The importance of a strategic plan

Strategy can be a scary word for an SME owner, but it really doesn’t need to be, from start-up to large corporates, every business needs a plan.

 

So at its most basic level, what is a strategic plan.

 

Vision

It starts with a vision, every business owner spots what they hope will be a gap in the market, whether that’s a totally new innovation, or an improvement on a current product or service offering.  What you need to do then is verbalise that vision, eg ‘I want to provide free wi-fi to everyone in my home town’.  You have to have confidence in that vision, because you’ll need to share it far & wide.

 

·      To remain the most authentic, connected, and distinctive brand - Nike

·     A computer on every desk and in every home - Microsoft’s founding vision statement

·     To make people happy -  Disney

Your vision statement influences and inspires people, employees, potential employees, suppliers and clients, so it’s an important statement that requires a lot of thought. 

 

The simpler you can make it the more people will remember it, see Disney above!  

 

Mission

 

This is a one paragraph description of what your business does, where it does it and who are it’s stakeholders, ie customers, suppliers, employees etc

 

·      Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*If you have a body, you are an athlete.) – Nike

·      To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential – Microsoft

·      To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products - Disney

 

I’ve purposely used the same three global brands to demonstrate the difference between a mission & a vision statement.

 

A vision concentrates on the way you want stakeholders to view your business, a mission tells people exactly what you do.

Values/Culture

 

This is by turn the most difficult thing to describe and master, and the easiest thing to describe and master.

 

It’s difficult to describe because, although we can broadly ascribe a set of values to an organisation, every organisation has it’s own nuances, so it’s pretty tricky at the same time too.  

 

It’s the easiest thing to describe and master, especially for a business founded and owned by an individual or small group, because it should reflect their personal values.

 

The difficulty comes when there’s a conflict ie, a person behaves in a certain way in their personal life and is completely different at work.  

 

It’s fair to say that the culture of a business is decided by the people who run it!

 

That may seem like a very obvious thig to say, but ‘the culture’ is unique to those people who.

 

As an example, one owner of a business may pride himself on knowing the names of all of her/his employees, their children’s names, the length of time they’ve been with the business and their desire to progress to management etc.  

 

Whilst another owner of a similar business in a similar sector may take the view that employees are there to do a job and be as productive as possible.

 

There is no right and wrong with either of the two examples above.  It’s simply a case of matching the Values and Culture of the business with the people who run it.

 

You’ll also find that potential employee’s naturally gravitate to towards a set of shared values and culture, so whilst it may seem obvious that most people will want to work for a business employing values in the first example, there are plenty of people who do not enjoy an employer wanting to know all about their private life!

 

In the last decade there’s been a greater emphasis on work being seen as fun, interesting and engaging, whilst that is a very laudable aim, and if you can achieve it then it’s definitely to be applauded, however, work is a place where people are generally contractually obliged to turn up each day, as such there’s a limit to how much it can be described as fun.

 

Having a plan helps people to understand where the owners and Directors of the business are coming from, it gives people an idea of what’s expected of them, and when linked with a really good operational plan including SMART KPI’s and goals it gives them a good idea of what they can expect in return.

Nick Hodson