Strategic Planning for Growth
Strategic Planning for Growth
Many of you have successfully operated your business for years without any other goals than to be good at what you do, pay your bills, and make some profit; so you may be asking yourself, ‘what is so important about a strategic plan and why do I have to start now?’. In practice, A Strategic Plan allows you to make corrections and decisions about day-to-day workflow problems, personnel, and other company issues in the context of a bigger vision for what the practice will be in the future.
For example, if your Strategic Plan includes future aspirations for improved online-store sales and you have a present need for a new website, one can make a more discriminating choice when selecting the design and capability of the website since you understand both the current and future demands that will be placed upon it.
Here’s another example: Let’s assume that you purchase a hundred acres of land with the intention of going into the farming business. One of your most immediate needs includes the construction of a barn in which to shelter cows and, with 100 acres of land before you, you have many options. However a long term Strategic Plan for a future farm operation that includes rotational grazing, a safe manure-composting site, livestock transportation access, water and power lines, and a U Pick Blueberry Patch more constructively informs your decision of where to put the barn today.
The Anatomy of a Strategic Plan
Simply put, the Mission statement articulates the business’ unique relevance and reason for being to consumers, employees, the community and the world. It is the start of a company wide dialogue that will last the lifetime of the company in which employees and owners regularly compare their actions to their company’s ambitions and reconnoiter their efforts as needed. Mission Statements are essential to Strategic Plans as a way to give meaning to goals and generally point all effort in the same direction. Remember these axioms when constructing your Mission Statement
Use original, inspirational language
Since part of the goal of the Mission Statement is to inspire, make sure that the language of the Mission is inspirational. Avoid cliché phrases like ‘treat every pet like our own’ or ‘our clients are like family’. While these statements may hold some truth for you, as a profession, we’ve become too inured against the meaning of these words. Like ‘Have a Nice Day’ and ‘Bless You’, these phrases wash over us. Choose language that arrests. You want both employees and clients to read the Mission, stop, ponder, and to be impressed with its meaning.
Mean what you say
Reflect on every word used in the Mission. Ensure that it is reflective of what you are genuinely trying to articulate to the reader.
Allow the Statement To Evolve
The best Mission Statements tend to be somewhat philosophical by nature. They’re an attempt to describe in writing your core reasons for becoming a veterinary professional and for choosing to pursue a livelihood in which you care for pets, pet owners, and employees. It’s not uncommon to hit close, but ultimately miss the point on the first couple of drafts. Regular dialogue with your team members about what the Mission Statement really means will help you alight on the right words.
Use It or Lose It
The best way to hone your Mission Statement and to ultimately see that it achieves its purpose as a guiding light for you and your practice is to regularly make decisions in the context of it. The next time you undertake a review of a team member, discuss a client service failure, plot out a pathway for improvement, do it in the context of the Mission. In this manner, you test its lofty language against the nitty-gritty occurrences of the day to day.
Certainly when considering Mission Statements we American’s have no further to look than our own Constitution which begins, ‘we the people of the United States in which to ensure a more perfect union…’ From the soaring language of this document, we have organized the efforts of some 4 billion people into the most powerful and successful nation in history; one that not only continues to function as a pioneer in space exploration, disease eradication, and liberties for all men and women, but one that also offers remedies for day-to-day disagreements between citizens and justice for individuals irrespective of their role in society, age, or nationality.
The acronym SWOT stands for the internal Strengths and Weaknesses and the external Opportunities and Threats that exist for a company in the present moment. A successful SWOT serves as a starting block for the company before its marathon journey to the Mission. It provides everyone involved in the strategic planning process an inventory of the status quo.
Typically, practices don’t need help creating a list of what’s wrong with the business, but sticking to an agenda of client service and patient care points may help to streamline the discussion. Use the Cycle of Service wheel shown below to keep you focused on areas of the practice that should be your highest priority.
While the Mission Statement is sweeping and epic in proportion, the Vision is a more realistic and proximal list of aspirations. You can think of the Vision as the Mission Statement close enough in time so that the various goals comprising it can be seen clearly and measured.
For example, if your Mission Statement includes goals for the a lifetime of quality care for pets, the Vision goals might include concrete plans for a pet hospice service and an understanding of how the service would be provided and marketed. Vision Goals are what strategic plans most actively serve, with the Mission Statement more distantly positioned.
Strategic Goals are mileposts in the leadership’s efforts to move the practice from where it exists currently towards the Vision Goals. They are qualified as strategic because they must be executed in particular manner and sequence in order to successfully advance the business forward.
The strategic plan prioritizes the strategic goals and maps out actions that the leadership and support team must take to successfully achieve them. They are always responsive to events as they unfold and may change as needed. Like valuation, Strategic Planning seems like it should be straightforward. In reality, it’s a highly subjective pursuit. It must be designed with the participants’ communication styles and their business experience in mind.
Typically, the identification of goals, weaknesses, strengths, opportunities and threats is manageable by all who participate. The part this is not suited for everyone is the formulation of a strategy of how to move from where you are now to where you would like to be in the future. In my experience, this part of the process is best handled by one or two members of the group, working on their own time, who are especially eager to outline a plan or believe that they can ‘see’ their way forward. Once they complete an outline, they can bring their thoughts back to the group for input. Starting with something other than a blank slate is all that the remaining members of the group need to stimulate their thinking.