Running a business is a challenge, even in the best of times. When managing the daily grind of meeting customer needs, leaders often neglect the needs of their own business. Developing a strategic plan is a valuable opportunity to step back and evaluate how you’re doing, find ways to improve and prepare for the future. And it doesn’t have to be nearly as daunting as it sounds.
At Riverside, we’ve developed hundreds of strategic plans. While we have a formal and process-oriented approach to strategic planning, simply considering some of your broad goals and building realistic plans for achieving them can vastly improve your company’s likelihood of long-term success.
Use members of your board and your leadership team to help develop and complete a thorough strategic plan. If you don’t have a board, consider tapping industry experts or thought leaders to help shape and vet your strategy.
However, the most critical group is your leadership team, which has a vested interest in being highly involved in the company’s strategic direction. They want the company to be successful. They are the ones who will execute the strategy, so they need to own it and be excited about it.
Start by considering what you want your business to look like in the future. You can start by looking five years out. Ask yourself, your organization and your customers critical questions, and be brutally honest with your responses.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What are the sizes of the markets your company currently serves?
- What is your competitive position within those markets?
- Should you be serving other markets?
- What changes are occurring within your industry?
It is especially important to focus on technology disruption in most businesses today. One of the things we like to say around Riverside is that every company is a technology company these days. How is your business adapting to industry changes? You get the idea.
You and your leadership team are best equipped to come up with the critical questions you should be asking. If you’re not comfortable running this type of session, bring in a professional facilitator.
Now that you know what you want the company to look like, consider your organizational and operational gaps, then map out a path to get there. In many cases, it will take tough choices to get there, but it is exciting for a leadership team to chart a path to more growth.
Communicate the plan broadly and make it a living document in your company. Refer to the strategic plan in high-level meetings, employee updates and operating reviews. And refresh the plan as change demands — at least annually.
These are very high-level thoughts regarding strategic planning. A great plan serves as a highly detailed guide to creating a thriving business. Regardless, taking the time to think strategically is well worth the effort.
Ron Sansom is global executive operating partner at The Riverside Co.