An Introduction to Strategic Planning


This publication introduces you to strategic planning. Such a
plan will help you to

* Take advantage of your company’s strengths.
* Eliminate or reduce your company’s weaknesses.
* Capitalize on opportunities and emerging trends.
* Take defensive steps to reduce threats facing your business.
* Bring together all your company’s resources, and direct them
toward specific goals in areas such as sales growth, profit,
productivity and service.
* Prioritize and document all the goals your company wants to
accomplish over the next three to five years.
* Allocate resources and assign responsibilities.


Ask ten people for a definition of strategic planning and you
will probably receive ten different answers. Most agree that it
is a way to identify long-term goals and to direct your company
toward fulfilling those goals.

Strategic planning involves

* Assessing the current business environment.
* Defining your company’s purpose mission.
* Deciding what you want the business to look like in three
to five years.
* Recognizing your company’s
— Strengths
— Weaknesses
— Opportunities
— Threats
* Mapping out a course to take the company from its current to its
desired position.


“My business is very small. Do I really need to develop a plan
like this?”

The best response to this question is, “Only if you want to stay
in business and prosper.” Consider the following reasons for
strategic planning.

* Technology and the fast pace of change are making business
management more complex. Strategic planning will help you
foresee and react quickly to market changes and opportunities
and identify areas in which your business is lagging behind.
* Competition is becoming tougher. In most cases, small businesses
find themselves competing with much larger companies — ones
that know the benefits of strategic planning and practice it.
From a defensive standpoint, it is important that you apply the
same concepts to your operation.
* Good financial control alone is not enough to ensure your
business’s success. In addition to a budget, you need long-term
goals to determine the future direction of your company.
* You can use strategic planning to involve employees in all areas
of your business, so they share your goals.
* You can use your plan to communicate with bankers, who often do
not understand the nature of your business. Bankers must be
convinced that your company is in control of its future before
they will lay their money on the line. A comprehensive plan aimed
at sustained growth in sales and earnings can be very convincing.
* A plan is also very helpful in dealing with your suppliers,
advertisers, attorney, accountant, auditor, investors and
business consultants.

Let’s take a closer look at the process.


The strategic planning process begins with an assessment of the
current economic situation. First, examine factors outside of the
company that can affect your company’s performance. In most
cases, it makes sense to focus on the national, local or
regional, and industry economic forecasts. This part of the
analysis should begin early, at least a quarter or so before you
begin the formal planning process. Use the following common
sources for information:

* The Wall Street Journal.
* The New York Times.
* Business Week.
* Industry periodicals.
* U.S. Department of Commerce (especially for the 12 leading
economic indicators).
* Federal Reserve banks.
* Local industry associates.
* Local chambers of commerce.
* The public library

After you have collected sufficient data, assess its present and
future impact on your business. For example, slow housing starts,
weak automobile sales, reduction in real disposable personal
income and increasing levels of unemployment signal reduced
future demand for goods and services.


After preparing a concise written assessment of the economic
environment, you are ready to meet with key people in your
organization for a marathon planning session. Make sure that all
key departments (e.g., sales, service, finance, processing,
manufacturing, etc.) are represented to ensure that a realistic
plan with a common goal is developed.

The meeting will be most effective in a comfortable place that is
free of interruptions and distractions. Often it is best to get
away from the business premises. For many businesses the process
takes two full days, so you may want to accomplish it over a

The sessions will function best if they are structured. The
following is a proven technique:

* Appoint someone to be the facilitator of the group. It should be
someone impartial and not so locked into his or her own ideas
that he or she cannot see the potential merit in others’ ideas.
* Agree in advance that creativity is desirable, so no idea
brought up at the session will be immediately discarded as
impractical or undesirable. (Sometimes impractical or impossible
suggestions can spark other extremely positive ideas).
* Appoint someone to write down the essence of what the group
discusses and decides.
* Equip the room with a flip chart, felt tip markers, and masking
tape or thumb tacks.
* Follow an agenda. The one shown in Appendix A has proven very

After the opening comments, a review of the session’s procedures
and a report on the economic environment, you are ready to begin
the most important part of the process.

Analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOTs)

Here the facilitator divides a flip chart page into two sections
and labels one half Strengths and Weaknesses and the other half
Opportunities and Threats (together known as SWOTs).

Each SWOT is to be written concisely on the flip chart. Everyone
is asked to identify SWOTs, starting with one person and
proceeding around the room in a clockwise fashion. This technique
elicits a response from each participant and rapidly creates a
charged atmosphere.

No one wants to feel foolish in front of the group, so people listen
carefully to what is said and think hard about possible responses.

The facilitator should be certain that all SWOTs are recorded on
the chart. As pages of the flip chart become full, tack them up
around the room where everyone can see them. They will be used

When the facilitator has gone around the room several times and
every conceivable SWOT has been identified, the group is ready
for the next phase of the planning session.


Examples of Flip Chart Format for SWOT Analysis
Strengths Weaknesses
1. 1.
2. 2.
3. 3.
4. 4.
5. 5.
Opportunities Threats
1. 1.
2. 2.
3. 3.
4. 4.
5. 5.

Examples of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
that might be suggested by participants during the SWOT


* Over half of the residents in our marketing territory are
* Our company is well known.
* We were first in the area to institute telemarketing.
* Suppliers give us excellent service.
* Our financial position and credit rating are good.
* We have strong salespeople at the top of our organization.


* The adjacent town is over 50 percent affluent residents.
Penetrating that market would stimulate signifiant sales
* One of our suppliers has offered co-op advertising,
including a billboard.
* Most of our customers use us for only part of what we can do
with our products and services; the potential for more sales
within our existing customer base is high.
* Our competitor is aging and may be receptive to a buy-out if
we offer an employment agreement until age 65.
* Implementing a program to include stuffers (showing our full
range of products and services) in every mailing to our
existing customers could generate cross-sales.
* Implementing new telephone pick-up and message handling
procedures could improve customer service.


* Recession, business slowdown.
* Telemarketing operation is generating an abundance of price-
conscious customers who may leave us at the next price adjustment.
* The independent contractors we use are difficult to control from
a reliability and quality standpoint.
* Certain members of our support staff lack a “sales attitude,”
have an adversarial attitude toward the sales staff, have an “it’s
not my job” attitude.
* Salespeople often do not follow procedures.
* Lack of a formal budget process results in expenses that could be
avoided or delayed.


* A new competitor started up its operation nearby 18 months ago and
is cutting prices to attract market share.
* New competitor has lured away two of our employees with offers of
better pay.

Mission Statement

An organization’s mission statement (usually no more than one or
two sentences) describes the purpose of the organization. It
enables all members of the organization to share the same view of
the company’s goals, philosophy and future direction. It should
include the

* Reason the organization exists (management’s mission).
* Products and services offered.
* Clientele served.
* Nature and location of the business’s marketing territory.
* Areas of specialization.
* Future direction of the company.

Every organization needs a mission statement and many require
one for each area of the company. By building your business plans
around a well-conceived mission statement, your company can more
effectively use its limited resources. Stated differently, the
mission statement helps your company move beyond “trying to do
everything right” toward “doing the right thing.”

The facilitator should lead the group in establishing (or
redefining) the company’s mission statement in view of the
external economic environment and the SWOTs discussed earlier.

Let’s take a look at some sample mission statements:

* The Johnson Corporation of Ohio is dedicated to maintaining its
position as a leader in providing quality insurance and financial
service products to businesses and individuals through a staff of
highly trained people sharing a tradition of integrity and
service to its clients.
* Budget Travel provides economical vacation travel and related
services to customers in the greater Chicago area, who expect
efficient, problem-free travel arrangements at a low cost.
* Our goal is simply stated. We want to be the best service
organization in the world.IBM
* Whitefield Markets’ goal is to be the lowest cost provider of
quality foods and groceries in the West Orange area, and
eventually in the entire state.
* Velvet Green Nurseries’ goal is to provide a full range of high
quality wholesale and retail nursery products to professional
landscapers and discriminating homeowners.
* Performance Plus manufactures and sells high performance auto
parts to the U.S. market. While our primary thrust will be to
increase our present product line to better serve existing
markets, we will also actively expand into the Canadian market.
* Smith Packaging Company’s mission is to be the lowest cost
producer of pork products in Delaware.

Key Results Areas (KRAs)

Most companies have from 8 to 15 key results areas (KRAs), areas
in which the organization must achieve success to grow and
prosper. The company’s objectives and tactics can be grouped into
these key areas, making it easier to process and prioritize
objectives, allocate resources and coordinate with other areas.

The facilitator should lead the group in identifying KRAs for the
business. Many of the KRAs (increase revenues, improve financial
condition, etc.) are developed from the SWOTs. Some examples of
KRAs are

* Increase revenues.
* Improve financial condition (profitability, liquidity, solvency,
credit and collections policies, etc.).
* Keep pace with or outdistance the competition.
* Improve efficiency and productivity.
* Achieve and maintain superior customer service.
* Capitalize on emerging trends.
* Increase utilization of technology to improve operations.
* Improve labor relations, human resource development and training
(personnel issues: salary administration, job descriptions,
benefits, personnel manuals, etc.).
* Improve internal communications.
* Improve distributor and/or supplier relationships.
* Improve public relations, advertising, promotions, etc.
* Improve or enhance products and services.
* Capitalize on the physical facilities (location, capacity,
layout, parking, etc.).
* Improve or enhance insurance coverage.
* Capitalize on or improve organizational structure.
* Arrange for the orderly retirement and transfer of ownership and
control of senior owners to junior owners or potential owners.

Strategic Objectives

Usually there will be one or two strategic objectives for each
KRA, but occasionally there are more. Strategic objectives
describe conditions the organization wishes to achieve. As with
all objectives, it is important to make them as quantifiable as
possible. Two examples of strategic objectives follow:

Example #1

Key results area: Increase revenues
Strategic objectives: Increase revenues from new customers, expand sales to

existing customers, acquire other related businesses,

open new branches, market new products or services
and achieve levels of investment income and inflation

to achieve

$_______________in revenues by Dec. 31, 19__
$_______________in revenues by Dec. 31, 19__
$_______________in revenues by Dec. 31, 19__
$_______________in revenues by Dec. 31, 19__
$_______________in revenues by Dec. 31, 19__

Example #2

Key results area: Improve financial condition.Strategic
objectives: Establish and maintain a financial condition
sufficient to support planned growth through liquidity, solvency
and profitability for the four years listed, as follows:

19__, 19__, 19__, 19__
Achieve a working
capital position of $ $ $ $

Achieve net worth of $ $ $ $

Achieve pretax profit
margin of $ $ $ $


Tactical Objectives

Establish tactical objectives to support each strategic
objective. Tactical objectives are specific, usually short-term,
objectives, aimed at supporting the strategic objective.
Eventually you will prioritize these tactical objectives, assign
responsibilities and agree to target dates for completion.

One easy way to develop tactical objectives is to return to the
ideas from the SWOT analysis. Group each idea into one of the key
results areas. For example, say 12 SWOTs were identified that
could either positively or negatively affect KRA #1, “Increase
Revenues.” Use those SWOTs to develop tactics for the increase
revenues strategy. Capitalize on areas identified as strengths
and opportunities and try to reduce or eliminate weaknesses and

If your strategic objective is to expand sales to existing
customers, some tactical objectives might be to

* Produce and market a new product (take advantage of an
* Develop and market a new service (take advantage of an
* Identify a specific product or service you have been successful
with and develop a plan to promote that product or service to
every customer who doesn’t yet have it (capitalize on a
* Retain strong sales staff or replace weak sales staff (correct a
* Revise traffic flow of store or change displays, signs, etc.
(correct a weakness or capitalize on a strength).
* Change marketing or advertising theme (take advantage of an
* Establish a sales campaign with meaningful incentives (take
advantage of an opportunity).
* Change salary program for salespeople from fixed to variable
salary based on sales (correct a weakness).

After you have categorized and established tactics to address
each SWOT, proceed with the next phase of the process.

Budgeting and the Strategic Plan

The strategies and tactics that you choose will affect revenues
and expenses to differing degrees. You need to consider the
potential impact of each objective on both revenues and expenses
so that you can prioritize them and reflect them in future

Target Dates

Be realistic in setting target dates. It is important that you
resist the temptation to set extremely ambitious target dates for
your objectives. In most cases, the tactics you have agreed on
will be accomplished by people who already have a full day’s
work. Each employee must be given sufficient time to achieve the
specific objectives assigned to him or her, or the plan will
quickly be viewed as impossible to accomplish and useless.

When assigning a tactical objective, let the recipient tell the
group how long it will take to achieve, and accept that target
date, if at all possible. Appendix B displays a suggested format
for the strategic plan.

Coordinating and Monitoring the Strategic Plan

For maximum sustained results, an overall coordinator for the
strategic plan should be appointed. That person is responsible
for bringing together the various pieces of the business plan
into one comprehensive plan and for monitoring the plan.

The form in Appendix C can be used to display the strategic
objectives and all the supporting tactical objectives for each
key strategy area. It also lists the person responsible and the
agreed-upon target date for each objective, with a section for
comments. An example of how the completed form might look is
shown in Appendix C-1.

Appendix D is an Individual Objective Summary/Status Report,
which enables an individual to track the status of each objective
for which he or she is responsible and report monthly to the
strategic plan coordinator.

The monitoring process should be made as simple as possible. Each
month, the strategic plan coordinator collects the updated
individual objective summary/status reports from employees and
makes certain that all objectives in the plan have been accounted
for. He or she makes note of shortfalls, needs for reforecasts or
meetings to be called, and documents progress in a brief
memorandum to all strategic plan participants. For example

* At the end of April, we are on target or ahead of plan in all
but two tactical objectives. The attached individual objective
summary/status reports describe the status of every objective.
* Where a shortfall exists, I have highlighted the shortfall and
noted the actions being taken.
* Overall we are well on our way to achieving our major


When the above procedures have been discussed with the group,
agreement should be reached on when the written strategic plan
should be completed and ready for use. The method of
communicating the content of the plan to all employees should
also be discussed.


No treatment of this subject would be complete without mention of
the fact that some strategic plans fail. The major reasons are

* Strategy was defined incorrectly.
* The plans lacked detailed implementation steps with tasks,
schedules and responsibilities.
* Goals were not stated in clear and quantifiable terms.
* Planning did not involve input of key managers.

The process described in this booklet avoids these pitfalls and
has proven effective with small businesses.



Day 1

Time: 8:00-8:05
Topic: Opening comments
Responsibility: President

Time: 8:05-8:15
Topic: Review agenda
Review procedures for session
Review roles of facilitator and recorder
Responsibility: Facilitator

Time: 8:15-8:30
Topic: Review completed analysis of external environment
Responsibility: Preparer of analysis

Time: 8:30-10:00
Topic: SWOT analysis — Part One
Roundtable discussion to identify and document all of
the company’s strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and
threats (SWOTs)
Responsibility: Facilitator and group

Time: 10:00-10:15
Topic: Coffee break

Time: 10:15-12:00
Topic: SWOT analysis — Part Two
Continue SWOT analysis
Responsibility: Facilitator and group

Time: 12:00-12:45
Topic: Lunch

Time: 12:45-2:30
Topic: Develop or redefine mission statement for organization
(statement of purpose)
Responsibility: Facilitator and group

Time: 2:30-2:45
Topic: Coffee and soft drink break

Time: 2:45-3:30
Topic: Analysis and identification of key results areas
(areas in which the company must achieve significant
results in order to achieve the kind of revenues and
profits desired)
Responsibility: Facilitator and group

Time: 3:30-5:00
Topic: Establish strategic objectives (objectives that are
descriptive of a condition you want to achieve) within
each key result area
Responsibility: Facilitator and group

Time: 5:00-6:30
Topic: Dinner

Day 2

Time: 8:00-8:05
Topic: Opening comments
Responsibility: President

Time: 8:15-10:00
Topic: Establish tactical objectives to address SWOTs —
Part One
Responsiblilty Facilitator and group

Time: 10:00-10:15
Topic: Coffee break

Time: 10:15-12:00
Topic: Establish tactical objectives to address SWOTs —
Part Two
Responsibility: Facilitator and group

Time: 12:00-12:45
Topic: Lunch

Time: 12:45-1:45
Topic: Integration of budgeting process into the strategic
Responsibility: Facilitator and group

Time: 1:45-2:00
Topic: Coffee and soft drink break

Time: 2:00-4:00
Topic: Prioritizing objectives, assigning responsibilities
and establishing target dates
Responsibility: Facilitator and group

Time: 4:00-4:30
Topic: Discussion of strategic plan coordination and
monitoring. Includes discussion of strategic plan
format and appointment of coordinator to monitor
plan and keep everyone advised when shortfalls or
reforecast situations arise
Responsibility: Facilitator and group

Time: 4:30-4:45
Topic: Arrange timing of written report and method of
communicating the plan to all employees of the
Responsibility: Facilitator and group

Time: 4:45-5:00
Topic: Closing comments
Responsibility: President


Table of contents
Mission statement
Summary of key results areas (strategies)

Objectives,, responsibilities and targets
— for (enter key results area #1)
— for (enter key results area #2)
— for (enter key results area #3)
— for (enter key results area #4)
— for (enter key results area #5)
— for (enter key results area #6)
— for (enter key results area #7)
— for (enter key results area #8)
— for (enter key results area #9)
— for (enter key results area #10)
— for (enter key results area #11)
— for (enter key results area #12)

Individual objectives summaries/status reports
— for (enter employee’s name)
— for (enter employee’s name)
— for (enter employee’s name)
— for (enter employee’s name)
— for (enter employee’s name)
— for (enter employee’s name)
— for (enter employee’s name)
— for (enter employee’s name)


Key results area:
Strategy statement:

Tactical objectives Responsibility Target date Status


Key results area: Achieve and maintain superior customer service.
Strategy objective: Enhance customer service to distinguish our
business from the competition and to generate
repeat customers and referrals.

Tactical objectives Responsibility Target date Status

1. Survey key customers to Dale Harris 1-15-91
assess current level of
service and determine
their expectations regard-
ing ideal service.
2. Establish and staff toll- Dan Devlin 2-15-91
free (800) number for
customer orders and
3. Establish well-understood Dale Harris 3-15-91
customer service standards
and guidelines.
4. Change human resource pro-
grams to build staff that
takes pride in customer

Proposals to management due
as follows:

* Recruiting/hiring/ Debra Goldstein 4-30-91
* Ongoing training Joan Lupacchino 5-15-91
* Performance appraisals/ Fred Monti 5-15-91


Summary/Status Report for (Employee Name)

Tactical objectives Responsibility Target date Status


U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA offers an extensive selection of information on most
business management topics, from how to start a business to
exporting your products.

This information is listed in The Small Business Directory. For a
free copy contact your nearest SBA office.

SBA has offices throughout the country. Consult the U.S. Government
section in your telephone directory for the office nearest you. SBA
offers a number of programs and services, including training and
educational programs, counseling services, financial programs and
contract assistance. Ask about

* Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a national
organization sponsored by SBA of over 13,000 volunteer
business executives who provide free counseling,
workshops and seminars to prospective and existing small
business people.

* Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), sponsored by
the SBA in partnership with state and local governments,
the educational community and the private sector. They
provide assistance, counseling and training to
prospective and existing business people.

For more information about SBA business development programs and
services call the SBA Small Business Answer Desk at 1-800-U-ASK-SBA

Other U.S. Government Resources

Many publications on business management and other related topics
are available from the Government Printing Office (GPO). GPO
bookstores are located in 24 major cities and are listed in the
Yellow Pages under the bookstore heading. You can request a Subject
Bibliography by writing to Government Printing Office,
Superintendent of Documents, Washington, DC 20402-9328.

Many federal agencies offer publications of interest to small
businesses. There is a nominal fee for some, but most are free.
Below is a selected list of government agencies that provide
publications and other services targeted to small businesses. To
get their publications, contact the regional offices listed in the
telephone directory or write to the addresses below:

Consumer Information Center (CIC)
P.O. Box 100
Pueblo, CO 81002
The CIC offers a consumer information catalog of federal

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
Publications Request
Washington, DC 20207
The CPSC offers guidelines for product safety requirements.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
12th Street and Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
The USDA offers publications on selling to the USDA. Publications
and programs on entrepreneurship are also available through county
extension offices nationwide.

U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC)
Office of Business Liaison
14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Room 5898C
Washington, DC 20230
DOC’s Business Assistance Center provides listings of business
opportunities available in the federal government. This service
also will refer businesses to different programs and services in
the DOC and other federal agencies.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Public Health Service
Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
Drug Free Workplace Helpline: 1-800-843-4971. Provides information
on Employee Assistance Programs.National Institute for Drug Abuse
Hotline: 1-800-662-4357. Provides information on preventing
substance abuse in the workplace.The National Clearinghouse for
Alcohol and Drug Information: 1-800-729-6686 toll-free. Provides
pamphlets and resource materials on substance abuse.

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
Employment Standards Administration
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
The DOL offers publications on compliance with labor laws.

U.S. Department of Treasury
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
P.O. Box 25866
Richmond, VA 23260
The IRS offers information on tax requirements for small

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Small Business Ombudsman
401 M Street, SW (A-149C)
Washington, DC 20460
1-800-368-5888 except DC and VA
703-557-1938 in DC and VA
The EPA offers more than 100 publications designed to help small
businesses understand how they can comply with EPA regulations.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
200 Charles Street, SW
Washington, DC 20402
The FDA offers information on packaging and labeling requirements
for food and food-related products.

For More Information

A librarian can help you locate the specific information you need
in reference books. Most libraries have a variety of directories,
indexes and encyclopedias that cover many business topics. They
also have other resources, such as

* Trade association information
Ask the librarian to show you a directory of trade
associations. Associations provide a valuable network of
resources to their members through publications and
services such as newsletters, conferences and seminars.

* Books
Many guidebooks, textbooks and manuals on small business
are published annually. To find the names of books not in
your local library check Books In Print, a directory of
books currently available from publishers.

* Magazine and newspaper articles
Business and professional magazines provide information
that is more current than that found in books and
textbooks. There are a number of indexes to help you find
specific articles in periodicals.

In addition to books and magazines, many libraries offer free
workshops, lend skill-building tapes and have catalogues and
brochures describing continuing education opportunities.

The material in this publication may not be reproduced or trans-
mitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or other – without the prior written
permission of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

While we consider the contents of this publication to be of
general merit, its sponsorship by the U.S. Small Business Admin-
istration does not necessarily constitute an endoresment of the
views and opinions of the authors or the products and services of
the companies with which they are affiliated.
All of SBA’s programs and services are extended to the public on
a nondiscriminatory basis.

About author

SMB Reviews
SMB Reviews 473 posts

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