strategic plan

Not having a business plan is like not having a battle plan; in both situations your likelihood of survival is significantly decreased. Interestingly enough, most business owners look at business plans as a secondary concern or worse, entirely unnecessary.

Read my article below to understand why a plan is essential and how to compose an effective one. Note: this article was originally published in The Tennessean.

 Typically, when I ask business owners if they have a strategic plan they divert their eyes, hang their heads and mumble a nearly inaudible “no – not really.” The predominant, though incorrect, belief among business owners is that a plan is not essential and therefore their time is better spent on other things.

 A business plan is similar to a battle plan. With that in mind, a quote from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War says it best: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” In other words, make sure your business has a plan before battle. If you need to spend an entire day preparing, do it. It could mean survival.

There are 60 workdays in a quarter. If your team members work eight hours a day, 40 a week (who works 40 hours anymore… more like 60+ isn’t it?), that’s 480 hours per person per quarter that you will be paying for to get things done. You’d better spend the time to know your team members are doing things correctly. Here’s how:

First, state your business strategy in one sentence. You want it to be specific and succinct. Six to ten words is all you need. This is your battle doctrine.

There are two ways you could come up with this sentence. A) Think of your “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” or BHAG and Core Purpose. Your one-sentence business strategy should reflect that goal. B) Think of what you do that your competitors don’t do and base your one-sentence strategy on enhancing this unique quality.

Once you’ve  established the strategic theme of your business plan, break it down into tasks that team members can own. In a war, this is like assigning the navy  responsibility of the water battle plan, air force the duty of the skies, etc.

When you’re assigning ownership of tasks make sure you nail down the who, what and by when. Most businesses remember the who and what, but not the by when. Be sure to assign due dates or these tasks may never be accomplished. Also, when assigning tasks, consider each team member’s strengths and use them. After all, you wouldn’t ask a Navy rescue diver to command an Army infantry unit.

Third, review your plan often and revise it. In my experience, the minority of business owners who actually have a plan review it annually, which is just about as useless as never reviewing it. You should review your plan monthly, or better yet, weekly. The economy changes, the market shifts and your business needs the flexibility to respond and adapt. After all, if you’re anticipating an attack from the north and receive intel the enemy is instead approaching from the south, you obviously need to reassess.

Last, don’t let anything get in the way of implementing your plan. What if Washington had given up because the weather in Valley Forge was horrible, or because his enemy was better trained and equipped? I’ll tell you what: We’d be singing “God Save The Queen.” Don’t get so busy fighting everyday battles that you lose the war. It won’t be easy. In fact, few business owners can carry out a strategic plan and handle the day-to-day challenges of running a business. But those who can, have an incredible competitive advantage. In fact, it is usually the difference between true business success and simply getting by.


This article was originally published in The Tennessean.

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