Long-term planning is more important than ever for small businesses. If there is one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic taught us, it's that being prepared for the unexpected is of vital importance.

One way to set yourself up for success is to have a strategic plan. This is a blueprint that includes decisions on what your business hopes to accomplish, what resources you need, and how you intend to make it happen. It can get your staff on the same page to implement this strategic plan and help turn your goals into a reality.

1. Start with a Vision

Before you can create a long-term strategic plan, you need to have a vision and understand exactly what that entails. Your team should also have an understanding of your vision.

"You should be able to define your company vision in 100 words," says Jodie Shaw at Bplans. "Develop this statement and make it publicly available to both employees and customers. This statement should answer the key questions that drive your business: Where is your company headed? What do you want your company to be? If you don’t know the answer to these questions off the top of your head, then you have some thinking to do! If you have the answers in your head, but not on paper—get writing." 1

Writing out you vision will help everyone get on the same page and help you better visualize your thoughts. It will also help you hold yourself accountable.

2. Use SMART Goals

Goals are the most important part of a strategic plan, so the first thing you should do is define those. Try using "SMART goals, " a concept that businesses have utilized for decades. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based.

To meet these criteria, goals should be as specific as possible rather than vague. In order to be measurable, the measure of success should be defined so that it can easily be tracked. To be attainable, it must be realistic. Otherwise, success will be much harder to come by. To be relevant, your goals need to make sense for your business model. For the time factor, work out when your goals need to be met. To learn more about SMART goals, click here.

3. Give your Business a SWOT

Conduct a SWOT analysis in order to better understand your business. SWOT is another acronym, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT analysis allows you to identify each of these as they pertain to your business.

LivePlan has some helpful ideas on how to conduct a SWOT analysis, including gathering people from different departments in your company and getting their thoughts about the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

"I suggest giving everyone a pad of sticky-notes and have everyone quietly generate ideas on their own to start things off," writes Noah Parsons of LivePlan. "This prevents groupthink and ensures that all voices are heard. After five to 10 minutes of private brainstorming, put all the sticky-notes up on the wall and group similar ideas together. Allow anyone to add additional notes at this point if someone else’s idea sparks a new thought."

Strengths might include successful business processes, competitive advantages, talent, and/or physical assets, such as equipment or technology. Weaknesses might fall along similar lines, depending on competitors' strengths. Opportunities should consider market trends, events, ways to improve your reputation, etc. Threats would include circumstances beyond your own control that may have an impact on your business. Effects from the pandemic would certainly qualify in that category.

4. Include Room for Flexibility

A plan is only a plan, and in reality, things rarely happen the way we expect them to. Try to prepare for the unpredictable by leaving your business some leeway. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for flexibility for millions of businesses. Build a long-term plan that enables you to be agile and tap multiple sources of revenue if possible.

5. Take Care of the Short-Term First

In order to plan for the long term, you need to first have a short-term plan. Developing a clear path for the next few weeks or months will help you achieve milestones and paint a better picture of what the future may look like.

6. Regularly Review and Update Your Plan

Plans are rarely perfect, so don't be rigid and inflexible. Regularly review what is working and what is not, and use that information to make adjustments that will set you on a better path.

Many businesses are sharply focused on the short term, and that may be necessary for survival today, but as you help navigate your small business’s way to success, crafting a long-term strategic plan can help you chart the course you need for years of success.

If you would like help developing your business plan, please make an appointment with a financial professional at a Nevada State Bank branch or Business Center.


1. https://articles.bplans.com/11-tips-for-creating-a-long-term-strategic-plan/

2. https://www.liveplan.com/blog/what-is-a-swot-analysis-and-how-to-do-it-right-with-examples/