The start of a new year is a critical time for all businesses, both big and small. For business owners, it is a blank slate that allows a company’s leadership to look strategically at the decisions of the past year, assess their impact on the year ahead, and perhaps most critically, affords an opportunity to revise and engage a strategic plan for the years ahead.
A strategic plan outlines where you want your snow and ice management operation to be in the future and how you’re going get there. It provides organizations with a sense of direction and gets everyone in the organization headed that way. Typically, organizations often look between three and five years out with regard to their strategic plans.
Now, creating a strategic plan that you can use is the key. Strategic plans can come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all have the following components. Here are some of the major components, in the order they’re typically developed, you should include:
- Mission statement. An overarching, timeless expression of your purpose and aspiration. It addresses both what you seek to accomplish and the manner the organization seeks to accomplish it. It’s a declaration of why you exist as an organization.
- Vision statement. A short, concise statement of the organization’s future. It answers the question of what the company will look like in five or more years.
- Values statement or guiding principles. These statements are enduring, passionate, and include distinctive core beliefs. They are the guiding principles that never change and are part of your strategic foundation.
- SWOT Analysis. A summarized view of your current position, specifically your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
- Competitive advantage. Identify what you’re best at compared to the competition in your market(s).
- Long-term strategic objectives. Strategic focus areas that span a three-year (or more) time horizon. They answer the question of what you must focus on to achieve your vision.
- Short-term goals/priorities/initiatives. These items convert the strategic objectives into specific performance targets. They state what, when, and who and are measurable.
- Action items/plans. These specific statements explain how a goal will be accomplished.
- Scorecard. Reports the data of your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and tracks your performance against monthly targets.
- Financial assessment. Based on historical record and future projections, this assessment helps plan and predict the future, allowing you to gain much better control over your organization’s financial performance.
Strategic Planning Framework
Strategic planning has a basic overall framework. Not to oversimplify the strategic planning process, but by placing all the parts of a plan into the following three areas, you can clearly see how the pieces of your plan fit together.
- Where are we now? Review your current strategic position and clarify your mission, vision, and values.
- Where are we going? Establish your competitive advantage and your vision. Clearly see the direction your organization is headed.
- How will we get there? Lay out the road to connect where you are now to where you’re going. Set your strategic objectives, goals, and action items and how you’ll execute your plan.
But to create a helpful and usable strategic plan template, you need to have a solid working outline.
Here are the three most important parts of that outline, as well as four steps to take to integrate the strategic plan once it’s complete. Remember, nine out of 10 organizations fail to execute their strategic plan.
Create a vivid description of what your “final destination” is
To create an overall vision, some organizations start by holding a brainstorming session in which they “imagine a world” where:
- Their organization is dominating the industry.
- They’ve tripled in size.
- They’ve introduced a number of new services.
- The clientele they cater to relies on their solution to a particular problem.
Once you’ve gathered your ideas from a brainstorming session like this, consolidate those ideas into a one- or two-sentence Vision Statement or Purpose Statement.
Determine the steps you’ll take to achieve your vision
To direct how you’ll achieve your overall vision, you’ll need to break it down into goals — often called “objectives.” Objectives can often be divided into logical groups. For example, your objectives might be grouped into a balanced Score Card (KPI’s). Ideally, your goals will link together so they’re contributing somehow to your vision collectively.
Determine how you’ll achieve your goals or objectives
Many strategic plan examples focus next on their measures or KPI’s, which help an organization understand whether they’re meeting their goals. If your organization sets measures, you’ll also set targets for those measures that help express levels of performance.
All of these key activities that are linked to your strategic objectives can help you meet your overall strategic plan.
Implementing Your Strategic Plan, Step-By-Step
First, get buy-in from across your organization regarding the details of your strategic plan. Which person (or department) should be held accountable for these goals? You want that person (or those people) to write anywhere from three sentences to three paragraphs describing what each objective means, why it’s important, and how you’re going to accomplish it. You can then spread this throughout your organization.
Now, if you’re taking the measure-centric approach, then build out the details of each measure.
This may include:
- Who owns the measure.
- The source of the data.
- The formula.
- How you will gather the data.
- The target, broken down over time.
If you’re taking a project-centric approach, put some “meat on the bones” of your strategic plan outline.
This may include:
- Who’s responsible for those contracts.
- Details regarding your business plans.
- Details regarding your budgets.
- Details regarding timelines or key milestones along the way.
Finally, make sure there’s consistency across the entire strategic plan. This is something to task a single individual to oversee. This individual would read the whole strategic plan outline and ensure you have the same level of detail in each section and then communicate the plan going forward.
Your strategic plan template has to be something that the leadership team fully understands and takes ownership of. So even if the buy-in takes a great deal of time—don’t underestimate its importance. Once you have the leadership on board, your strategic plan will be something everyone can understand and execute on regularly.
Remember, creating an inspiring strategic plan is a great exercise, but there are a lot of nice strategic plans out there that now sit on a shelf collecting dust. Consider yours a living document that can be tweaked and adjusted to meet momentary business challenges, but overall serves as your roadmap to a stronger, more profitable company.
Fred Haskett coaches green and white industry owners as Head Harvester with the Harvest Landscape Consulting Group. He is also a frequent Snow Magazine contributor.