"Strategic Planning" sounds like a really fancy, complicated process, where in reality, it's not. When I would say those words to different clients I could see their eyes gloss over. This is why I started using the term "Growth Planning". Growth Planning in itself tells you the plan. The Plan is to GROW. How are you going to accomplish that? The "How" is really what strategic planning is.
Most small businesses fail in this department. They want to grow but they don't develop how they will grow. If your plan revolves around what will get cash in the door, that's not a strategy. That's called survival. You don't want to constantly be in survival mode because that's a short-term strategy. You can't keep that pace long-term. You'll run out of money. Or sanity.
Here's what you do need to know....
There are 3 levels of strategy and you must decide where you want to compete. Not committing to one will hurt you long-term. You can be good at something, but it's better to be great at something. Here's the 3 levels:
Product Excellence (think Apple) - These companies focus on design and having the best product on the market.
Operational Efficiency (think Southwest or Walmart) - These companies are your cost leaders. Their strategy is to keep costs low, and therefore, their prices low.
Customer Intimacy (think Disney or Nordstrom) - These companies focus on the customer experience. Notice: I said "experience", not customer service. Customer Service is a must. It's not a strategy.
The key to strategy is determining where you will compete and sticking to it. And remember, part of a competitive strategy is being unique and different than your competitors. What sets you apart? (If you say customer service you should re-read this article).
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