This post is not for those companies who have been doing strategic planning for years and have a solid process in place resulting in a clear plan.

This post is for you if your company falls into one these two groups

(1) You currently have no formal strategic planning process. “Formal” means you set aside focused time to think strategically about your business (typically in some off-site with your leadership team).

(2) You do not track your plan other than looking at your financials in an Excel spreadsheet each month

I think that companies just do not do “strategic planning” because it seems so daunting. Owners picture endless meetings and wasted time.

So, here’s a “lightweight” strategic planning framework that is proven to drive greater profitability.

I call it “lightweight” because as a small business, lightweight planning is exactly what you need. You need a quick process you can implement and get results from immediately. You need planning whose whole goal is to drive clarity and accelerate results.

Here’s the framework which is super simple and can be done in 1-day off-site.

  • Vision clarification (Where are we going, How will we behave & Why are doing what we’re doing)
    • BHAG review
    • Core values review
    • Core purpose review
  • SWOT (Where are we right now?)
  • As an extra step, you can ask your functional leads (sales, marketing, production etc) to give a quick 5-10 minute presentation on what is going right and what needs to be improved.
  • Top 3-5 business goals (What should we focus on over the next 12 months)
    • Who’s responsible
    • Determine KPIs – How do we measure success?
  • A system to track the output of your plan & determine how you will check-in

We’ll go through each one in detail…

BHAG review (Where are we going?)

BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It’s a concept popularized by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great. Simply put, where would you like to see your business 5 years from now?

Here are some questions to spur your thinking:

In 5-10 years….

  • Our customers will say _______________ about our company
  • Our employees will act like this _______and will say __________about our company
  • We will do $______ in revenue and be _____% profitable
  • We will own _____% of the _______market
  • Our primary product will be__________
  • Our products and services will do _______for the market and will have _______impact on the world
  • We will be a leader at _________

It’s great to do this with your team since part of this process involves you downloading what’s in your brain and informing the team where you’d like the business to go. I’ve seen team members be surprised about the results here. This is a huge step towards driving alignment and mobilizing all the creative energy within your organization.

Core values review (How will we behave?)

Don’t have core values? Go here and read this first, then come back.

A core value review is exactly what it sounds like. You sit with your team and review your core values:

  • Get overall feedback from the team
  • Where have we “missed it”?
  • Where have we excelled?

Core values should be just that “core” values. These are things that are non-negotiables and the basis of your culture. You make hiring and firing decisions based on them. You need to live them.

You will be surprised at the response you get from your team on this. Invite them to challenge your company’s adherence to the stated core values. If you company is really falling down in a particular area, be transparent and put a plan in place to correct it OR throw out the core value.

Core purpose review (Why are we going there?)

Don’t have a core purpose? Go here and read this first, then come back.

Similar to what we did with core values, sit with your team and review your core purpose:

  • Get overall feedback from the team
  • Where have we “missed it”?
  • Where have we excelled?

This can be a bit tricky to nail down and may take several interactions to get right. It’s important to not define your core purpose by committee. Again, this is something that you should have a strong drive and passion for.

SWOT (Where are we right now?)

The SWOT analysis is meant to help you understand the current landscape of your business. What are the (s)trengths, (w)eakness, (o)pportunities and (t)hreats. With a SWOT you want to:

  • Eliminate internal weaknesses
  • Capitalize on internal strengths
  • Identify external threats
  • Invest in external opportunities

Weaknesses and Strengths are internal. Threats and Opportunities are external.

Spend some time with your team discussing each of these areas. When you do, priorities will begin to become clear for the business which can then be translated into goals for the business.

For example, if the fact that your employees are poorly trained emerges as a major weakness and it is affecting your ability to execute and keep customers happy, you may want to make improvement of that weakness a top priority for next year. The priority or goal would have implications on your budget (you’ll need to set aside money to pay for training etc.). Get the picture?

Top 3-5 business goals (What should we focus on over the next 12 months)

Once your SWOT is complete, as the question “What did the SWOT analysis reveal about potential areas of focus for next year?”

Challenge your team to write down those priorities (we call them goals). You may come up with 10 goals. Ask your team to rank them in order of importance. We encourage business to focus on no more than 6 goals each year (3 goals are even better).

Which goal is THE most important? Challenge your team to prioritize. This creates really clarity around what the business will be focused on over the next 12 months. This is critical because you only have so many resources and lack of focus causes a lack of results.

Determine Who’s Responsible

Once your goals are developed, make sure there is ONE person who is ultimately responsible for each goal. It can’t be two people or three people. It has to be one person. This can be tough in smaller organizations where people wear multiple hats, but it’s critical for goal achievement. Someone has to own it. Someone has to raise their hand and say “I’ll take the lead”.

Determine your KPIs

You must determine a way to measure each goal so everyone on the team knows when the goal is achieved. This is really a lagging KPI or result KPI. You will also what to determine some leading KPIs which are predictors of goal success, but for now, determine how you are going to measure goal achievement.

If you’re not sure what KPIs are or how they are used, here’s a great post to help you.

Use a system to track your goals & KPIs

Once you’ve clarified your vision (where you are going long-term, how you will behave, why you’re going there), where you are currently (your SWOT) and your short-term goals (where you are going over the next 12 months), you need a way to stay on track. We’ve created an easy to use online platform to do just that.


You need one place where everyone on your team can go to see the progress of your goals and which ones are in the “red” (meaning they are off track). This engages your team. It’s your scorecard. All teams need to know the score so they can make adjustments.

You can see in the example above; Greg D is responsible for “increasing sales from $2.5M to $3.5M by the end of 2016”. They are measuring revenue monthly and have a target of $291,666. The result for July was $260,000 and in the “yellow”.

The system should also allow team members to make comments or ask questions.

Final Words

Now let me ask you, if you implemented this framework would you and your team have greater clarity around where the business is going and what to going to focus on? How would this affect your results? Do you think this would result in more revenue and greater profit?

The title of this blog is,A 4-Step Strategic Planning Process Guaranteed to Increase Your Profit”. You might say, “that seems like pretty strong language, can you really say “guaranteed”?” I can. The fact is, when everyone on your team knows where the business is going and what the business is focused on, you can’t help but improve productivity. Even if you’re only saving 5 minutes of an employee’s time by making sure their priorities are 100% clear. It is well worth the investment in time. You need game plan if you expect to win.

If you need help facilitating a session like this, contact us, we’d be happy to help.

If you’d like a demo of Envisionable, the online system to track your strategic plan click here.

Lastly, here’s a free strategic planning agenda with more details and time frames.

Happy planning!