Strategic planning is the blueprint for your business. It’s an aspirational and practical plan for your future that can give you an exact outline of where your business is, and where it should be.

The ultimate goal of strategic planning is to create a reasonable path to both short-term and long-term successful growth.

Five steps to creating a strategic plan

Determine Where You Are

Putting together a plan, without first understanding where you are and what options are available to you, is the same as putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

Carrying out a SWOT analysis of your business can help to determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A deeper understanding of your current business position means that you’ll be better equipped to plan for your future.

Decide What’s Important

Deciding where to go means that you know what’s important to you.

Thinking about your values, as well as looking at annual and quarterly goals, can help to define the way you plan for your business. Taking into consideration non-financial metrics such as company culture, staff morale, and customer satisfaction, is important to creating the right plan for you and your business.

Define Goals

Having defined goals means that you have an end in mind when you begin to plan. After all, you can’t work towards something that isn’t there.

For instance, if gaining more customers is important to your business model then perhaps you’ll want to increase your advertising budget. Defining your goals allows you to understand what you want to achieve with the plans you put in place.

A popular way of defining your goals is to follow the S.M.A.R.T. method. Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals will help you to create efficient and productive plans.

Create Plans

Once you have the bigger picture (your objective), you can begin to work on the detail of your plans.

Defining the steps necessary to achieve your goals can help to create a more flexible, goal-oriented, business model. Break down your objective into smaller goals, or key performance indicators (KPIs), and think about all the individual actions you or your team could execute in order to reach your targets. It can be helpful to create this in a document where each KPI sits alongside the relevant actions, as well as when you plan to make them happen.

Refine and Review

Taking time to adjust plans may fall to the wayside when you’re focusing on more pressing issues. But, putting aside time every week to review the roadmap of your business is just as important.

If you don’t achieve certain steps, why? If you can’t execute others, why not?

Continuous improvement, and the cycle of PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) will enable you to control your business plans and continually develop them.

By reviewing your plans, on a very granular level, you will deepen your understanding of your business.

Using software to plan for you

Cloud Accounting

Strategic planning in the cloud can make everything more simple, collaborative, and manageable.

Cloud-based apps like ProWorkflow, Bizplan, and LivePlan can help you to create workable plans for your business. Spending less time mentally managing your plans can allow you to focus your time and energy on actioning them instead.

Using Float for Scenario Planning

Scenario planning can be used to test out your strategic plans. Whilst strategic planning looks at the whole picture of a business and works backwards to move forwards, scenario planning focuses on the future.

Because scenario planning outlines what lies ahead, it helps you understand any barriers to overcome in order to move forward.

Building scenarios is easier than ever with cash flow forecasting software like Float. With a built-in scenario feature, Float produces alternate roadmaps for your business in no time at all. Strategic planning is the method of creating actionable and practical plans for your business, whilst scenario planning is a tool to grant you more insight into your plans. One can be used without the other but both will be more powerful if used together.

Understanding your business’s present and future can mean that you’re more capable of making better decisions now.