If you were going to take a road trip from Toronto to Florida  this year do you think you would simply get up one day pack your vehicle, put some gas in the tank, load up on a few snacks, buckle up and pull out of the garage not knowing which way to go? I certainly hope not! Ideally you would have mapped your route out, programmed the GPS, identified potential roadblocks or detours you might encounter along the way, checked you have all important documents, sufficient funds to enjoy your vacation, and you would have a plan in place as to where you are going to lay your head at night en route. If this makes as much sense to you as it does to me, then why do so many business owners treat running their business like an unplanned cross country vacation?

It has been said many times that if you do not know where you are going and you do not know what outcome you are looking for, then the route you choose is not important.  Being a business owner is a tough journey, it is often a lonely one, and trying to do it without a strategic plan in place is a recipe for disaster. Simply put, strategic planning is determining where your business needs to go and how it is going to get there. The process involves assessing past and current performance, analyzing the market you are competing in, setting goals, defining actions and identifying the resources you have on hand or will need to add to accomplish your goals.

As you begin to think about your 2017 strategic planning here are five things to think about to get your motor started.

  1. Conduct a review of the prior year – begin your thought process with a review of your company’s past year successes and failures. A good exercise to do this is a SWOT analysis. Assess your company’s internal strengths and weaknesses and then focus on recognizing both the external opportunities that exist for you as well as any internal threats that might be present.
  1. Revisit your values and mission statement – are they still relevant to your current situation and environment. Are they congruent with the short and long-term goals you are about to set or does your path need to be altered?
  1. What is your vision for the future? – Before you can set goals you need to determine what you want to achieve. Where do you see your business in twelve months, in three years, in five years?
  1. What are your short and long-term goals? – Whether your goals are minimal or significant you must have a clear understanding and direction you want to take your business in. Your short-term strategic plan should lay the groundwork for how you will set about accomplishing the goals you have laid out for yourself. It is also important to make long-term plans as they help you to be aware of potential challenges and can help to better prepare you for the journey you are on.
  1. Define what Action is next! – With your objectives and goals created it is time to put strategies and actions together that will be needed to accomplish your goals. Now that you have created the actions needed you need to determine whose responsibility it is in the company to make sure it is done.

Yes, strategic planning requires a lot of time and effort and it requires more than just these five things I have shared with you but the result will be well worth it. The time you put in now will save you countless hours later on, will put more money in your pocket and will allow you to build a solid business that grows year over year and at the end of the day isn’t that what all of us as business owners really want.