Plan, plan and plan some more.

by Mary Marshall, CEO Coach

As 2016 winds down from fall to winter, it is the time most entrepreneurs and business leaders start thinking about next year. How did we do on the plan this year? What should we focus on next year? Do we have a Strategic Plan?

That last question is the one most asked. There are usually goals, and sometimes strategic direction, but for most small companies much more planning than this is rare. The problem, of course, is that if you don’t make it a priority, the direction you are going will be dictated by what is happening today. Or as I like to call it, “the whack-a-mole strategic plan.” We will take care of what comes up because we’re really good at fighting fires and taking care of problems. In other words, we react to circumstances vs. planning for the future.

So rather than just mole slaying, perhaps it’s time to do some quiet reflection and think about why you keep solving the same problem, why you never seem to make progress on your larger strategic goals, and why the team seems to be like arrows moving in different directions. 

Strategic planning does not need to be cumbersome, hard or expensive. You need a strategic plan that works for you, not one that takes up space on your bookshelf. This starts with a vision for the future that doesn’t exist today. What could it look like if you had all the resources you don’t have today? Dream big! Dreaming small will just keep you stuck in whack-a-mole mode. Once you have that vision in your head, articulate it. Make it real.

The next step is to identify the “big rocks” or strategic objectives that are needed to get you there, each one having multiple goals and tasks that need to be accomplished. Identify 3-5 Strategic Objectives with 5-10 goals attached to each and that’s all that’s needed to get you started. From there, you rinse and repeat every quarter to make sure you’re on track. If you find you are not on track, the decide what you will do about it. Your Strategic Plan is a living, breathing document, it is not static.

The hard part is defining the vision so that others want to join you on the journey. They will help you get there if it’s inspirational and you have the right team, you will never get there on your own.

Make yourself a promise that this will be the year you “actively” plan the future of your business. Hire a professional to come in and help you with the process. You need to get out of the way and help with the vision, not direct the planning process. Involve your team and create something that will inspire everyone to join in the process – customers included. This year, do something different to get yourself OUT of the whack -a-mole business. Planning is the best defense against a mole infestation.


“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” ~Henry Ford


Learn more about the author on Mary Marshall’s website and LinkedIn page.

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