71% of the fastest growing companies have a written business plan, and those who actually complete their business plan are twice as likely to succeed in growing their business (compared to those with no plans). Over time and with experience, you’ll find yourself having more things to plan for, and aren’t just looking at having one single long-term business plan to last your business a lifetime.
When creating business plans, you’re going to need to look at the short, mid, and long-term objectives of the company, and determine where you want to go, what you want to do – and how you plan on getting there to do it.
The long-term business plan can be one of the most daunting to piece together, as it often involves objectives and goals rather than specific timeframes or immediate actions that can be completed.
When putting together your long-term plan, there are a number of elements you need to carefully consider, and areas that need to be covered to make the plan useful, useable, and flexible enough to adapt over time.
Define Your Vision
Whether this is a plan for the entire company, or a single project – you need to start at the beginning. What is the vision for this plan? What are the big goals that you want to achieve with the plan?
At this stage, they don’t necessarily need to be data-driven or realistic, these are the best-case scenario and ultimate objectives that you’re identifying here, later on you may need to streamline them or remove them from the plan if they prove to be unobtainable, but for now you want to create your wish list of results.
Identify and Agree on Your Goals
Now is when you shortlist your goals and look at what is achievable – you need to evaluate what is going to have the biggest benefits, what will take the most time (and the least) and what are the priorities for success.
Determine a Preliminary Budget
It is unlikely that your budget will remain static throughout the process, but you need to at least have a general idea of what you are prepared to spend, and how much of the budget will be allocated to each part of the process.
Determining your budget may also see you returning to your goals and making changes to the priorities and whether you intend to go ahead with parts of the plan.
Create an Outline Strategy
Once you have the goals and tasks agreed, you need to work out how they’re going to be done – what needs to be done first, what is reliant on other parts of the process to proceed, and what needs to be implemented to ensure accurate monitoring and evaluation of the strategy as it rolls out.
Set Up Communication and KPIs
Long-term strategies often rely on other tasks being completed over time, or certain actions being taken at certain periods. You must set up a system to monitor the activities and actions and ensure that regular reports contain the right data – you need the right KPIs to ensure you know exactly what the current standing of the project is, and whether any changes need to be made. You also need to ensure you have a robust communication network ready, so action can be taken when needed, whenever it’s needed.
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You might be planning on a company wide task, where everyone is involved – but there should always be a main point of contact, and someone who has the responsibility of overseeing the project. This will help to make sure goals and milestones are met, that the right tasks are being done in the right order, and that the long-term goal is still obtainable.
When you create a long-term strategy, you need to think about the present and the future of the company – it is essential that you monitor the industry and your competitors and are flexible in your approach to achieving the best results.
The longer period of time you stretch your plan across, the more likely it is that there will be changes or alterations needed along the way, and it is also important to recognise that some plans, through no reason other than industry change, are not going to reach completion – knowing when to stop, and being able to absorb the risk involved in starting the plan is equally important.
Your business will grow, evolve, and change as time goes by – you need to ensure your goals within your long-term business plan remain accurate and relevant to your business needs.