Strategic Planning For Business Owners – The first in a Series

Wilson Zehr

Wilson Zehr

Wilson Zehr is CEO of Cendix the leading provider of Web-to-print solutions that automate on-demand one-to-one marketing campaigns and increase sales both online and offline. Cendix offers hosted Internet application software (Software as a Service - SaaS) for print shops, commercial printers, and enterprise marketing.

The start of a new year is an ideal time to reflect on the previous year’s performance and devise a plan for achieving success over the next 365 days. Without a healthy measure of planning and strategic thinking, the only way to achieve success is through sheer luck! Let’s be honest, as business owners, who is really okay with leaving their future to luck?

Day-to-day tasks can seem never-ending and it’s all too easy to get sucked in and spend days on end doing nothing to grow the business, only dealing with the current tasks. As the owner of a business, it’s great to get involved and steer the ship, but it’s crucial to take the time and focus on growth. Delegate as many of the day-to-day tasks as you can, so that you can focus on strategic development and growth. The survival of your business depends on this.

Step One: Reviewing the Previous Year

Over the next few weeks, our blog posts are going to focus on strategic management and this is your first installment. Step one is to carry out a fair assessment of the previous year. Ask yourself which areas were successful, which projects yielded the best results? Start by focusing on the successes, it’s important to celebrate these with your wider team. If you don’t already, consider holding an end-of-year awards event with your team to share the good moments and highlight those employees who went the extra mile. You can’t do this alone and your employees are your biggest asset.

The next step is to look at what you could have done better. It’s time to get brutally honest with yourself about what went wrong last year. Where did you miss the boat and which areas could have been improved on? Thomas Edison was the inventor of the incandescent lightbulb and founded Edison Electric which later became General Electric Corporation. The lightbulb was created based on 1,000’s of trial and error experiments in the lab. When asked later how it felt to “fail” so many times, Thomas Edison replied “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. The point is, it’s often in the failures that we learn the most. If we win every time we don’t learn how to problem solve and we, therefore, don’t learn resilience.

Rather than doing this exercise in your head, write down everything as you go. Use mind-maps, brainstorm ideas on a white-board or type up notes as you think. The process of writing things down re-confirms things in your mind. It spurs new ideas and it serves as a reminder each time you come back to your strategic planning. There is something more impactful about the process of formally capturing and evaluating each item.

Ask Why?

For every item, you list, whether a success or a failure you need to ask yourself why? Why was Project X so successful? Why did you lose that big deal? Why was employee retention lower last year? etc. For each ‘why’ you need to break it down further. Don’t simply write the obvious, but start to form a bigger picture of what caused the outcome. Usually, it’s a collection of several smaller actions/events that lead to a larger outcome.

This is a process that will take a little time. Now, time is something you probably don’t have a lot of. As a business owner that’s understandable and very normal! Simply try to commit a couple of hours to this task, to begin with, and break the process down. Follow this series of articles as they are published and use them a guide. Keep an eye out for new articles via our social media channels on Twitter, Linkedin & Facebook.