Running a business of any kind requires leadership, positivity, energy, spirit & enthusiasm and risk taking with an appropriate measure of conservative controls. If the business is not run with the proper balance of each of those attributes, it is difficult to achieve, grow or even just plan.
Planning is a process that includes reviewing data, considering alternative pathways, researching, considering other people’s opinions and setting a course. From the very first moment, you are likely to find yourself off course. It’s just simply part of the process.
As opposed to writing your plan on the back of a napkin, organizations of all types have learned to implement a formal planning process called Strategic Planning. The process is intended to create a well thought out plan of action made up of goals to achieve in the future and includes steps to realize those goals.
Key elements of a strategic plan usually include:
1. Mission and Value Statements
This is where you define the organization’s purpose and long-term goals. How the business treats its customer (Customer Service) should be included in this section.
2. Goals and Objectives
Explain what the organization aims to achieve. Spell out measurable targets.
3. SWOT Analysis
This would be a realistic view of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to the business.
4. Strategic Initiatives
Outline the actions and projects needed to achieve the objectives. As an example, if you seek to increase the size of the business by 50% in 3 years, what do you need to do? You might mention that you intend to grow your current store volume by ___% and add ___ more stores doing $________ per store on average, and/or add on an online component to your business, or build another division of the company — these are all examples of how to explain this part of your plan.
One important part of Strategic Initiatives that should involve a lot of thought is the amount of change, if any, to the way the business handles its customers. Usually customer service is a key component to any business that involves service. Without upholding the previous standards or improving upon such standards, the difference a business makes between its service and the service competitors provide will be lost.
5. Action Plans
This part would add more details that align with the Strategic Initiatives. Who, what, when, where and how.
6. Key Performance Indicators
We call these metrics and they help you measure your success.
7. Budget and Resource Allocation
You probably need financial resources to meet your Strategic Plan. Plus, people are needed. This is where you detail those resources you need.
8. Monitoring and Evaluation
How are you going to monitor the plan and/or make evaluations?
9. Risk Management
There are risks with every plan of action. What are they and what are you going to do to mitigate the risks?
10. Communication Plan
How will you inform the external and internal stakeholders?
11. Implementation Timeline
Create a schedule for each step of the plan.
12. Accountability and Responsibility
Which member of your team is responsible for what?
Some potential downsides of strategic planning include:
1. Resource Intensive: It is time-consuming and requires significant resources to develop and execute a strategic plan.
2. Inflexibility: Overly rigid plans may hinder an organization’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
3. Unrealistic Expectations: High expectations from a strategic plan can lead to disappointment.
4. Resistance to Change: Employees may resist changes.
5. Complexity: Elaborate plans can become overly complex and difficult to implement.
6. Uncertainty: The future is uncertain, and plans may not account for unexpected events.
It’s important to weigh these potential downsides against the benefits of strategic planning and tailor the process to the specific needs and circumstances of your organization.
Any reasonably-sized business has more than one person who is vested in the success of the business. They might be your spouse or partners or employees. It is vital that these “stakeholders” and the head of the business have the same vision for the business. A strategic plan helps to get everyone on the same page.
If you’ve gotten this far in the creation of your company’s Strategic Plan and it contains new ideas, congratulations are in order. More often than not, however, the strategic plan mirrors what the organization has done in the past and sets up conditions where hardly anything changes. In those instances, unless something surprising happens, the results achieved will not match up with the goals established. Unless meaningful change happens, meaningful achievements can’t happen.
I am sure you’ve heard that the pathway to success is not a straight road. You will certainly find roadblocks, potholes and required detours along the way. Regardless of these bottlenecks, a prudent business leader charts out a course and makes course corrections along the journey.
Your Strategic Plan provides a document to figure out how far you are off course and helps get you back on track.
Alan Miklofsky is a semi-retired shoe industry veteran and contributor to Footwear Insight. This is his ninth article in Footwear Insight. After a 40-year award winning career as a retailer, long-term board member of the NSRA (which included a stint as its Chairperson), Alan is currently a business consultant.
For more information on Alan, visit his LinkedIn page at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alanmiklofsky
Gold Medal Consistency
During my shoe career, I have found that one important motivator is consistency. Customers crave it and respond favorably to it. They want to know they can get a consistent product delivered in a specific manner. When customers don't receive the experience they expect, they sometimes become disgruntled and look for other places to shop. Customer Service is an important delivery system for products; otherwise one retail store would not be any different than buying from any other place.
Over a long period of time, our leadership team drilled into our sales associates the way in which we wanted our customers to be served. A high level of customer service became a non-negotiable standard and one of the ways our stores maintained top of mind awareness in our community among the customers who also valued fit, service, liberal return policies, sizes and widths and the best selection of the top athletic and comfort brands.
Standards become important if you make them important. People will do what you expect and inspect.
Consistent Habits Breed Consistent Results!
We took great pride in how we placed each year in the Gold Medal Customer Service Awards. As a result of all our work and the ongoing focus of the business on providing customer service, Alan’s Shoes was awarded first place in 2019 and tied for first place again this year. It has been almost two years since we turned the reins over to the fine folks at Sole Provisions, and I am exceedingly proud of the legacy we built and that continues to be maintained. — Alan Miklofsky