If you didn't get your strategic planning done this past summer, now is the time to meet with your management team and plot your strategy for next year.
Where will growth come from in 2012? What are your competitors doing? How will you delight more customers next year, and what investments should you make to expand your reach? These are the questions strategic planning can answer. Even if a weakening economy or shifting industry trends knock your plan off kilter, the act of planning itself is essential to identifying key opportunities and setting out priorities for action.
Michigan entrepreneur Richard B. Sanford, a former vice-chair of the U.S. Small Business Administration, has launched 11 successful businesses. The author of the book Success By Design, Sanford says proper planning and a well-executed business strategy can help companies grow even in hard times.
"The plan is the framework and foundation that outlines how to think, how to plan and how to take action to succeed," says Sanford. He believes every small business failure is a direct result of insufficient planning.
Here are some of Sanford’s strategic-planning tips for entrepreneurs:
• You must have a strategy. If you don’t already have a strategic plan for your business, create one before you make one more mission-critical decision.
• You become what you think about all day long. If you can visualize success, chances are you’ll achieve it. If you fret about failure, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think success, and encourage your team to do the same.
• There may be some situations out of control of a business owner, but customer service isn’t one of them. Every business controls how it will serve, delight or let down its customers. Thos who take customers for granted are likely to fail.
In tough times, says Sanford, small business “needs to heal itself from the inside.” All other things being equal, he says, “strategic planning makes the difference between success and failure every time."