Do you know your company?

Creating a strategic plan requires a high level of awareness

During our 30 years in business, we have had three different business models. Our first model was a retail shop. Our second model was a wholesale manufacturer of muffin batters. And our current model is a creator and producer of custom bakery products for the food industry.

I believe it was our ability to adapt new models that enabled us to survive and have success. But what helped us adapt? That, I believe, was our commitment to work on a strategic plan, our willingness to trust in the process and our commitment to the execution of that plan.

However, it was also important that we made the strategic planning process a habit and a living document. At least once per year we have gone through a process and created a plan, then regularly review it and ask ourselves, “Are we successfully executing? Do we need to tweak the plan?”

Our plans have always been simple and concise, although getting there has, at times, been messy. I’ve included here a simplified version of the process we use for our strategic planning. But just like a word cannot really capture the essence of the thing it is describing, the same goes for the following description.

It all starts with awareness, so the first step is to ask as many questions as possible about the current situation.

Looking internally, ask:

  • What is your current structure and what are your current capabilities?
  • What is your core competency? What are you better than others at?
  • Who is shining at their job? Where are the bright spots? What talents exist?
  • What business are you in?

Looking externally, ask:

  • What is happening in your industry?
  • Who are your best customers?
  • Where are you providing the most value?

Next a company should explore and analyze its current structure and resources. Some questions to ask include:

  • What are the current threats and opportunities?
  • What are you providing? Who are you providing it for? What do they want/need?
  • How are you going to succeed? How will you be different? How will you structure your company to be most effective?
  • How can you change the game?
  • Is it time to focus on an internal or external strategic move?

In the final stage, focus is the key. It helps you prioritize and be clear with your choices. You have to determine what your strategy is, what your strategy is not and get everyone on the same page. Once you have made your decision, all of your attention should shift to how you will execute your strategy.

There are many theories on how to go through a strategic plan. What’s important is that you pick one, use it to create a strategic plan and execute.

Harvey Nelson is co-Founder and co-CEO of Main Street Gourmet, a custom manufacturer of frozen bakery products with distribution throughout the U.S.