Why Looking Forward is Vital to Strategic Planning

How much time do you spend each month developing strategic plans for your business? How well do your employees understand the overarching strategy of your organization? Do you even have your strategy defined and written down on a piece of paper? 

If your answers are uhhh, well, and I’ve been meaning to get around to that, here’s the good news… 

You’re not alone! 

In fact, it’s not just small and medium business owners who drop the ball on strategic planning. Big companies are missing the boat, too. 

A study by the Harvard Business Review found some pretty staggering truths about why an unbelievable 90% of businesses fail to meet their strategic targets:

  • On average, 95% of all workers in the United States are unaware of their employer’s strategy.
  • 50% of executives spend no time on strategy at all
  • 85% of executive leaders spend <1 hour per month discussing strategic planning

Just as you wouldn’t drive across the country without a map, it’s incredibly difficult to get your business to where you want it to be without developing a strategic plan. 

The further you look ahead, the stronger your competitive advantage 

All businesses need short, medium and long-term goals, but the further into the future you plan, the better you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from competitors over the long haul. 

Let’s look at a very simple example: 

Say an automotive repair shop sets a short-term goal of boosting sales next month by 10%. To make this happen, they take out some advertising, send out an e-blast to their customer database with a discount offer, and promote the special on their readerboard. Fantastic. Everything works as planned and the initiative is a success. 

Next, let’s presume they set a medium-term goal of boosting sales by 10% for all of next year. No problem. They leverage the same strategies that worked before and find the same success. 

But now, let’s imagine they set a long-term goal of being the biggest and best automotive repair shop in town by 2030. Attacking such a lofty goal requires a far more robust plan. They’ll need to look at hiring practices, training programs, investing in tools and equipment, potentially opening up new locations, and dig deeper into their products and services to provide greater customer value than a discount coupon. And to make all this happen, they’ll need smart financial planning, too.  

Whereas the short and medium-term goals were necessary, and yielded positive results, they did not lead to any fundamental changes in how the business operated. It wasn’t until a long-term goal was set that true strategic planning came into play. 

Looking forward is vital to strategic planning because envisioning your business far into the future is the only way to see the big picture changes you need to enact to make your ultimate business vision come true. 

Benefits of strategic planning 

Inertia is an interesting phenomenon in business. It can both keep your business chugging forward and also hold you back from doing more. Most business owners fear change and the inherent risk that comes with it, but not all change needs to be grandiose. Often, the results of a successful strategic plan are simply to prioritize efforts and effectively allocate resources to better work towards your preferred end. 

A good strategic plan gets everyone on the same bus, instead of driving every which way in individual vehicles: 

  • Create one, forward-focused vision to align all stakeholders in your organization. 
  • Defining your path forward serves to increase the level of responsibility both individual contributors and managers feel in working towards this shared vision. 
  • A singular vision also simplifies broader decision making: “Which course of action best aligns with our strategic plan?” 
  • A well-defined strategic plan simplifies tracking and progress reports by identifying KPIs. 
  • Taking a step back from day-to-day operations to look at the big picture makes it easier to see flaws and biases in your current decision making processes. 

Don’t make this common strategic planning mistake 

It’s important to note that strategic planning is not something where you can set it and forget it. It’s an ongoing process and something that will change over time as you reassess your needs and the internal/external factors affecting your business. 

Your strategic plan should be a working document. Something you revisit and tweak over time. 

Getting started with your strategic plan 

While a savvy business owner can certainly map out a strategic plan on their own, this is definitely a case where working with professional advisors pays off. Hiring a consultant gains you instant access to years of knowledge and experience, and the value of having an expert look in on your business from the outside and tell you the truth about what they see. 

You’ll ideally gain insights from specialists across a wide range of expertise. At Accountability Services, we can help you with that. 

Our proprietary Concierge Services MasterPlan takes accounting, financial advisory and business tax planning to the next level. We can help you define, track and achieve your financial goals, while forging a long-term partnership where we’re just as invested in the future of your business as you are. 

  • Build a lasting, personal relationship with your Seattle business advisor or Bellevue business advisor 
  • Develop a financial plan that is fluid and flexible 
  • Get the support you need to successfully implement your plan 

We have also built a network of talented professionals in other business disciplines we can refer you to for guidance regarding non-financial aspects of your strategic plan. From marketing to HR, banking, investing, IT, operations consulting, legal, and more, our team can point you in the direction of a trusted advisor who can provide the direction you need. 

Reach your tax accounting and business goals 

The best accounting firm truly cares about your financial health and the future of your business. 

Don’t search “CPA firm near me”, schedule a free consultation with the professional team who provide a personal touch. Your goals are our goals because your success drives our success. 

Get in touch to discover the Accountability Services difference today. 

Call our Seattle accountants at 206.522.0110. You can also fill out our Online Contact Form. 

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