jumpstart strategic planning

The fourth quarter is here, fall is in the air, and in the business world, it’s time to jumpstart strategic planning for the new year.

Do not permit yourself to be lulled into complacency. Yes, the weather is still balmy at times, and yes, the trees still hold some fall color. But year-end is less than twelve weeks away, and between now and then we welcome Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. With parties to attend, and shopping and feasting, it’s easy to postpone business planning until “later.” But before you know it, January 1st has come and gone, sweeping away all your great plans for a fresh launch into the new year.

Your best competitors are not complacent. They are already setting plans, developing tactics, and mobilizing. They are assessing their past performance as well as yours, and developing strategies to take you out of the game. Competition for the new year begins right now.

It’s time to act decisively. Take a critical look at your business. Identify opportunities and threats, and evaluate options to maximize your competitive position.

Jumpstart strategic planning with these 5 key questions:

  • What worked well in the past year? Consider the products, programs and campaigns that were successful. Analyze them to explore commonalities. Are these things you are able to replicate, and if so, do you want to replicate them? What improvements can you make? Are there other similar things you can offer, or can you expand on the key concepts? Success is good; learn from your successes.
  • What didn’t work? Face up to your failures, and learn from them. How could they have been avoided or mitigated? Do you want to modify them and try again, or eliminate them? What new options do you see? Growth comes from calculated risk, and failure can help define the path to success.
  • How is your marketplace changing? Be aware of the dynamics which can create opportunities for new winners and change winners into losers. Technology is changing daily, creating new capabilities and eliminating whole industries. Pocket calculators meant the end of slide rules (ask your grandparents about slide rules,) and self-driving cars will revolutionize transport. Anticipate disruption, and act now to meet new demands and markets.
  • How are competitors changing? What new entrants are coming into your marketplace? Grocery stores now face competition from big box stores and national online retailers. In turn, grocery stores are adding cafes with hot prepared foods, going head to head with fast food restaurants. What strategies are your current and future competitors using? How will you meet all these new challenges?
  • How are your customers changing? Are your customers aging out of your marketplace? Or are you having problems connecting with changing customer expectations? How can you take advantage of customer changes and trends to capture more of the market? What new products can you design to best meet future customer needs?

Be proactive. Jumpstart strategic planning and launch into the new year. Take a look back, and plan for the future. Assess your marketplace, competition, and customer base. Think now; act now and position your business to take the lead.