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Published March 12, 2020
A weekly look at issues facing Wyoming business owners and entrepreneurs from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Steen Stovall, regional director, Wyoming SBDC Network
A strategic plan is a written document used to focus a small business’s plans for the future. It summarizes its goals and clarifies why they’re important. The strategic planning process also helps small businesses pinpoint the areas in which they need to improve in order to operate at their fullest potential. Put simply, the process of strategic planning is the blueprint for building a small business’s foundation for success.
Despite its importance, only a small percentage of small businesses take the time to consistently plan strategically, due to the widespread belief that strategic planning is a complicated, time-consuming process that is only suited to large companies. Fortunately, this is a misconception. Simple and effective strategic planning methodologies exist for small businesses. One such example is set out below.
-- Begin by identifying your competitive advantages. What makes your business unique? How is it different? What makes your products or services better than those of your competitors?
-- Establish your business’s mission. What is the purpose or reason for your business’s existence? What does your business stand for?
-- Develop your vision. What do you want your business to achieve in the future? What kind of community/social impact do you want it to have?
-- Develop your long-term, broad-based goals and objectives.
-- Conduct a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. A SWOT analysis lays out the areas of your business that can be improved and the areas that are strong. It helps you identify the opportunities for growth and pinpoint the threats. Each of these four areas should be reviewed by answering a set of relevant questions that have been developed for each.
Strengths. What do you do really well? What makes you better than your competitors? Do you have a strong customer base?
Weaknesses. What’s not working? What processes need improving? Are you making enough profit?
Opportunities. What is the market missing? What external changes will bring opportunities? What are the current trends, and will they affect you in a positive manner?
Threats. What are the negative aspects in the current market? What is threatening your business: customer trends, economic trends or technology trends?
-- Develop detailed interim objectives and specific performance indicators to measure those objectives, along with a schedule of detailed action items that need to be completed to achieve them.
The key takeaway is that strategic planning for small businesses doesn’t have to be difficult and time-consuming. At its most basic, as this example shows, strategic planning is a SWOT analysis that has been operationalized. It is a tool that can be used to both plan for the long term and execute for the short term. It’s absolutely essential if a small business wants to produce better outcomes, develop more realistic operating guidelines and minimize risk.
If you would like some assistance with your business’s strategic plan, contact your local Wyoming SBDC Network adviser at www.wyomingsbdc.org for no-cost, confidential assistance.
The Wyoming SBDC Network offers no-cost advising and technical assistance to help Wyoming entrepreneurs think about, launch, grow, reinvent or exit their business. In 2019 alone, the Wyoming SBDC Network helped Wyoming entrepreneurs start 108 new businesses; create or save 3,402 jobs; and bring a capital impact of more than $24 million to the state. The Wyoming SBDC Network is hosted by UW with state funds from the Wyoming Business Council and funded, in part, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email email@example.com, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY 82071-3922.