Strategic planning creates realistic goals

Published 10:59 am Tuesday, June 11, 2013

By Dean Swanson, SCORE District Director

Last week I taught a SCORE workshop on how to write a business plan in a small, vibrant community in the area. They are starting an initiative for CEOs of new and existing small businesses to come together to learn from each other and focus on business development. In this workshop, I told them the most important part of a business plan is not the finished document (because if done correctly, it will never be done … only adjusted periodically), but it is the process of doing the plan that is the key element. After the session, a couple of them said we really need to have a little session on how to do strategic planning. So, I told them to watch for my SCORE column this week for a little introduction to the topic.

Strategic planning helps you figure out where your business is, where you want it to be and how you will get there. There are at least three steps to strategic planning:

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—Create or update your company’s Vision Statement. The Vision Statement expresses the overall purpose of your business, what your business does and the values that guide it.

—Create a SWOT Analysis that assesses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing your business.

—Set goals. Using your Vision Statement, SWOT Analysis and the Business Needs Assessment you completed earlier, set goals for your business.

Always make sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

—Specific: Saying “I want to grow my business” is not specific. What do you want to grow? Do you want to increase sales? Add locations? Add products or services? Be as specific as you can. Specific goals are easier to measure.

—Measurable: Goals should be measurable. If your goal is to “increase sales,” create a measurement by which you’ll judge success or failure. Perhaps you want to increase sales by 50 percent.

—Attainable: A 50 percent sales increase may be a noble goal, but is it realistic given the state of your business, the market and your competition?

—Relevant: Goals should be relevant to your long-term plan for your business. A 50 percent sales increase is certainly relevant. On the other hand, if you own a restaurant, a goal to start packaging and selling your own line of salad dressings might be relevant — or it might be a distraction that will take your focus away from more important areas.

—Timely: Putting your goals within a specific time frame helps you measure results and stay on track. Do you want to increase sales by 50 percent per month, in six months or in a year? Choose a realistic time frame.

Action Steps: Based on your Vision Statement, Business Needs Assessment and SWOT Analysis, begin thinking about long-term goals that you would like to accomplish within three years. For example, “increase sales” is not a SMART goal, but “increase sales from $300,000 to $600,000 in the next 18 months” is. The latter goal sets a specific, measurable dollar amount with a timely date for completion. The goal is relevant to the business and is realistically attainable within the time frame.