Unraveling the Strategic Planning Process for Small Businesses – Part I

Here’s the first part of a two part series designed to help small businesses understand the strategic planning process.  This first part focuses on the BIG picture or visioning process as it’s often called.  The second part will focus on the steps taken annually to develop and update an organization’s plans. 

Both articles are written in everyday language and hopefully provide practical ideas for your small business.  My goal is to explain the variety of terms employed in strategic planning that are also used in budgeting and other planning processes.  I’m relying on definitions, explanations and examples of the most frequently used terms.

When an organization discusses and develops its vision, mission, or statement of purpose, they’re focusing on statements to guide the entity for the long term and are quite broad.  You’ll find that organizations of all sectors undertake this process including for-profit companies, non-profits and governmental agencies.

So at this top level, we’re talking about the WHY of a business or organization.  These statements
• don’t involve the use of numbers
• won’t change from year to year (that is until the next visioning process is undertaken)
• will be incorporated in numerous company documents
• should be shared with employees, customers and prospects.

If you read a variety of books on strategic planning, you’ll find authors offering varying descriptions of these terms; I want you to remember as a small business that you really just need to have one of these statements that expresses what you want your business to become in the long term.  Whether you call it a vision, mission, or statement of purpose is not significant, but creating one is!  The following definitions are based on Barbara Findlay Schenck’s highly recommended book, Small Business Marketing for Dummies. 

A vision is a statement of what your company strives to be in the desired future.  A vision statement uses verbs or action words such as eliminate, make, or find.

A mission is a statement of how to create your vision, i.e. the core purpose of and the approach you’ll take to achieve your vision.  Some experts refer to it as the general path. A mission statement uses verbs and action words such as build, travel or rehabilitate.

A statement of purpose is usually a combination of the vision and mission.  This statement defines your purpose and states your long-range goals and core values.  It might also state the positive changes you are trying to create.

Here are examples:

  • Microsoft – to enable people throughout the world to realize their full potential
  • 3M – to solve unsolved problems innovatively
  • Southwest Airlines – The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.
  • Merck – to preserve and improve human life
  • Avis – to ensure a stress-free rental experience by providing safe, dependable vehicles and special services designed to win customer loyalty
  • Walt Disney – to make people happy
  • Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream – A product mission stated as: “To make, distribute & sell the finest quality all natural ice cream & euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.” This mission inspired Ben and Jerry to build a cause-related company.
  • Mary Kay Cosmetics – to give unlimited opportunity to women
  • Wal-Mart – to give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same thing as rich people

If you’re currently working on your vision, here are a few quick guidelines.
• Define a person or an organization by setting out the basic purpose for being
• State what you value and are trying to accomplish
• Use to inform, motivate or involve
• Incorporate the parent company’s mission into yours if you’re part of a large organization.

If you’d like to share your vision or mission statement, just email it to me at kgbmarketing@hotmail.com.

The second article will focus on the annual process of planning and strategizing for your small business.  The primary terms we’ll discuss are goals, objectives, strategies and tactics.