How to Prepare a Strategic Plan

By Tim Sternberg
9 Min Read

In my previous posts in this series I explored how small to medium sized businesses can capture their Vision and Mission through a practical Purpose Statement, and then how they should give early attention to defining their business Values so that personal behaviours are engaged and aligned with that.  However, it’s not enough to have Purpose and Values, even though we see them as the strategic foundations of any business – all businesses should have a strategic business plan to put them to work.


Do I Really Need a Strategic Plan ?

At this point some of our smaller clients tell us that they know what they are doing, strategic business plan is too hard and “only for big corporates”, or they’d rather “just get on with the job”.  I respond to that by advising them that:

  1. Yes, You Do Know What You Are Doing: but capturing your knowledge and ideas in a Strategic Plan is a really good way to double check your assumptions and thinking, to detect and fix any gaps or inconsistencies.
  2. The Best Strategic Plans are Simple and Jargon-Free: they use bullet points, diagrams and tables for brevity, and are written in plain language wherever possible.
  3. We Agree – There is No Substitute for Action: and the best way to make your actions effective and efficient is by drawing up a prioritised Action Plan as part of your Strategic Plan, following the most efficient and effective “critical path”.

And there are two other very good reasons why even small businesses should conduct strategic business planning: 

  1. Good Strategic Plans Prevent Business Failure: ASIC reported that 43% of Australian business failures in the 2019 financial year were due to poor strategic management – and the lynchpin of strategic management is having a good Strategic Plan. An already ailing business can benefit from this, too. Through business transformation planning, strategies to modify existing processes can improve a business’ overall health.
  2. Strategic Plans Help Secure Business Funding: angel investors, business lenders and government grant programs are much more likely to fund businesses that have solid Strategic Plans, and with fewer preconditions.


If you are still unsure, why not take 10min and complete our strategic health check Begin Strategy Assessment.  Or you can Speak to our Advisers 


How to Approach Your Strategic Plan

Creating a strategy and business plan doesn’t need to be a 20-coffee-mind-bending-marathon.  Here are my simple tips for getting a good job done quickly:

  1. Set Aside Dedicated Time: all of us who own a business need to set aside time to work “on” rather than “in” the business from time to time. 
  2. Start !: we all procrastinate from time to time, especially when dealing with novel challenges. 
  3. Set a Deadline to Finish: if you draft your Strategic Plan in one week or less you will maintain focus and consistency, but putting the draft aside for at least a day when finished and then reviewing again will help you see what you might have missed.
  4. Be Careful Using Complex Templates: there are plenty of examples out there that you might be impressed by, but how well do they reflect your unique business needs ?  Frankly, some of these templates seem to be more about making their authors look like they are really smart than actually helping clients.
  5. Own Your Work – but Get Help Where its Useful: some of the worst Strategic Plans are “outsourced”, where the business owner or leader does not feel personally connected to the work; however it can be wise to engage a trusted business adviser to help facilitate the process, eg by asking challenging questions, assisting with key research and checking for completeness. 


The Elements of a Good Strategic Plan

No two Strategic Plans should look the same, but we think that there are five elements that should always be present:

  1. Purpose & Values: why does your business exist and what will it do ?  And how will its people behave?
  2. Goals: what finite, clear targets will you set, at points in time, to show that your business is achieving its Purpose and living its Values?
  3. Strategy: how will your business go about achieving those goals?
  4. Actions & Measures: what will you and your people each do, and how will you assess progress, monitor results and remain accountable?
  5. A Critical Path: Plotting the actions based on priority over the next 12 months, ensuring that you are not “cramming” every action into the first few months and creating burn out and execution ceases. 


Learn more about our Strategic Planning Process  or speak to an adviser.


At the Advisory Collective we describe this model as “PGSA” – a more contemporary evolution of the classic “OGSM” model that some big corporates have used more or less well for over 50 years:

Goal Setting

Stages of Strategic Business Planning

There are three primary, linear stages to any Strategic Plan using the PGSA (or OGSM) model, with a number of substages:

  1. Formulate: analysis and strategy, including goal setting.
  2. Design: actions and measures for each goal.
  3. Implement: structures and control processes.
Strategy Framework


1. “Strategy”: the How of Your Business

Within the four elements of our PGSA model the one which seems to be the hardest for many business owners and leaders to capture is “Strategy”.  My tip here is to focus clearly on simple “how” questions, and use a system like our own Six Pillars Strategic Framework to ensure completeness:

  1. Strategy: how will you monitor your Strategic Plan?  How will you manage succession? How will you plan for a business exit?
  2. Customers: how will you market and sell your goods or services?  How will you attract and retain your customers? How will you beat your competitors?  How will you innovate?
  3. People: how will you attract, hire, manage, engage and align your people, and manage those risks?
  4. Finances: how will you budget, forecast and report your financial results?  How will you manage your cash, debtors, creditors and inventories? 
  5. Operations: how will you scale for growth?  How will you manage your operating constraints?  How will you procure?  How will you select business systems and premises? 
  6. Structures & Risks: how will you manage your relationships with co-owners, lenders and advisers?  How will you manage your risks? How will you manage your intellectual property?

One trick to keeping your Strategic Plan “high level” is to only use singular bullet points to capture your Strategy for each of the above in that document, and reserve any necessary detail for a focused Strategy for each Pillar, eg by developing a dedicated Sales and Marketing Strategy to describe “how” you will achieve your Customer Pillar Goals.


2. Actions & Measures

Once you have identified your Strategies you need to schedule practical, prioritised Actions that deliver targeted results.  You also need to think carefully about predesigned Measures – “what does success look like?”  So design, schedule and allocate the implementation work, to keep your Strategy on track.

Remember to keep your Actions and Measures simple, relevant and manageable – they only exist to serve and support your Purpose, and implement your Strategy so that you achieve your Goals.


3. Implementation

There is an “old but good” business cliche that most business strategies that fail do so because of poor implementation and execution.  And we agree that there is some truth to that.

We could write a lengthy post on this subject alone, but here are five simple steps to help you to implement your strategy well:

  1. Get Started ! you may easily slip back into “business as usual” if you don’t start implementing your Strategic Plan straight away.
  2. Be Accountable: Tell people that matter to you, like your family and your investors what you are now doing differently, and ask them to challenge you if you show signs of deviating from your new path without a good reason.
  3. Cascade: ensure that your Actions and Measures flow through to all day to day work practices, for both you and all of your team, following a “critical path”.
  4. Design Milestones: ensure that you have firm dates where you assess your progress against your Goals and Measures, e.g. through financial and KPI reporting cycles.
  5. Get Help: you may have come up with a great Strategy, but you may have gaps in your skillset when it comes to bringing it to life, so don’t be afraid to hire outside experts that can both help you with your implementation and also teach you valuable skills along the way. 

The Final Word: Plan for the Long Term, and Never Lose Sight of Your Purpose & Values

A great Strategic Plan might be fit for purpose over a number of years, with minimal refinements each year as you “learn by doing”.  It is therefore important to always focus on the “big picture” in your Strategic Plans. Jeff Bezos perhaps explained it best:

“It helps to base your strategy on things that won’t change. When I’m talking with people outside the company, there’s a question that comes up very commonly: ‘What’s going to change in the next five to ten years?’ But I very rarely get asked, ‘What’s not going to change in the next five to ten years?’ At Amazon we’re always trying to figure that out, because you can really spin up flywheels around those things. All the energy you invest in them today will still be paying you dividends ten years from now. Whereas, if you base your strategy first and foremost on more transitory things — who your competitors are, what kind of technologies are available, and so on — those things are going to change so rapidly that you’re going to have to change your strategy very rapidly, too.”

No matter what, never forget your Purpose and Values – because they make owning and leading your business worthwhile, and give your Strategic Plan its true meaning.


If you would like to learn more about our expertise in Strategic Business Planning or how we can help your business transformation process, please reach out to us. Speak to our Advisers 


If you are still unsure, why not take 10min and complete our strategic health check Begin Strategy Assessment.  

Tim Sternberg

Tim Sternberg

Tim is an expert in sales, marketing, recruitment and leadership with a particular flair for helping his SME...

View profile