2020 Small Business Strategic Planning Kit

Grow your business with purpose

Chapter 01: Strategic Planning for Small Businesses

Many small business owners create a business plan as part of their overall launch. However, with the day-to-day of running the business, a lot of time goes by before you refer back to that plan—if at all. Much can happen in the business during those years: priorities may have shifted, new products were added, and key staff came onboard or moved on.

Suddenly, you realize that your business has changed course, but your long-range plans aren’t updated to reflect the new direction. Business strategy means having a long-range plan and milestones which ensures your business performs. And it should be something you do year in, year out.

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The best way to ensure you reach your goals is to go through the important process of annual planning. This process will help you formally identify if you’re on track, or even if changes in circumstances—like new technology, market changes, turnover and new products—mean you need to reassess your long-range plan.

Each year, take the time to measure progress and assess the specific steps you’ll take in the coming year to ensure that you stay on track.

At Keap, we believe in the power of collaboration. We invite our entire company to participate in annual planning because some of the best ideas come from the people whose hands are closest to the work. Like many new small business owners, you probably dream of financial independence, the freedom of spending your time as you wish, being your own boss, or feeling content by filling a void in the market.

Unfortunately, many go-getters don’t know what’s in store as they venture forward to implement their brilliant ideas; they just know they want to go into business for themselves. However, sometimes the reality of owning a business is more daunting than you imagined.

Luckily, by focusing on proactive and strategic planning, you can take control of your small business and grow your dream into a successful reality.

This kit is designed to get you started on your annual strategic plan. You’ll get:

  • A detailed walkthrough of each aspect of the planning process
  • A roadmap for the process
  • A detailed worksheet that will prompt you to establish meeting schedules, tackle issues and set milestones for success

A business owner wears three hats

In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber describes three hats worn by new business owners. You probably feel comfortable in two of them, the “technician” and “entrepreneur” hats, but you also acquired a “manager” hat along the way, which may be a less natural fit. The manager hat requires planning and pragmatism. If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’d rather come up with ideas that plan, organize, and manage the financials. However, Gerber insists that all hats must be worn in order to succeed.

Guidelines for strategic success

  • Think realistically about where your business is going
  • Be flexible about your expectations
  • Set concrete performance goals and create a plan to achieve them

The importance of strategic planning

Turning your vision into reality requires a healthy, realistic approach and a well-crafted path to success. You need to think realistically about where your business is going and be flexible about your expectations. Setting concrete performance goals is a great idea, but you need to support them with a realistic plan to achieve success.

This kind of strategic planning is crucial, but you have to do it right. And it takes discipline to do it consistently. This can be tough for most small businesses.

In this strategic planning kit, we’re going to look at the strategic planning process Keap employed to grow the company over 10 years into a $100 million enterprise). By following these guidelines, your business can do more than just survive—you can thrive.

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Chapter 04: Understand how strategy guides planning

millennials strategizing on a whiteboard

Regardless of the size of the organization, strategy is often misunderstood—and rarely done well.

The foundation of a great strategy is leverage: Use your organization’s strengths to gain an outsized return. With this in mind, what resources and capabilities can you leverage for maximum gain?

Performing an inventory of assets is a good place to start. To develop a competitive advantage that is sustainable, we recommend focusing on 3 to 5 core strengths of your company.Now you may have heard strategy described as an exercise in saying “no.” While it’s true that resources can be scarce for many small businesses, annual planning is really about making the best use of all your resources so that nothing is forgotten or ignored. This kind of strategy will help put you ahead of your competitors.

A strategy planning methodology

You need to bridge your overall vision to daily operations. The idea is to break down your current mission into annual and quarterly priorities. The work of quarterly priorities then gets broken down into SMART objectives with specific owners and deliverables.

Here’s what the process looks like in more detail:

Mission: The current mission is typically achievable within the/). We often use the term BHAG (pronounced BEE- hag)or Big Hairy Audacious Goal (from the book Built to Last by Jim Collins).* Strengths to leverage: 3 to 5 key strengths you need to utilize to achieve your BHAG.* Strengths to develop: 3 to 5 key strengths you will need to develop in order to achieve your BHAG.* Annual priorities: 3 to 5 priorities you will focus on this year to either leverage current strengths or develop new strengths that will move you closer toward your BHAG.

Annual priorities must:

  • Support the current mission (via strengths to leverage and develop)
  • Be set annually by the leaders
  • Not become individualized by each department

Quarterly priorities or Tactical Operating Priorities (TOPs): 3 to 5 priorities that support the annual priorities. These are spelled out for all four quarters of the coming year, giving you measurable milestones throughout the year. SMART objectives: Projects and/or large tasks required to achieve the quarterly priorities.SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Specific enough to fully understand
  • Measurable: Can tell when it’s complete
  • Achievable: Can be completed
  • Relevant: To the game plan
  • Time-bound: Has a deadline (a specific date)

As you can see, the Strategy Planning Methodology makes it truly possible to bridge directly from your company’s overall mission all the way to SMART objectives for each member of your staff. These objectives form the basis of specific decisions and actions that your employees need to carry out this quarter to make progress toward the mission.

The accompanying worksheet will take you step by step through each of these strategic concepts: BHAG, TOPS, and SMART. As you answer each question, you’ll see how they fit together and align your entire business in one direction.Perhaps the most powerful effect of this method is that your employees co-create their vision, and then have a tangible map to show how their work contributes directly to the company vision.

Chapter 05: Establish a meeting rhythm for success

group of business people strategizing around a tableStrategic planning isn’t a one-time event. Once you’ve identified a strategy, it’s crucial to stay focused.

One of the best ways to do that is with a steady rhythm of productive meetings. Use them to assess and learn from successes or failures of the current strategy, make course corrections, and identify priorities for the coming quarter or year.

You may be wondering how often to revisit your strategic plan. The best meeting rhythm is specific to your business. You’ll need to identify the right mix of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings for your business, and make them happen consistently. If you have employees, draw upon their knowledge of key dates and deliverables to help find the right meeting rhythm.

Verne Harnish shares a good rhythm in his book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits:

Meeting rhythm* Two days for annual planning (deliverables = annual and first-quarter priorities)* One day for quarterly planning (deliverable = priorities for upcoming quarter)* Half-day monthly meeting to discuss progress on quarterly priorities and business-critical issues* Weekly meeting to review key performance indicators for the business

**Optional: **quick huddles for daily win/loss reporting

Strategic planning requires thoughtfulness and time. So, we recommend devoting two full days each year to create Annual Priorities, and one full day each quarter for Quarterly TOPs. Also, plan to spend a half day each month to assess progress on SMART objectives and discuss unexpected events or results that surface in the course of running your business.Communication with your employees is critical to keeping the business on track. At times, this may mean holding daily, 15-minute huddles to review key metrics or other performance.Take action: Work with your team to identify a cadence of ongoing meetings that will support your defined goals and objectives. The sooner you get your business into a consistent planning and execution rhythm, the sooner you’ll be able to delegate more responsibility to your team.Need a hand as you work through your meeting schedule? The handy chart we included in the accompanying worksheet at the end of this kit will help you plot out the details.

Chapter 07: Conclusion

Strategic planning is the link between a great idea and business success. Based on the purpose for your business, a smart strategy helps you develop a plan of action. To help you and your team stay on track, meet at regular intervals to assess and enhance your strategy. Employee involvement is a key to motivation, aligning personal goals with your company mission. Analyzing company, team and individual performance is a great way to keep everyone working together.In small business, a strategic game plan can help you do more than just survive. You can thrive—and win.

Check out these must-read books for successful strategic planning:

  • * The E Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber
  • * Beyond Entrepreneurship, Jim Collins
  • * Built to Last, Jim Collins
  • * Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Verne Harnish
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