Quick question: where is your business going this year? In light of all the economic turmoil we’ve experienced in the last few years, there is a sense of pride that we’ve survived so far. The logical question is “what’s next?”. How are you designing the next stage of your business? To thrive = to grow? Many small businesses are in a growth phase of one kind or another. Some are calling it a rebuilding phase. Others are seeing new opportunities. And still others are just fed up with the fear so they are going for the gold. It doesn’t really matter what you call it. It does matter if you think it through. It’s the end of a quarter…time to review that strategic plan Even if you don’t have a strategic plan, it’s time to stop and take stock. Being clear about what you intend for your business is crucial to managing growth. Usually, business owners review their strategic plan every 6 months or once a year. Given the uncertainty of the economic recovery, it may be necessary to keep a closer eye on the long term plan. While it is possible for circumstances to arise that change your plans, it is a lot easier to adapt a plan than to create a brand new one for every change that affects the long term trajectory of your small business. It’s worth the exercise and time of putting it down on paper so your action plan (operational plan) is easy to follow and entirely in alignment with what you want most. The most basic outline of a strategic plan looks like this: 1. Mission statement and values- How are these still true? How has my (our) understanding of the mission and my values evolved? Am I (are we) living examples of the mission and the stated values? 2. Numbers and stuff– What is generating the most revenue? What is working well? What is not? What are our opportunities? Where are we strongest? Where are we weakest? 3. Vision- Where are we going this year? Where is your small business going in 3 years and 5 years? What change will your business create in the world? 4. Special qualities- What makes this small business sustainable? Who are the desired customers? How do I (we) want to tell potential customers about my (our) small business? What do I (we) do that makes me (us) special to this customer? 5. How do I (we) know?- What goals did I (we) meet during the first quarter? How are these goals measured? What does the profit and loss statement say? What other sources of information tell me (us) about my (our) performance during the first quarter? The strategic plan should lead you right into your action (operational) plan. It exists to focus the performance of the business and meld each part of the business into a coherent whole. As you set goals for marketing, sales, research and development, customer service and increasing revenues, everything should support the direction set in the strategic plan. Now that’s in place and in writing, where is your business going this year?