Simple Strategic Plans: A Tool to Create Them and Tips for The Process
I recently shared about using your company’s strategic plan as a roadmap. There’s value in having a guide to help you navigate the path to success. After understanding the value of why you should have a strategic plan and with the release of our FREE TOOL, I wanted to dive a little deeper and explore what goes into the making of a strategic plan with some helpful tips I’ve learned along the way.
We re-launched the Atlanta Ventures vision in January, thus have recently been through this process ourselves. Here are our five tips for creating the best, most efficient, strategic plan.
1. Make it Simple
That’s right. You don’t need to overthink this. It’s just the basics. Ultimately, you want to get on with running your business, so this simple document doesn’t need to stress you out. We suggest you keep it to 8 parts — A Name, your Purpose, Core Values, Market, Brand Promise, Elevator Pitch, Three Year Target, and Goals. Make it fit on one page and don’t get too wordy. Your leadership team, employees, investors, board members, etc. will appreciate a sweet and simple visual representation of your company.
Here’s the breakdown of the parts:
A name helps to organize multiple plans and multiple versions. We like to include the quarter and year, since we revisit each quarter (more on that later).
E.g. Atlanta Ventures Strategic Plan - Q1 2018
This is one sentence that describes why your company exists. Keeping this to one sentence helps you get to the real meat of WHY you exist.
E.g. To support and inspire SaaS entrepreneurs to achieve their potential.
• Core Values
Every company needs core values. These values are the fundamental beliefs of your company and help people understand the culture of the office. They serve as an additional roadmap to help companies determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their goals. It serves as a constant reminder for everyone on the team to embrace your company’s beliefs. So ask yourself: “What foundational beliefs must every team member embody to be a good culture fit?”
E.g. Positive, self-starting, supportive.
In one sentence, can you describe the people or companies you’re serving? Have you had a chance to define your market? Here’s a helpful read to get you started, with these high-level action items:
Look at your current customer base.
Check out your competition.
Analyze your product/service.
Choose specific demographics to target.
Consider the psychographics of your target.
Evaluate your decision.
E.g. SaaS startups in the Southeast that are: Pre-idea (entrepreneur, no idea), Idea (no MVP, pre-revenue), Product/Market Fit ($100k - $1 Million ARR), or Scaling (>$1 Million ARR).
• Brand Promise
This is a one sentence statement that your company is committed to doing or providing. Start with “My brand will help…” or “We promise to…”.
E.g. We promise to always put the entrepreneur first.
• Elevator Pitch
In three sentences or less, answer the who, what, where, when, and why of your company. A typical elevator ride lasts 60 seconds or less, so be direct and concise.
E.g. We empower SaaS entrepreneurs in the Southeast from idea stage and beyond to achieve success through community, content, and capital.
• Three Year Target
In one sentence, define what you want to achieve within the next three years.
E.g. Be the go-to company for SaaS entrepreneurs in the Southeast, with X successful studio startups, and X successful capital investments.
In your goal section, you can lay the groundwork for what you actually want to get done. We recommend keeping to a S.M.A.R.T. framework. Goals should be specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related.
• Quarterly + Annual Goals
In your one-page plan, list three goals for the quarter and year. List the Start Value, Current Value, and Target Value. It’s important to list each value so when it comes time to revisit this document, you’ll have metrics to measure against.
E.g. Invest in 2-4 companies by the end of 2018.
Check out the Simple Strategic Plan tool, duplicate and copy or download it, and let us know your thoughts on creating the most simple strategic plans.
2. Craft Your Plan in a Creative Environment
Sometimes the best way to get some sound strategic planning done is set the stage. Does your team have a Conference room you can commandeer for a two hour session? Do you prefer lounging on a comfy couch? What about bringing in some gourmet sandwiches to get the creative juices flowing in your office club room? Whatever location you choose, make this a fun and creative activity. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, draft a first round and then grab some trusted advisors to join you for a review over beers.
3. Draft. Sleep. Re-Visit.
Draft it, then sit on it, then edit it again. The best thing you can do is simply brain-dump everything you can on the page. Get it out. Step one is putting the pen to the paper. Next, sleep on it. Let it sit for a day (or even a week). In Q4 of last year, we spend a few hours updating our plan, then let it sit for a week. After giving ourselves some time to dwell on it, we revisited with fresh insight and added in some edits that we would not have arrived at, had we published it right away.
4. Make it Living and Revisit Every Quarter.
This Simple Strategic Plan that you now have is a living and breathing document. We named our Q1 for a reason. In Q2 we’ll update at it again. And mid-quarter, when we reach one of our quarterly goals, we’ll go in and check the box. There’s something to be said for checking things off. This document will go on the journey with you all the way.
5. Share it With Your Team and Get Their Buy-in
Internal communication can become increasingly difficult as a company grows, and a way to make sure that everyone is on the same page is to share your SSP with the entire team. Leadership may all know the plan, but Joe and Sally that just got hired don't have much context. When your entire team is on the same page, you’ll instill a transparent and welcoming culture.
Gather together your full team (or trusted advisors if you’re on the solo entrepreneur path right now) to present and share your SSP in a fun way.
This is your guide to success, let it do the navigating for you!