Friday, February 20, 2009

Mario Luis Tavares Ferreira on Why Strategic Planning is Important

The Importance and Opportunities in Strategic Planning

When we talk about strategic planning sometimes we associate with paperwork,
theories, old school works, a boring and endless task, and so on.

But actually planning is a natural and embedded activity that we practice everyday.
We plan the best route to go to the office. We plan when we go shopping.
We plan our vacations. And so we do with other diverse actions of our daily activities (professional and personal).

With strategic planning we have a scope enlarged, a little more of variables, an expanded timeline, defined methodologies (tools) and usually we need to write it. But it continues to be an extension, or an improvement, of what we are accustomed to do.

Talking with focus on Start-ups and SMBs (small and medium businesses), the strategic planning is a fundamental tool to avoid “lose the path in the middle of the running”.

It is like a “compass” and a “user manual”, to help entrepreneurs to surpass initial stages of start-ups and to help the SMB to go to the second level and increase business and results.

As a strategic plan is not a static document, it should be revised periodically and updated.
We are in an extremely fast and mutable business environment; it would be a utopia if we want to define a business scenario for the next five years (or even three) and expect to be 100% correct.

When you define (write) a strategic plan, you are organizing your ideas, defining the business scope, vision, mission, values, targets, products, analysis of the competitors, marketing and sales strategy, key figures, resources, points of control, feasibility, costs, cash flow, financial needs, break-even point of the business, and so on.

Finishing the plan, you will be in control of the situation; it will have a pleasant feeling.
You will have a reference and a document to share with your partners and collaborators to develop synergy, motivation and synchronicity. You will have a document, if needed, to present to your bank account manager, in the “bad times”.

You will have a set of “tools” already developed, to correct quickly any deviation of your original thoughts and plans.

You will sleep better with everything planned, organized and controlled!

Given below is a simple structure to write a basic business plan or strategic plan.

Executive summary
Depending on the objective of the plan and its audience, the executive summary can have different approaches and content. If it is to sell the company, get venture capital, implement an internal expansion, enter in new markets or make a turnaround.

The business

Description of the business, products/services, strategy, the mission, vision, values.

Market analysis
Here we discuss about the target market, competitors, and SWOT analysis – analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. We also analyse macro-environment factors which are the political, economical, social and technological factors, and this analysis is called the PEST analysis. We can also analyse the marketing mix (the four Ps: product, price, place, promotion), key success factors, and so on. The detail will depend on how deep we want to go with the analysis.

The strategy
Now we clearly define the objectives, the strategy and the operational plan involving administration, human resources, production, marketing and sales and financial analysis. An important point is to define timings and key performance indicators, which we will use to control the plan implementation.

Here we present the final thoughts and reinforce key points that we identify as unique or differential aspects that make the plan attractive.

About the document
Usually the overall document should have around 20 pages.
Its content and number of pages will depend on your target readers and application,
and obviously on what kind of business we are talking about. Our focus, here, is on
SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) and Start-ups.

Final Thought:
So, organise your work, have more productivity, control it better and have more time to be tickled by life.

Mario is a seasoned manager and entrepreneur with a broad technical background, coupled with multi-cultural experience and multi-lingual skills, co-founded two high tech start-ups, and now is developing a non-profit project to leverage globally the business development of small entrepreneurs. Reprinted from Tickled by Life

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