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strategic planning session

Strategic Planning: Get the Big Picture for Your Small Business

It’s a good bet that you think about your small business’s future — in some way — every day. You think about your tasks for the upcoming week. You plan for next week. And you put together a budget for the whole year. But have you done any strategic planning?

Strategic planning is an activity that shapes your business’s very long term objectives — typically at least the next three to five years. In short, it’s when your leaders determine what the company’s mission will be, and (broadly speaking) how the company will accomplish that mission.

This is a vital task for any small business with big aspirations. That’s because it allows you to take a step back, see your company’s big picture, navigate challenges you’re facing and pave the way forward.

The following are some reasons why small businesses should consider doing their own strategic planning session, as well as tips for successful strategic planning.

Why Make a Plan?

The big question for many small businesses is “why?” That is, “Why take up vital working hours thinking about the next few years when so much could change?”

It’s a fair question. Many corporate leaders would tell you that forces such as COVID and inflation have blown their plans to smithereens. But they’d also tell you that strategic planning is nonetheless a critical step in maintaining their company’s direction.

Here are a few benefits of strategic planning:

  • It hones your strategy. For example, say you’ve been in business for two years, and in that time you’ve taken your product and put it in the hands of numerous customers who needed it. That’s great. But your leads could be better, your conversion rate could be higher and your retention rate could use a boost. In a strategic planning session, you and other leaders can take the time to look at your entire business plan from 10,000 feet, which could help you determine why you’re not connecting with customers as strongly as you should be.
  • It can spark growth. Another thing you might discover when taking a breath and viewing your business through refreshed eyes? New opportunities. The difficult thing about the daily grind is that you’re so focused on executing, you don’t have time to think about expanding. However, when you and your company’s brightest minds take a high-level view of your operations, it’s easier to determine potential avenues for growth — and you can begin to outline how to get there.
  • Get everyone on the same wavelength. Also, when businesses are solely focused on finishing their daily tasks and meeting their monthly quotas, it’s easy for leaders and employees alike to fall into bad habits and lose sight of the broader mission. A strategic planning session can help management refocus, then ensure their teams are all working toward these redefined goals. That means making sure each employee understands their role and how their responsibilities help the business achieve its mission.

Strategic Planning Tips

Naturally, the success of a strategic planning session depends in part on how well you run the session. A few things to remember when putting your heads together:

  • Always assess your strengths and weaknesses. A shortcoming doesn’t necessarily have to be the reason you don’t pursue a particular goal. But if you don’t recognize your weakness, you might end up throwing resources into a black hole. If you do recognize them, you can determine a plan to improve your shortcoming, making it easier to achieve that goal.
  • Understand the difference between “mission” and “vision.” Mission is more specific — it’s why your company exists, and what you hope to achieve. If you’re a publishing software developer, your mission might be to provide a low-cost, intuitive interface that even the least tech-savvy writer can use. Vision is a broader aspiration that might also include your principles and ethics. Your vision might be to connect writers everywhere to audiences worldwide.
  • Set goals. It’s easy for a strategic planning session to become a daydreaming session. It makes sense: It’s fun and exciting to think about your company in a relative vacuum, where everything is possible. But you need to “make it real,” ensuring that at the end of the session, you walk away with measurable goals. Otherwise, your company’s vision might never become reality.
  • Write it down. This seems obvious, but it’s an easy step to forget while you’re spending hours bouncing ideas off other people. But again, with a nod to the practical, a strategic planning session will amount to nothing if there’s no recorded plan for everyone to follow. And an important tip: Keep it simple — your plan should be one or two pages tops. You can and should detail procedures and processes for accomplishing your goals in longer documents, but your strategic planning takeaways should be short and sweet.
  • Revisit it. A company doesn’t have to same mission forever, and even if they do, the simple passage of time can change how you might accomplish that mission. In other words, your first strategic planning session shouldn’t be your last. Remember to conduct subsequent planning sessions every couple of years or so.

Let Us Help You See the Big Picture

While strategic planning sessions typically include a business’s top leaders and, when applicable, a board of directors, it can also help to bring in a third party of skilled business minds.

That’s where McManamon & Co. can help.

We’re an accounting, tax, fraud, forensic and consulting firm that offers custom services to small and midsize businesses across a broad spectrum of industries. And among other things, we provide broad consulting services to firms, including helping companies conduct critical strategic planning sessions that can help redefine who they are.

Learn more about what we can do for you. Call us at 440.892.8900 or contact us online today.

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