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Business Information by Gladys Edmunds

Business Information by Gladys Edmunds
At age 15 Gladys developed a travel service that would prosper for more than 30 years. She is a national award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, author and columnist. Visit her at www.gladysedmunds.com

Strategic Planning the Old Fashion Way

Strategic Planning the Old Fashion Way

Dear Gladys,

I appreciate your simplified way of answering questions from beginners in business. I have been in the window replacement business for five years and consider myself a beginning entrepreneur. I read your column on strategic planning and I have one burning question. How does one develop a strategic plan when there is not a budget for it? In other words, I can’t afford to hire a professional strategic planner, so what do you suggest in the meantime? Also, I don’t recall being told about strategic plans when I wrote my business plan with the help of a small business development organization. Is this something new?

Thanks - Margaret

Strategic planning is not new. What’s new is that names and labels have been given to the unnamed things that entrepreneurs have successfully done for years.

For years I kept a shoebox on the corner of my desk. I asked my staff members to clip or make a note on anything they read in the newspaper or heard on the radio or television to our industry and then drop it in the box.

And, if they read or heard anything about our customers, potential customers, or political policies that affected our business, they were to note that also.

Each weekend I took the box home and went through it for information and ideas to help me develop strategies for building the business.

Today you might call that strategic planning: I called it “figuring out how to build the business.”

Of course, hiring a professional can be helpful by saving time while utilizing their talent. However, there are times when you do-it-yourself becomes the only way. It can give you an opportunity to learn more about business development.

A simple thought to keep in mind when developing your strategic plan is to remember that no matter how successful you feel your business is, you are only serving a very small piece of your market.

Therefore, the objective of a strategic plan is to figure out ways for you to capture more and more of your market. And, above all, you must act on the strategies you come up with.

To become good at strategic planning you need to be aware of what is going on both within and outside of your industry. Decide on a way of collecting and sorting through information. Try putting information that you collect into a box that you can sift through on quiet Saturday or Sunday afternoons.

Engage your employees by encouraging them to bring in formation as I did with my staff. Encourage friends and relatives to send articles to you. This way you will gather information from many different sources without effort.

There are several components to a formal strategic plan. However, for simplicity, think in terms of goals and strategies. Make a list of goals that you would like to reach and select one to two.

As you read through the information you have collected use your imagination to think of strategies that will lead to your goals.

Let’s say for example that one of your goals is to get more suburban residential customers. You see a news article suggesting that home heating bills will increase this winter. There are several approaches that might come to mind: you could offer free workshops on ways to keeping heating bills down and include window replacement; or you could write a newspaper article on the subject of saving fuel; or you could let the local television and radio shows know you are available to appear on their programs to share your expertise. Any of these could drive more business into your company.

Remember a strategy is an action plan that is designed to reach your goals. Create only strategies that you are comfortable putting into action. For example, don’t send out a press letter stating that you are available for a television appearance if you are camera shy.

Creating strategies to meet your goals can and should be fun. So, until you call in the pros, use your imagination and enjoy! Oh, and by the way, I have been in business for over 40 years and I still use the same method. The difference is I retired the shoebox for a wooden cigar box. The same methods that help a new entrepreneur are the same things that helps the more seasoned.