“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” – Tom Landry

Some days can feel run by each incoming email and deadline. In the midst of multi-tasking and putting out fires, and moving on to the next meeting or issues, how often do you stop to think about why you are doing what you are doing and where these micro-tasks are taking you?

A 2018 survey of small businesses found that 63% create strategic plans year-by-year. While annual strategic plans are critical in the same way that small objectives are towards overall goals, three-to-five year plans give businesses an advantage to stay ahead of competition, project and work towards new opportunities, and anticipate and prepare for pitfalls.

So if you have not already, carve out some time in your schedule to get to work on a long-term strategy. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Set a mission-informed goal: It sounds simple but when you get the pen and paper in hand it can also be daunting. Your business’s mission statement should inform your long-term plan’s goal and all components of the plan should align with the mission. The act of putting your goal into a few written sentences makes it tangible and concrete rather than an ambiguous and boundless moonshot.
  • Develop broad strategies: Step back from your plan’s goal and think about what the broad strategies you need to achieve, attain, or grow to get you there. Think of where there are gaps or steps of the ladder missing. Maybe you need to increase your partnerships or reach a demographic you are currently missing in order to meet your goal. In these cases, your broad strategies could be to establish a stronger targeted online presence and outreach toward potential partners or conduct focus groups and establish a marketing strategy specific to that demographic group, respectively.
  • Include SMART objectives: While you are thinking in broad terms, make sure to consider the steps along the way to reach those longer term goals using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely) objectives. Identifying the actions you need to take help actualize your goals bringing them from lofty to realistic. Keeping track of the measurements you identify ensures you stay moving in the right direction and informs when adjustments need to be made. In that busy multitasking day, these can inform what needs to be prioritized.

You may consider a template to get your started, however, When creating your plan, be flexible and factor in flexibility in the future. The plan should not paralyze the business if thing don’t play out in exactness, in fact you should include some components to prepare for worst case scenarios. The hardest part may be just getting started; there is no universal golden planning guide but taking the steps above will set you up for success.