Do you have your “game plan” for growing a sustainable business figured out? If not, it’s not too late.

A Strategic Plan is Your “Game Plan”
Having a simple, clear guide that you will actually use is critical to your overall success. Think of it as your “game plan.” Football coaches have an overall “game plan” going into their season and for each game. Hockey coaches have a “game plan.” Pilots submit a “flight plan” for each flight. They plan exactly how they will get from their starting point to their destination.

Strategic Plan Moves You towards Your Vision
In a recent article, Build a Strong foundation to Create a Sustainable Business, I discussed the importance of clarity about your core values, mission and vision. Those are the key elements of a strong foundation for your business. Now it is time to build on your foundation and create your strategic “game plan.” The steps below give you a brief overview for creating your strategic plan.

Understand Your Environment
The first step in your strategic “game plan” (after clearly articulating your core values, mission and vision) is to understand the environment in which your business operates. This step involves market research. There are many ways to gain an understanding of your marketplace. One way is to use “secondary research.” This includes reviewing/reading/accessing information from third party sources such as magazines, newspapers, trade publications, think tanks, government publications, educational institutions, databases, etc. Secondary research can usually provide you with information about demographics, income data, spending patterns, and more. Check out the resources of your local library. Most libraries have access to a variety of databases that can be very helpful as you begin your market research.

You can also conduct “primary research” to burrow further into your unique market. Conducting “primary research” will give you information tailored specifically for your business. You can conduct the research yourself or hire a company to design and conduct the research. Primary research often consists of focus groups, surveys, interviews or observations.

Consider conducting both secondary and primary research to get an accurate picture of your marketplace. Do the secondary research first. Determine what you still need to know. Then design and conduct your primary research.

There are a variety of online tools to aid you with your research. You can conduct online surveys, online focus groups, access online databases, etc. Just search of “online research tools.” One compilation of online research tools is: Online Research Tools - White Paper Link Compilation

Use Strategic Thinking
Once you have conducted your market research, you need to figure out what that information means for your business. This is when you use strategic thinking. Analyze the information you’ve gathered. How does the information impact your business? Why is it important? How does the research you gathered move you to the future, redefine your strategies, and support innovation? How will you adjust based upon what the research revealed?

Without applying strategic thinking to your research, the research is nothing more than information. You must sift, winnow and analyze it to get the maximum value out of the research you conducted.

Identify the Key Strategic Issues
After you analyze your research, you are ready to identify the 2-5 key strategic issues that need to be addressed in order to move toward your vision. What factors require your utmost attention in order to move forward? Key strategic issues can usually be expressed in a few words. You don’t need long, detailed explanations as the detail will be developed as you create the goal, objectives and action plans. Examples of key strategic issues could be: targeted marketing, consistent cash flow, regional growth, financial stability, systems and procedures, new product development, etc. When you have your key strategic issues identified, rank order them with #1 being THE MOST IMPORTANT issue to be addressed. The reason for prioritizing is regardless of our good intentions, we all get busy, have unexpected circumstances crop up, or the need for resources to be re-directed. Prioritizing the key strategic issues helps you to stay focused on the #1 key strategic issue when “push comes to shove” and “the going gets tough” and you can only do THE ONE THING that is most important for your business. Hopefully you won’t have to focus only on #1. But if you do, you don’t want to have waste time figuring out which is #1 in the midst of a myriad of distractions.

Develop Your Action Plan
Now you are ready to develop your Action Plan. Your Action Plan consists of:
• A goal for each key strategic issue
• Objectives for each goal
• Detailed action steps to achieve each objective.
If you would like a copy of the Action Planning Worksheet, I’ll be happy to send it to you. Just email me (It is an Excel file.)

Take Action Now
List the key strategic issues facing your business. Then develop your action plan to address the top three key strategic issues.

If you need any help, just give me a call or send an email. I’ll be happy to help you develop the strong foundation for your business.

© 2011 Center for Strategic Change, LLC. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Whalen is founder and CEO of the Center for Strategic Change, LLC ( - a consulting firm that challenges leaders to think and act strategically by helping them get clarity, maintain focus, and take action to achieve strategic change. Since 1992, she has been advising CEOs, Boards of Directors and Senior Leadership Teams in the areas of strategy, market research and communications. You can reach Judy at or by calling 608-455-2090. You can follow her on and on