Your small business’s success depends on your ability to plan and execute a long-term strategy. Long-term planning is more than simply an annual exercise; it requires you to think about the future of your company, set goals for it, and create a roadmap that leads from where you currently are to wherever it is you want your company to be.
Experts from good-time-invest.com tell us that a big part of making this process work for you is understanding what differentiates good companies from bad ones: whether they’re successful in the short term or not, companies that do better over time have plans that can weather changing market conditions and competition. Planning ahead helps them adjust when necessary rather than scrambling during emergencies or at moments of great opportunity. By establishing a clear vision and identifying how you’ll get there, you can make sure that your business is always moving forward.
It can be difficult for busy business owners to let go of day-to-day tasks and look to the future. But, we believe that it is worth the effort to develop the strategic plan is one of the most effective strategies to meet both long-term and short-term objectives. “Strategic planning” might sound difficult, but the process does not have to be complicated. After you’ve created your three to five-year plan, you’re able to develop an annual short-term plan that is integrated into your long-term plan.
To get started on your own long-term plan for your small business, take the following steps:
- Purposely define who you are and what makes you different
- Determine which strategy will help you reach your goals
- Communicate it to stakeholders and employees
- Realize when changes need to be made along the way
Every company needs a plan in order to succeed. When it comes to developing one, there are no shortcuts or secrets – all that really matters is understanding what works best for you and doing more of it. Basically, if you want things done the right way every time, follow this simple rule of thumb: everyone likes they’re smart but no one likes their boss.
The most important part of any plan is your definition of success. If you define it the right way, every step will flow naturally from there. But if there’s a disconnect between what you want to achieve and how you plan on getting it, things can get confusing quickly.
For example – let’s say that you envision your small business as having huge profits in two years but no sense of stability or continuity; that runs counter to actually accomplishing your goal. Once you’ve come up with that all-important definition of success, make sure everyone on your team understands why this matters to them personally while leaving room for discussion about what each individual brings to the table (the good stuff) and how they can use this information to become more valuable company members (the “we need you” stuff).
Creating a plan means nothing if your team doesn’t buy into it. Make sure that you have everyone’s attention before getting started so there are no doubts about what exactly is expected of them. Building consensus will also help ensure that the plan lasts beyond the planning stages and works when it matters most.
When developing your long-term plan, try to avoid micromanaging every aspect of your business right away – instead, focus on big picture issues while giving small details time to take care of themselves. This lets you steer the ship even while recognizing that some events are beyond your immediate sphere of control; by anticipating roadblocks and troubleshooting in advance, you’ll have the right coping mechanisms in place.
For example, you can’t always control whether or not your team is motivated but you can set milestones and timeframes for achieving certain goals so everyone knows what to expect. No one wants to wait around for months without being able to visualize the payoff waiting at the end of the road. Make sure that your eventual success is something they want to be a part of before putting yourself out there; if things go well, then you’ll all get there together.
Make changes along the way
It’s important that everyone understands why changes are necessary (especially during times of transition) because it will influence how they act on their own accord. Change management starts with an open discussion about why this change needs to take place followed by a plan of action that the team agrees to. Your long-term plan should include a section devoted specifically to changes like these as well as procedures for how to deal with them (especially if it’s something they can’t control).
If your business does well, you’ll face obstacles and challenges along the way; figuring out how to handle problems before anyone even realizes they exist is what great planning is all about. This ongoing process of change management ensures that every small victory adds up and leads directly back to where you started: being able to do more of whatever works.
In order for your company to have a chance at sustained growth, you need everyone on board from top-to-bottom – there’s no way around that. When clarity isn’t clear, it’s time to get on the same page so everyone understands exactly what they’re working towards. Once you’ve got that down, your long-term plan will be ready to take off.
You’ll also need to include a section about what happens if they can’t reach certain goals and how they can go back and try again (after figuring out where the problems lie). A failure is an option but not something that anyone wants to deal with more than once. Let them know how you’re going to handle it in advance so there’s no confusion or hard feelings.
Your long-term plan is about more than just the company; it’s about your team and their future in the company they’re helping to build. Let them know that you’re all in this together with a plan that everyone understands – you’ll be there together when your efforts finally pay off.