Small Business Strategic Planning

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In an article by Emily Ford from The Times, called “How to predict the future for your company,” Ms. Ford describes a ten step process that businesses should implement in order to plan strategically and adjust for changing market trends. They are:clip_image002

  1. Look to the past
  2. Do your research
  3. Accept uncomfortable truths
  4. Bring in discordant voices
  5. Visit the fringes
  6. Plan for scenarios
  7. Gamble
  8. Move with customers
  9. Collaborate
  10. If you cannot predict, prepare

These techniques, however, aren’t a once and done set of steps. It is a set of ongoing activities, which requires constant monitoring of the horizon – or things that could occur in the future that would affect your business. The idea is to be able to plan, now for what might happen down the road.

As she notes in the article, it is important to work with others on your team with this. Getting more than one perspective will help you create a much wider range of observations, thoughts, ideas and scenarios. Additionally, you will benefit from having everyone involved in the process – ideally, the whole organization, connected and committed to contributing on an ongoing basis.

To implement this into your organization, you might try some or all of the following:

  1. Schedule meetings to occur on a regular basis.  This could be weekly, monthly – no more than quarterly.
  2. In the interim, prepare some type of discussion board your team can access to put their observations and any articles associated with it.
  3. Create a framework:  Describe the area you wish to target (restaurants trends in Atlanta, for example) types of information you are looking for, where they might find the information, what qualifies as good information and things that might impact the target – politics, society, the economy, technology and the market or industry)
  4. At your meetings, based on the information gathered, you will want to talk about changes that could occur as a result of the information you’ve gathered.  While no idea is thrown out – some you will be able to completely rule out, there will be some ideas or scenarios that are more likely to occur.  Those, you will want to circle.
  5. Out of those ideas, decide which ones you want to happen – three is a good number to work with.  As you do your strategic planning, these are some of the scenarios you will want to make plans for.
  6. Out of the remainder of ideas, there are some that could upset your business – greater tax burden, entrants that could narrow your market, etc.  These are areas that you need to take protective stances against.  This may mean changing your financial strategy or targeting a narrower market whose needs you can uniquely address.

While this is an overview of what you might do for and with your organization, you’ll want to adopt some type of ongoing strategic planning/innovation strategy to ensure that you remain agile in the marketplace.  Ability to change directions and adapt to market changes will make you a long-term player in the marketplace, able to weather the storms and emerge victoriously.


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