The alignment of these fundamental requirements seldom happens. To a very real extent, that is what separates successful companies from those that are not so successful. Dumb luck occurs with surprising frequency, however, a well thought out plan coupled with effective management and implementation has a far greater chance of success.
While a sound methodology is imperative to construct a good plan, nothing will compensate for the lack of good business judgment and an engaged organization. This is not to say that Strategic Planning is a democratic process requiring the involvement of many layers of the organization. Quite to the contrary, that is a recipe for failure. Management must take responsibility for the plan and draw from the best and brightest of the organization at any level to construct it. With a management team or possibly just the owner in some organizations, committed to creating a strategic plan one of the first decisions to be made is to go it alone or use third parties to facilitate, bring additional knowledge and perspective to the process. In large organizations, this is often not necessary. Small and medium sized businesses never having created a strategic plan benefit most, but are typically least inclined to do so. Some or all of the components of developing a sound plan may be absent:
- A process or methodology for developing a plan.
- Individual(s) capable of separating themselves from day-to-day business issues and look at the business in the context of a longer time frame.
- Individual(s) with business experience to recognize common issues and draw from similar situations to add a broader perspective to the process.
- Individual(s) with industry experience to recognize common issues and draw from similar situations to add a broader perspective to the process.
- Individual(s) capable of translating high level plans into action/implementation plans and financial scenarios.
- A neutral party that can draw out thoughts of all involved, keep a group focused and committed to an objective.
- A party that can help communicate the plan and sometimes legitimize a plan to a skeptical organization.
A study I like to quote defined successful entrepreneurs as skilled in using their time to develop relationships with people that are vital to the success of their business. Certainly the strategic planning process is one in which this gift is most called for.