One of the biggest challenges of running a small business is finding the time. The average small business owner is tapped out. You don’t have a lot of extra hours you’re looking to fill.

And growth? It really takes time. Just starting the process of business growth can be time-consuming.

The first (critical) step is to develop a strategic growth plan. Without a strategic growth plan, it’s nearly impossible to track the actual success of your growth plan. And if you don’t track your success, you won’t know what to adjust to bring in even more revenue.

We know you’re pressed for time, so we created this 7-step guide to help you create a strategic growth plan quickly and easily. Let’s get right to it.

1. Initial planning

Especially if you’re doing this on your own, you need to start by setting your schedule. You’ll want time for research, financial reviews and goal setting.

If you have a small team helping you, start by setting a one- or two-day meeting. Make the meeting mandatory. During this time, you’ll be covering steps 3-5, below. If you have to, do it over the weekend.

Yes, it’s that important.

2. Consider 3rd party assistance

Sometimes a professional can help you look at your business in a more objective way. After all, you’re invested. You may have a hard time seeing underlying issues or opportunities that are not being addressed.

There are marketing consultants and agencies that work specifically with small businesses. If you can afford the help, we recommend it. Just be sure to do your homework before partnering up.

It’s also worth pointing out that this step is #2, but it’s also on-going. You may feel outside help isn’t necessary… but as you get into the strategic planning process, you may change your mind.

Be open to the possibility that you may want to ask for help from a pro at some later point.

3. Review where you are today

A no-holds-barred review of how your business is doing right now is the foundation of any solid strategic growth plan. Look at where you are and how you got there.

What worked? What didn’t? What goals have you nailed? Where have you totally missed the mark?

This review will provide context for the rest of the planning process. It may be uncomfortable to explore past failures, especially if you personally contributed to them, but it’s essential. If you pull punches during this step, you’ll only hurt the rest of the planning process.

4. Set objectives

Where do you want your business to be in the next year? In 5 years? What would success look like to you and your team?

If you’re planning with a whole team, this will be the point when some debate breaks out. Different people see success differently. That’s a good thing.

Have the debate. Listen to each other and make sure everyone understands the different perspectives. Use the discussion to push for agreement on your core objectives.

Whatever you do, don’t move on from this point until everyone’s on the same page. If you don’t decide on specific objectives now, you’ll only encounter conflict later.

5. Decide on milestones

What small steps will you need to take to meet your big objectives?

List them. Assign responsibilities to team members. Determine delivery dates. Write it all down.

Use that information to create a formal schedule. Make sure everyone on the team gets a copy. As much as is possible, stick to that schedule. You’ll be holding yourself and your team accountable, so make sure you take your own plans seriously.

We recommend revisiting your milestones once a quarter. If needed, adjust your calendar then.

6. Make sure you have the right tools

Will you need investment capital? How about loans or an MCA? Do you have the solutions you need, like inventory management, a customer loyalty program or employee time tracking tools?

Before you go out and purchase new tools, check with some of your existing business partners. For example, we include all three of the tools listed above with our POS system.

You may already have access to some powerful options you didn’t even know you had.

7. Measure your progress

The only way to know if you’re achieving real growth is to track your progress. Keep tabs on both your milestones and your objectives. 

When you meet goals, celebrate. When you miss the mark, dig in and figure out why. Unachieved goals can tell you a lot about where you still have opportunities for improvement. Just be sure you avoid blame. Blame is toxic and will tear your team down.

Once you’ve determined why a goal was missed, adjust your plan, revisit your schedule, and then move forward again.

 

If you’re serious about developing a plan for growth, these steps will help you get there. It’s time to take control and make it happen.

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