An awful lot of people believe that strategic planning is something that is undertaken only by large organizations.  Are you one of them?

Would you be surprised to learn that the majority of small-to-medium business leaders spend more time planning their vacations than they do planning the future of their companies?  They sure know which route they’ll follow on their next trip to the lake or their detailed itineraries for that trip to Europe.  They have a clear destination and they know how they’re going to get there.

That’s really the essence of strategic planning: knowing where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.  It is often said that the best way to ensure that the future you desire becomes reality is through strategic planning.   Sounds pretty important, so what’s the deal?

Well, in more technical terms, strategic planning is the process of envisioning the future to which you aspire, and the growth you will have to realize to achieve that future state.  To identify all the components of growth, it is helpful to analyze strengths and weaknesses.  In companies, this means gaining a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the business, products, and services, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

Some of this will necessarily be based upon key assumptions.  Key assumptions are those factors that you believe will happen or continue to happen based upon information available to you.

Good strategic planning is a pro-active, holistic approach to building your business which allows you to create your future, not simply react to current business trends.

An effective strategic planning process causes you to define the future you want to create for yourself and your business.  You will discover your purpose, establish your values, set clear goals and specific time frames, and crystallize the action steps that will help your vision become reality.   This is where the rubber meets the road.

To keep a plan from being a dust collector, the action steps need to be clearly defined with specific responsibilities, time frames and measurements in detail for at least the first six months.  This is crucial along with regular check-ups on progress being made.

Many business owners and professionals today get so tied up in the "business of doing business" that they never really take the time to plan their future, much less monitor progress.   You’ve heard the excuses before.  “I don’t have time.  We’re too busy.  Planning doesn’t work in this industry.”  The fact of the matter is that unless you make time to plan, you're already wasting a great deal of time and money.

Plan now or pay later!