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The Strategic Plan Template

planning Oct 05, 2023

Today we start on the Planning & Budgeting series which will continue for the next 6-8 weeks.

I'm excited for us to walk through this together!

If you'd like to see anything specific, don't hesitate to reach out with your request.

But before we do, our sponsor this week.


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2 Fridays ago, I woke up and it was just one of those mornings.

You know the mornings I’m talking about.

Everything just feels right in the world.

The air is crisp. The energy is high. It’s going to be a great day.

In this case, it was because I was going on a golf trip for the weekend. 4 rounds of golf in 3 days… doesn’t get much better than that.

This isn’t a tragic story, either. I played great golf, had a great time, and got home without an injury (which in and of itself feels like a big win).

You know the feeling I’m talking about, right?

So, maybe I’m weird (I know I am), but I get that feeling when we talk about what we’re talking about today: Strategic Planning.

It’s not a sexy topic. It’s not one that gets most excited. But for me, it’s a signal. A signal of the possibilities that lie ahead and the pleasure of taking my vision to a plan.

Now enacting the plan? That can stink. But the vision casting? That’s the part I love.

Yet, too many get intimidated by the strategic plan. “Why can’t I just do the work?” they ask.

You can and you will. But without some forward thinking, competing forces mean you didn’t do your best. Last week I told a story about just that.

So, let’s zoom out for a moment before we dive in. What is a strategic plan?

A strategic plan is simply acknowledging where you are now, where you want to be, and creating a plan to get to that future place.

That’s it. We’re going to get into some details today, but don’t let yourself drown in them.

If you accomplish the 3 things mentioned, even if you get there a different route, you’ve done the work. Good job.

Today, I’m going to talk through the process I like, which I’ll build upon in the coming weeks.

So, let’s get into the details.

The Strategic Plan Framework

When you break it down to the minimum required elements, a strategic plan will:

  1. Spell out your strategic objectives
  2. Identify the actions/steps needed to reach them
  3. Assign a person responsible for each action/step
  4. Provide a date by which you plan to complete the step

I like to add a few more things that help add a little color:

  1. Vision & Mission
  2. Assess where you are (SWOT Analysis)
  3. Core Values review
  4. Review your past successes & failures

Since Vision, Mission, and Core Values don’t impact the financial results, I won’t be addressing these. Go to some other “guru” to get their templates. 🙂

For the rest of the items, we’ll attack some today and some over the next few weeks. Part of that is a function of this process: a strategic plan isn’t made in one day. It’s something you sit with, massage, and ultimately settle on after considerable thought.

So for today, we’ll walk through:

  1. Review the Past
  2. Assess where you are (SWOT Analysis)
  3. Brainstorm your strategic objectives

In the future, we’ll:

  1. Analyze & finalize your strategic objectives
  2. Identify the actions/steps needed to reach them
  3. Assign a person responsible for each action/step
  4. Provide a date by which you plan to complete the step

Let’s dive in.

Review the Past

If you have a plan from the previous year, review that plan and grade yourself and how you did in the strategic objectives. Did you accomplish them? If not, was that intentional or did you fail? Were there any factors that weren’t anticipated? For example, for many businesses, 2020 was a wash. They set their goals for the year, but then a pandemic shut down their business. Sure, you might have achieved some goals, but for many businesses that wasn’t possible.

Instead, you assess yourself on a curve.

  1. What outside circumstances resulted in a change of our priorities?
  2. Did we actively CHOOSE the new priorities? If so, how did we do?
  3. If we didn’t CHOOSE them, what stopped us from making a more active choice?

When we deviate from the plan, we need to be intentional about that deviation. If intentional, we can document the reasons and the new plan, then evaluate against that when the time comes.

It’s when we don’t have a plan and start throwing thoughtless hail marys that we end up in trouble. It’s those actions that we should evaluate to avoid in the future.

Once you’ve reviewed the strategic plan, it’s time to ask the next set of reflection questions:

  1. What did we do well?
  2. What did we do poorly?
  3. What surprised us?
  4. What are successes that we want to repeat?
  5. What are failures we want to avoid in the future?

Ask these questions of the business as a whole, but also your different departments and teams.

If done right, there should be some tough conversations here.

Once you’ve reflected, it’s time to move to the next step: the SWOT Analysis.

SWOT Analysis

No, we’re not talking about fly swatters… though those are a useful tool to keep around your house and office.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Strengths and weaknesses are internal attributes. Opportunities and threats come from looking outside the business at the industry.

Simply, fill each section out:

  1. Strengths: what your business does well; assets or resources you have.
  2. Weaknesses: what your business doesn’t do well; asset or resource limitations.
  3. Opportunities: underserved or emerging markets.
  4. Threats: changing environment, competitors, or regulations

Here are some questions on each section to get you thinking:


  1. When do customers rave about us?
  2. What is unique about our product or service?
  3. Do we have any supplier, customer, or distribution advantages?
  4. What about our employees makes us different than our industry?
  5. Where do our systems or procedures excel?
  6. Are our profit margins above or below industry standards?


  1. Where do we fall short with customers?
  2. How does our product or service fall short of our competitors?
  3. Where do our suppliers, customers, or distribution put us at a disadvantage?
  4. Where do we have staffing or employee shortcomings?
  5. Where do our systems or procedures fall short?
  6. Where are wasting time and money?


  1. What industry, social, economic, or political trends create an improved industry outlook?
  2. Is the overall market growing or shifting positively?
  3. What new trends or opportunities are emerging?
  4. Are there ways to expand geographically?
  5. How could technology be used to improve our business?
  6. Are there any indirect competitors or industries that could provide new avenues for growth?


  1. What industry, social, economic, or political trends could work against us?
  2. Are there any new competitors or growth of existing competitors?
  3. Is the overall market shrinking or shifting negatively?
  4. Is there any technology that could hurt our business?
  5. Are there any indirect competitors or industries that could hurt ours?

If you want to do this analysis, I’ve provided a template you can use:

Image // PDF // Fillable Document

Once you understand each of these variables, you should have a deeper understanding of your business as a whole.

From this, you create your strategic objectives.

Strategic Objectives

Once you’ve broken down your SWOT Analysis, you should have a good feel for the business.

When looking at strategic objectives, your natural attention goes to Weaknesses and Threats in the SWOT Analysis. But we want to make sure we look at Strengths and Opportunities, as well.

You’re also okay to choose things here that aren’t immediately evident from the SWOT analysis.

Right now, we’re just brainstorming. Add any possible objective that comes to mind.

Then, days, or maybe even weeks later, start cutting the list down.

The size and complexity of the business, as well as the team you have, will determine how many strategic objectives you can tackle at one time. Narrow until you can’t anymore, then narrow some more. We aren’t making the final decision at this point, so don’t fret too much. We’re just choosing what we’ll do deeper analysis on.

We’ll go deeper into choosing strategic objectives next week:

  1. Types of Strategic Objectives
  2. How to analyze them
  3. Financial analysis

Can’t wait to share this next week!


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