Entrepreneurs have it constantly drilled into their heads; you’ve got to have a business plan. You may have written and rewritten your plan so many times you can now do it in your sleep. But when it comes to strategic planning, you have to clear your mind and look at your business from a new perspective.
A business plan usually runs quite a few pages detailing the company’s products or services, market, competition, unique positioning, operating details, staffing, and financial projections. Creating the plan requires mentally rehearsing everything that’s going to happen over the next few years in a reasonable amount of detail.
A strategic plan, on the other hand, is comparatively brief. At most a page or two, it jumps further into the future envisioning how the market, business climate, or technology will have changed in three or four years, and what the company needs to do to continue being successful and competitive in the predicted new environment.
When you’re head-down in the details of keeping the company thriving in the short term, though, it can be difficult to get out of the trenches and climb a nearby hill to get a clearer view of the future.
For most people, getting out of the day-to-day environment is essential to freeing the mind from the daily barrage. Many business leaders find their annual vacations perfect for spending time reflecting on the future of their companies.
Even away from the office, however, it can still be a challenge to stop thinking about that new account, or that critical staff position you have to fill, or those nagging production line problems. To break out of that mindset, you can use a technique called “.”
To understand flashing forward, you have to first flash back. Think back about three or four years and recall how your business was operating then. If the business is not that old, then think about where you were in your own life. Pick out the important things that have changed between then and now.
Remembering those long ago times, could you have foreseen the important things that changed to create the environment you’re in today? What could you have predicted? What do you wish you had predicted? Without knowing what was coming, what could you have done to position yourself better for the present? What did you do that you’re patting yourself on the back for now?
Now flash forward. Picture yourself three or four years in the future looking back on the present. What is it your future self wishes you had foreseen today? What signs did you miss? What little voice in the back of your head did you not listen to?
At this point you can start becoming specific. From your future vantage point, what changed in the market place? What did the competition do that you didn’t? When did you unexpectedly need financing that you weren’t prepared for? What technology advances affected your business the most?
Putting yourself in the future looking back, you’re using a skill you already have – 20-20 hindsight – to help predict the future.
By imagining what’s coming, you can see what’s needed now to prepare. When you put it on paper, it’s your strategic plan.