You can’t bake a cake without a recipe or build a house without a blueprint.


Yet, every day, business owners try to run their businesses without a clearly defined strategic plan.

The thought of creating a strategic plan may seem overwhelming. Where and how do you begin? What are the objectives? What questions need to be asked?

Creating a plan involves hard work, but the process can actually be quite simple. There is no set way to build a strategic plan for your company. But every plan should include five key areas about the business and the market to be complete.

1. Identify your company’s critical factors Most businesses have three to five key factors that are critical to the success of the company. Once you have identified your key factors, you can focus your efforts on building them into your strategic plan.

To identify your company’s key factors, closely analyze the business. Focus on areas that have the greatest impact on sales, expense and time.

Often, there is a relationship between a specific factor and the revenue generated. In a law or consulting firm, billable time is a critical factor. In a trucking firm, it might be miles driven each day.

2. Define what makes your business distinctive What is your “unique selling proposition”? How are you different from your competitors? This definition is critical to your plan and must be clear.

Your strategic plan should be built to take advantage of what sets your company apart. You need to build your company’s uniqueness into your culture, marketing materials, sales presentations and employees.

3. Establish solid goals It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day grind and forget your overall goals. But with your critical factors and unique selling position defined, you can set specific and measurable goals.

It is important for your goals to be solid. They should be measurable, achievable, specific and results oriented. If you write each goal to meet these criteria, with your critical factors and uniqueness in mind, your plan will be focused and help drive the business.

4. Develop a process to achieve your goals To execute your strategic plan, you need a step-by-step process. Break the goals into small action items.

For example, if you decide to advertise on a regular basis, break down the steps. Determine how often you will advertise, who will prepare the ads and what the deadlines will be. Decide what results are expected so you can measure success. The smaller the steps, the easier they will be to achieve.

5. Monitor your results and refine the plan Too many strategic plans end up in a drawer after they are completed. The ideas are great, but the implementation is poor. Take time each week to review your plan and then begin to refine it.

Businesses with a clear understanding of where they are going and how they are going to get there will outperform those that get pulled into the daily grind. With a clear vision of what is important and a strategic plan to achieve it, the results can be outstanding.