Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Everyone uses the terms goal setting and strategic planning these days but do we know what they really stand for?
For some people, it means creating a daily or weekly to-do list. For others, a strategic plan is a 100-page document only executives have access to. For small businesses and leaders like yourself, a strategic plan is the map and instructions you and your team will be taking to achieve your company’s mission over a period of time.
If you are a Latinx leader tired of not knowing the next step, and reducing your operational costs, planning next year’s strategy is the right way to go.
Our team recently went through the strategic planning process for 2021, and we left our meeting excited and invigorated.
Here is how we did it, and I'll show you how you can plan your company's or program strategy for the upcoming year.
Getting Started and Planning the Strategy
#1. The team that plans together stays together.
Your business is your “baby,” and you know what works and what doesn’t, but building a team to develop a strategic plan will help you hear other people’s perspectives and identify opportunities outside of your line of vision.
Identify who will be part of your team and how they will be involved. Should they participate in the whole process? How am I going to collect data? Who will make the final decision? And how will you communicate those decisions?
Whether your team is small or large, make sure you let folks know that their feedback is valuable and explain what is your decision-making process. There are no bad ideas during a brainstorming session, but not all of them will be part of the plan.
PRO-TIP: Assign a note-taker and write the names of the people giving ideas or projects to launch. Suppose the idea is not prioritized, follow-up with the person, and talk about incorporating their feedback into the final plan. When people are part of the planning process, they are committed to seeing it come to fruition.
Our business at the moment is a team of 2, myself, and Jafet my Media Consultant. We decided to bring an external consultant to keep us focused and mediate conversations.
LEAD Media's 2021 Strategic Planning Meeting (November 2020)
From left to right: Jafet Martinez (Media Consultant), Paulette Pinero (Owner), and Demi Padilla (Strategy Consultant).
Having an external person identifying the trends, challenges, and opportunities were helpful and it allowed the team to play from our strengths. I am a planner and focused on the small details, and Jafet is a big-picture thinker and better at envisioning the end-goal.
PRO-TIP: When deciding on your team, including the leadership group and people affected by any changes you make. If you are a small business, grassroots organization, or solopreneur, think about your team and the decision-makers (in paper or practice).
If, like me, you only hire consultants and freelancers, identify the people that work with you constantly, and document in what areas you want their feedback and participation.
Here’s an example: we have 2 Virtual Assistants that work as contractors 20-25 hours per month. They provided feedback on our SWOT analysis (see #4) and how they want to support our growth in 2021. After the planning meeting, we discussed the priority areas and objectives with them and they gave insight into what projects they could support and the money implications those projects could have.
In the case of my Media Consultant, he was part of the meeting and planning because he shares 50-60% of the responsibility of all of our branding projects and consults with our business clients too.
Build your team and then decide how involved they will be.
LEAD Media's 2020 team:
#2. Let your mission, vision, and values be your guiding light.
When you start a brainstorming session or meeting, make sure you have your mission, vision, and company values visible to everyone in the team. You will include those in your final plan too.
A good practice is to review your company's core values before the planning meetings and then make sure every idea aligns with the vision and values. This helps to manage folks’ expectations of a good idea and an idea that lives out your mission for existing. Instead of telling people, this is not the right path to take, they can decide themselves.
PRO-TIP: You can also ask people in your team to share their own personal values and write them down in a post-it note or document. Organize everyone’s values by theme and make a list accessible to everyone and review it before each planning session. If a decision or opportunity goes against a value, discuss it, and decide if it is worth pursuing.
#3. Collect your client and business data.
The key to a successful business or project is data collection. You do this every day already, and for strategic planning, you want your data to tell a story. Collect your sales report for the last year or two, client testimonials, survey results, employee feedback, social media insights, retention, etc.
Examples of LEAD Media's Pre-Launch Data Sample:
Analyze the trends, biggest issues, roadblocks, and your client and employee satisfaction. If you are having a difficult time with this step, your strategic plan will have a focus area for data collection to make this process easier the next time.
PRO-TIP: Some non-financial data you can organize if you didn’t intentionally collect it during the year is: Google search ratings, online testimonials, repeat business from clients, accounts closed per month or year, social media followers, media hits, partnerships, employee retention, and contracts closed vs people interested.
#4. Start with a SWOT analysis before you decide on goals (or anything else).
Every strategic plan has a SWOT analysis to help you set priorities. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Here are some questions to consider when conducting a SWOT analysis:
STRENGTHS: What do we do really well? What are our top skills? What separates us from the competition? What do our clients and partners say about why they choose us?
WEAKNESSES: What do we need to improve? What do our competitors do better than us? Where are our limitations? What do negative client reviews say about our work?
OPPORTUNITIES: What trends could we take advantage of? How can we use our strengths to launch new products or initiatives? What areas of our business can we change to increase our impact?
THREATS: What external obstacles that we cannot control do we face? What threats do our weaknesses expose us to?
Don’t feel overwhelmed by this type of analysis. This is the perfect opportunity to brainstorm and get feedback from what has worked well and how external factors have changed the way you do business.
PRO-TIP: Instead of asking the team to share their ideas at the same time, have them write a couple of their observations per area on a post-it note or a shared document individually. Once everyone is done, talk amongst each other, identify what is constantly repeated, and ask clarifying questions. This helps to get everyone participating in the exercise without a few people taking over the discussion.
#5. Decide on your focus areas for the next year or two.
Using the data you collected, the findings from the SWOT analysis, and with your vision, mission, and values as your guide agree on 3-5 areas everyone in your business can identify with. Focus areas are high-level intentions that help you achieve your vision and are critical to your success.
Keep your focus areas short, in phrase form, and write them as a call to action. These will allow you to plan your expenses, streamline operational processes, and tell you where you should invest your money (and where not to).
Read part 2 to learn how to set objectives, choose the right performance indicators, and write a plan that everyone in your team can have access to (and achieve).
Paulette Piñero is the owner of LEAD Media LLC, a leadership coaching and management consulting firm that helps professionals of color get the confidence and skills they need to take the next step in their careers.