Calgary Chartered accountants

05/31/2012 23:56

Okay savvy business owner. Here's a question for you.You have to get from point A to point B in an unfamiliar city. What one item will virtually guarantee your successful arrival?The humble map is indispensable when it comes to travel. It points you in the right direction and provides a reference point by which you can gauge your progress and determine if you're still on course. More at Calgary Chartered accountants. And if you're not, the map shows you at a glance how to get back to where you need to be.When it comes to travel we all understand the need for maps in order to reach our destinations as quickly and painlessly as possible. Now, you're probably wondering what this has to do with business, and why a CFO-to-go is yammering on about sightseeing.What's in a name?You see, whenever I talk about strategic planning to clients, a funny thing happens. Eyes glaze over and formerly excited business owners eager to improve their profits lose all interest in what I'm saying.I know it's the phrase 'strategic planning'. It's one of those phrases that have become jargon, losing all meaning. You hear it and immediately think of futile exercises with no earthly practical purpose, exercises that keep you from what you need to be doing--running your business.So I try not to use the phrase, at least not right away. Instead, I explain that there is an exciting, energizing tool you can use to bring focus, vitality and direction to your business, giving you a map leading straight to success.Dream onOne of the reasons strategic planning has developed a bad reputation is that a large part of the process involves dreaming.Business owners aren't supposed to sit around daydreaming! They've got work to do, businesses to run, fires to put out.We tend to view action as the required ingredient to success. Planning is omitted because, hey, there are only so many hours in the day and you've got to spend them getting things done.It's true that action is critical if your business is going to reach its full potential. Planning on it's own gets you nowhere.But in the same way, action without defined purpose--a plan--is not going to allow you to move forward. Instead, you flail about, using trial and error and taking the long road to a destination you may not have desired.You need to know where you're goingVisualizing what you want in the future is the only way to develop a plan that will allow you to reach your goals.Would you laugh at a group of tough, grizzled army generals sitting together and daydreaming? That's exactly where strategic planning came from.The military wanted to ensure that the enemy would be met under the most advantageous conditions. So they brainstormed in order to identify those conditions and formulate a way to achieve their goals.The term was adopted by business in the 1960's to describe a thoughtful, analytical approach to improving companies. It is now the most valuable management tool in existence.Realistically, you simply cannot experience growth in your business--and increased profitability--without strategic planning.3 steps to successThe strategic planning process involves exploring and answering 3 key questions:
Where is the business today?
Where do you want the business to go?
How are you going to get there?
You aren't trying to create an operational plan. The objective is not to detail each and every step required to achieve your goals, but rather to ensure that you understand the ultimate aims for the business and have a general map leading to the realization of those aims.For example, you may be strategically planning to introduce a new product within the next year. The plan will include all the major steps to introducing that product--source suppliers, create collateral material, etc., but it won't list each and every step involved, such as telephone supplier A and interview three graphic designers.Getting readySet aside a large chunk of time, like a day or even a weekend, for your strategic planning session. Step one has to be done before the session, so evaluate how long you anticipate this step to take and mark a future date as strategic planning day.During your session, you won't be involved in actively running your business. You need to focus on the future, not on the day-to-day. This is your opportunity to work on your business, so avoid the possibility of interruptions by getting away from the office.A word of caution--strategic planning really can't be done alone. Find someone who can keep you on course, assist you in evaluating your ideas and provide both feedback and support to join you for the entire session.Step One: Where are you now?While dreaming is required in strategic planning, it must be based in reality. If you don't understand exactly what's going on in your business today, any plans you make for the future are no more than pipe dreams that will never be realized.A systematic evaluation of the entire organization that looks at both the internal and external factors affecting the business will tell you everything you need to know so that your planning session is based on fact rather than fiction.Perform this analysis in the days, weeks or months leading up to the strategic planning session.Step Two: Where do you want to be?This is the most exciting part of the process. During this step, you'll clarify the vision you have for your business, as well as its mission. Where do you want your business to go? What do you want it to look like? How much profit do you need?After considering general economic factors as well as those specific to your industry, you can make assumptions about the future that will allow you to develop your goals for the business and formulate a workable plan.Step Three: Getting thereYou know what you want. Now you have to determine how you're going to get there. In this step, you'll create specific action steps that will allow you to achieve your goals and move your business forward.I also recommend establishing timelines and detailing levels of responsibilities so all parties know what's expected and when.In the futureLife goes on. You'll change; the business will change; the economy will change.Revisit your strategic plan on an annual basis in order to evaluate progress and determine if the contents of the plan are still applicable. Scheduling at least one strategic planning session a year will keep your business flowing smoothly and ensure growth occurs exactly the way you want it to occur.    Details on this website.