Strategic planning is an essential element of business development. It provides the much needed clarification to pace business growth. Not only does it keep you on track and on task, but it also help avoid detours and prevents unnecessary and costly derailments. The payoffs are huge yet few entrepreneurs seem to carve out the time to create their strategic plan — until it’s too late.
The Planning State of Mind
The biggest roadblock to strategic planning shared by many entrepreneurs is the lack of time available to actually think through and create the plan. However, before carving out the necessary time, strategic planning starts with the right mindset.
Here are a few of the faux pas we experience in our work with entrepreneurs:
- Many entrepreneurs feel their strategic plan needs to be completed in one sitting. Yikes! That’s a lot of mental overwhelm. Strategic planning, done right, does takes time. Plus, you want the opportunity to step away from the plan to thoughtfully consider the various elements of the strategic plan. The future success of your business depends on it. It can take 20-25 hours for busy small business owners to complete their strategic plan. And, that’s okay!
- Another mental hurdle some business owners face is the notion that business needs to be on pause during the strategic planning process. Nothing is further from the truth. It’s important to continue to grow your business during the process. Insights gained along the planning path have a positive impact on business even before your strategic plan is complete.
Earl Nightingale said, “Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”
The Practical Six-Step Plan for Strategic Planning
Here are a few pointers to get you started on the right path:
- Find your most productive time. Don’t wait until you’re mentally drained and physically exhausted to work on your strategic plan. Find the time when you’re fresh, energized, and creative. The future of your business depends on it.
- Arrange 60-75 minute planning periods. Pierre Khawand, author of The Results Curve(TM): How to Manage Focused and Collaborate, discovered that the best results are achieved after 40 minutes of focused work following by 20 minutes of collaboration. This gives you the time to achieve results without creating a substantial dent in your workflow.
- Plan to plan weekly. Don’t let too much time pass between your strategic planning activities. You’ll feel like you’re starting from square one. Done weekly, however, ideas, concepts, and direction are still fresh in your mind.
- Plan away from your regular workspace. If you’re easily distracted or pulled by the needs of others, get away from your regular workspace. Your neighborhood coffee shop or library stops the interruptions blocking your strategic planning process.
- Break down the strategic planning process into bite-sized pieces. Don’t overwhelm yourself with the entire plan. In fact, when your plan is broken down into more manageable pieces, you’ll experience a sense of accomplishment at the end of each planning appointment. Consequently, you’ll move your plan forward more quickly. John Bytheway wisely said, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life’s hard.” That’s certainly applicable to strategic planning.
- Commit to your plan. Entrepreneurs are notorious for minimizing the long-term wants of their business to attend to the short-term deeds. Think about it. Would you cancel an important meeting with a client? Of course not! Why, then, would you be so cavalier as to cancel any planning meetings with yourself? Be as committed to your planning process as you are to the needs of your clients.
Strategic planning isn’t easy. However, planning is a habit to hone to arrive at the destination you desire.