Just like a carpenter needs a hammer or accountants need calculators, a well thought-out strategy is a business essential. It’s not enough to write out a “wish-list” of things you hope to accomplish. You need to create a working document based on market factors and economic viability. As Benjamin Franklin said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.
Startups, successful and transitioning organizations all need a professional plan with periodic reviews. Management, financing, marketing and operations all flow from the strategic plan. Don’t risk your investment, livelihood or future on guessing. Start with a fact based, market driven strategy.
There are a few key elements that must be included in a proper plan: Mission Statement, Competitive Analysis, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), Market Position, Action Plans and Measurements. Without all of these, you don’t know where you’re going, how to get there and what constitutes success/failure.
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A strategic plan is not just a set of rules to follow, but a flexible and adaptive guide to success. Running a business is a dynamic pursuit. Things change and business slows (even stops). Sometimes it’s within your control to fix the problem, such as quality issues or customer service. Often it’s out of your control, such as competitor actions, new technology or local/national economy. You have to be prepared for changes in the market before they happen.
No two businesses are the same, so avoid using templates or systems for creating your strategic plan. Best practices and successful case studies can give you ideas and inspiration, but a solid strategy comes from research, introspective questions (answered honestly) and an open mindset. Preconceived notions, inability to consider change and lack of flexibility can end a business before it even gets started.