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What is a strategic plan and how do I create one?

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

A strategic plan, in its simplest form, is a document that identifies who you are (as a business), where you are headed, and how you will get there. It is a living document that should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. How regularly? Well, that depends on you and your business. A good starting point is once a year, but I’d recommend doing so quarterly if possible.

To create a strategic plan, start by building out the following elements - mission statement, long-term goals, and short-term goals:

  • Mission Statement - If you already have one, great! Review and refine as needed. If you don’t have one, don’t worry. Start by answering these questions: What does your business do? Why do you do it? Who do you serve? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Just get your responses down on paper. You can wordsmith and polish later. For more inspiration, I like this article from The Balance on how to create a mission statement in 3 easy steps.

  • Long-term Goals - These are your big goals that will take longer than a year to achieve. And this is where things can get really gummed up. Do you need goals? objectives? outcomes? all of the above? It stresses me out just thinking about it. Keep it simple - identify 3 long-term goals. If necessary, list up to 5 goals, but any more than that and it’s likely you (and your team, if you have one) will lose focus. When defining your goals, use the SMART goal framework - S = specific, M = measurable, A = achievable, R = relevant, T = timebound.

  • Short-term Goals - Each one of your long-term goals should be broken down into a set of short-term goals, which can generally be achieved in a year or less. This creates a series of milestones that help you track your progress on your strategic goals. You may also have some short-term goals that do not link to a specific long-term goal, but that support your overall mission - a professional development goal or a goal to purchase new equipment for your business, for example. Define the short-term goals that you want to achieve this year, using the same SMART goal framework mentioned above. And, as with long-term goals, it’s better to focus on a handful of goals than a whole laundry list.

Don’t worry about crafting perfect prose - bullet points will do just fine. The important thing is to get it down on paper. Once you’ve completed your plan, determine how you will hold yourself accountable for making progress. Put a “strategic plan review” on your calendar every quarter to help ensure that you assess your progress regularly. And remember that the strategic plan is not written in stone. It’s a living document that will be refined and revised as circumstances evolve.

Strategic planning is a powerful tool for maintaining focus and achieving your desired outcomes. Whether you’re a solopreneur or have a team, taking the time to create, review and update your strategic plan on a regular basis can set the stage for success. If you have any questions or if you’re interested in learning how 1:1 coaching can be helpful in the strategic planning process, please reach out.

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