The Foundations of Strategic Planning
3 minute read

You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” This quote, originally said by Simon Sinek, is for entrepreneurs looking to inspire action as a mechanism for growing their business. The following article will speak to the importance of PURPOSE as the foundation of strategic planning and how to build a roadmap for success, working backwards from where you want to be in the future.

Rule #1: Hope is not a strategy. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner, every VtSBDC advisor will remind you that progress does not happen just because you *hope* it will. Building a strong business starts with developing a strategic plan that will guide you through the next four weeks, six months, three years and beyond. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but the Strategic Planning framework we use starts with the WHY, which will then shed light on the HOW.

Before you get started on your Strategic Plan, you’ll need to recall our good friend: the Business Model Canvas. Probably the most important element of the Canvas is the VALUE PROPOSITION. What problem are you solving? What pain point are you alleviating? Keep this element in mind as we go through the Foundations of Strategic Planning and notice how your value proposition (unique selling point) becomes more defined. 

The key elements we’ll focus on are vision, mission and core values

Vision: A vision statement is usually abstract, focusing on the big picture, and acts as the ‘North Star’ for your long-term goals. Ask yourself, how do you envision the future? How does your business contribute to that future? 

Source: The FBI Strategy 

The FBI’s Vision Statement is to be, “ahead of the threat through leadership, agility and integration.” In the Strategy pyramid above, the vision is the top layer that guides the organization. Every action, no matter how small, should be in line with the vision you establish. As a business owner, it’s imperative to create and communicate a clear vision so your team can devise effective and supportive business decisions. 

What is your abstract, long-term vision? 

Mission: In short, a mission statement should define your reason for being and allow customers to see the way you fit into their lives. Why do consumers need your business? 

The FBI’s mission statement clearly explains their reason for being: “to protect the American People and uphold the Constitution of the United States.” From this, we understand the VALUE of the FBI, and how it is directly related to their long-term vision.

Another great example is the Ben & Jerry’s mission statement: “Ben & Jerry’s operates on a three-part mission that aims to create linked prosperity for everyone that’s connected to our business.” Ice cream is not actually mentioned in this statement; however, it’s clear to see how their product is a means (strategy) of shaping the future they envision.   

What is your mission as an organization? 

Core Values: You may not have written them down yet, but your core values should drive every business decision. Especially as you build a team, it’s important to have a shared understanding that allows you to make the best choices for your business and your customers. 

The FBI’s CORE VALUES are show at the bottom of the pyramid: Compassion, Accountability, Respect, Leadership and Integrity to name a few. These principles are the foundation on which the entire organization is built and relate directly back to the mission and vision. Writing out your core values (grab some post-it notes!) will help you create and implement your strategic objectives.

What are your core values? What fundamental principles drive you?  

Rule #2: Progress not perfection. Taking these first steps toward defining your business’s purpose will enable you to devise more intentional strategies and tactics. Remember, this process might take multiple drafts and that’s okay! Remain focused on your WHY and let it inform your future business decisions.

Now that you’ve defined WHY you do what you do, it’s time to translate that into an actionable BUSNINESS STRATEGY. VtSBDC advisors recommend setting SMART goals (outlined below) to help you set and accomplish your goals.

My business will sell masks at the Chelsea Farmers Market.We will sell 10 masks every Friday for the season.After starting off at the Farmers Market we will start selling our masks on Etsy.I will do this for all 19 weeks of the Chelsea Farmers Market.The Farmers Market is six weeks away. I will have an inventory of 95 masks to cover the first half of the summer.

If you get stuck at any point in this process, ask yourself why you support a certain business and look to others for inspiration. Though it may feel tedious, defining your vision, mission and core values are key elements of your VALUE PROPOSITION and vital to a successful business.

Looking for more? Check out our resources page or reach out to your regional advisor!

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