Spring 2008
Strategic Planning in One Day

You don’t have to shut down your office for a week to create a successful strategic plan for your business’s growth. In fact, you can create a successful plan for your business in just one day. It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming or monumental task. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just gather your key people and get started.

Step One: Be the best.

The purpose of a well-developed and executed strategic plan is to develop a competitive advantage. You need to be able to answer this question: What can my company do better than any other company?

Understanding your competitive advantage is critical. It’s the reason you are in business. It’s what you do best. It’s what draws customers to buy your products instead of your competitor’s.

Successful companies deliberately make choices to be unique and different in activities that they are really, really good at—and they focus all their energy in those areas.

Step Two: State your purpose.

A mission statement is a statement of your company’s purpose. It’s useful for putting the spotlight on what business your company is presently in and the customer needs you serve.

A mission statement also serves as a guide for day-to-day operations and as the foundation for future decision-making. To write a mission statement, answer these three questions: What is our core business? What are we trying to accomplish for our customers? What is our company’s reason for existing?

Step Three: Visualize your future.

A strategic vision is the image of your company’s future—the direction you’re headed, the customer focus you should have, the market position you should occupy, the business activities to be pursued and the capabilities you want to develop.

A strong strategic vision should detail what kind of enterprise your company is trying to become and infuse your organization with a sense of purposeful action. Think big! To write a vision statement, answer this question: What will our business look like five to 10 years from now?

Step Four: Do a SWOT analysis.

A SWOT analysis outlines your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, which forces you to look critically at your organization.

Assess your strengths and weaknesses by answering these questions: What do we do best? What do we not do well? What are our company resources in terms of assets, intellectual property and people?

Assess your opportunities and threats by answering these questions: What is happening externally in the marketplace that will affect our company? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor? What are the driving forces behind sales trends? What are important and potentially important markets to explore? What is happening in the world that might affect the company?

Step Five: Profile your customers.

If you want to move your company from being simply successful to wildly profitable, you need to meet your customers’ needs and wants better than your competitors. Develop a customer profile by answering: What are our customers needs, motivations for buying and characteristics (customer profile)? How do we uniquely provide value to our customers? What can we improve to better meet our customers’ needs and grow our customer base?

Step Six: State your goals and objectives.

Realistic goals and objectives are developed from your SWOT analysis and customer profile. Write two to five company objectives that give action to your mission statement and strategic vision—and will take a few years to achieve. Then develop a list of intermediate steps to achieve each objective. The steps you take should be measurable and quantifiable. State in detail what steps will be taken and by whom. Make sure your goals and objectives build on your strengths, shore up your weaknesses, capitalize on identified opportunities and address threats on the horizon.

Step Seven: Assess your resources.

Two of the biggest stumbling blocks to achieving even the best-laid strategic plans are time and money. As with every business, budgets are never big enough to do everything you want, so you’ll need to prioritize your goals by asking: Does implementing this goal make financial sense? Do I have the human resources to achieve this goal?

Step Eight: Take action.

Assign responsibilities and deadlines to ensure implementation of each step on the way to achieving your stated goals and objectives. A great method to get buy-in from your staff is to assign a goal to each employee and ask them to write the action plan and be responsible for making sure each task is accomplished.

Step Nine: Keep score.

Use a spreadsheet program like Excel to plug in your stated goals and the steps necessary to achieve those goals along the way, with deadlines and who’s responsible for what. With this “scorecard,” you can easily track your progress on a monthly basis.

Step Ten: Make strategy a habit.

For any strategic plan to work, the business owner and team managers must be dedicated to making sure the entire organization stays on track. Communicate the plan to everyone in your company. Hold a monthly or quarterly strategy meeting to report on the progress toward achieving goals. Take corrective actions when needed and adapt as your business environment changes.

It starts here, now

Your strategic plan has to be a living document. It doesn’t have to be perfect or 100-percent complete to be useful. A rough draft is better than no plan at all. No matter how sketchy it might be, put your plan on paper. This can be done in one day.

Not only will your written plan serve you well as you grow your business, but a few years down the line you’ll want to look back at where you started, congratulate yourself on achieving so many of your goals and celebrate your well-earned success.

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