Why Your Creative Business Needs a Strategic Plan (and how to write one)

strategic plan

I know I know, “strategic plan” sounds SO unsexy, and so opposite of creative.

But trust me when I tell you it’s not. All this one off goal setting, monthly goal reviewing etc is pretty much in vain if not rooted in a bigger picture and a bigger plan. We tend to take a “this month” or even “this week” approach to goals. Creating idealistic lists based on the latest happenings around us. Completing a strategic plan helps you answer the following common business questions, definitively:

  • How did I get to where I am now?

  • Where do I want to go? What is my vision of success?

  • What is going to get in my way? What do I need to be aware of?

  • What do I need to do to get there?

  • How will I know I’m on the right track?

  • What type of support will I need (and when)?

First let’s cover the basics…

WHAT IS STRATEGIC PLANNING?

Let’s get super technical for a moment. In “traditional” business jargon, strategic planning is an organizational management activity used to create and set priorities, decide intended outcomes, focus time and resources, strengthen operations, and assess/adjust the organization's direction in response to a changing environment.

Translation: It takes intentional and disciplined time and effort, and sets your business focus for the year.

WHAT IS A STRATEGIC PLAN?

Logically, now that we’ve defined strategic planning, let’s define the plan itself. A strategic plan is a document used to communicate business goals, the actions needed to achieve those goals and all of the other critical elements developed during the planning exercise (read: goals + action steps).

Unlike a business plan, it is a living and breathing document. As it produces the fundamental decisions and actions that shape; what your business is. who you serve, what you do and why. An effective strategic plan, like the plan we will make, details not only where you intended to take your business, but also how you will know you’ve made aka been successful.

See, strategic plans and planning, despite the boring name, is a pretty dope tool and process. It puts an end to the very common pain points that we experience throughout our entrepreneurial journeys. Strategic plans/planning is the antidote for:

  • Wondering if you are on the right track

  • Wondering if you have the capacity to “take on” that additional client, or that additional project

  • Feeling like you don’t have any wins to celebrate

  • Feeling lost, stuck and/or stagnant in your business

  • Etc etc etc.

THE THREE PHASE STRATEGIC PLANNING PROCESS

You are three phases away from completing your own strategic planning process.

Just as with the definition, there is a more formal strategic planning process, but as creative businesses are a bit more unique, the process developed below, takes all of that into account.

This overview highlights the major themes of each phase, and much like when conducting your mid year review, there’s a little prep needed before getting started.

  1. Get away and create space for the magic to happen. Try to get more creative than just your living room or local Starbucks. You preparing to make magic happen, so step it up a little bit.

  2. Gather your materials. I mean EVERYTHING, metrics and more, from your previous year. As well as pencil, a brand new notebook, and sticky notes too. You’ll need it!

  3. Create your agenda. Look ahead at the phases and what they entail. Block out the time you will need (with a little extra) and intentionally commit to working each phase to completion!

\\PHASE ONE: START STRATEGIC PLANNING\\

This phase takes quite a bit of patience and discipline, as its a few steps. You’ll need to:

  • Define your business vision. Big picture only. Who are you and what do you want to achieve?

  • Turn your vision into goals. SMART goals, and choose which goals you want to achieve this year.

  • Break your goals into action items. Every single last detail that’s required to achieve the goal. These will be the details you use in Phase Two.

Don’t let these three bullets points fool you, in the Strategic Planning Intensive, the workbook walks your through these steps in a weeks time — and even that’s a stretch.

\\PHASE TWO: CREATE YOUR STRATEGIC PLAN(S)\\

Enter the 90 Day Strategic Plans...as in four of them. You read that right, it’s plans, because with this methodology you work in 90 day segments, aka quarterly. 90 days is just short enough that you don’t lose focus but long enough that you can make significant progress toward goals.

You’ll take the goals you development in Phase One, decide when you want to achieve them, plot them and get started on Phase Three for putting everything into action and staying on track.

\\PHASE THREE: STAYING ON TRACK\\

You need a few things to stay on track: performance metrics, to gauge success and the tools and systems for staying on task. Your success measures will be concrete milestones that show that you are on track, progressing as you had planned.

As far as staying on task, the best way to do this is to commit a system for tracking progress. Whether that is a calendar, project management app, or pencil and paper. You must set up a system for performing weekly and daily action steps. Assign tasks to yourself (or your team) and really stick to your deadlines.

And, voilà, you’re done!

Moment of transparency:

  • It’s not an east or quick process, but…

  • You can totally do this yourself.

In the words of my favorite Creative’s Lawyer, Ticora Davis, Google University is free. However, if you aren’t sure what resources to look for, and/or want to work through this process both efficiently and effectively, the first time -- let’s talk about what we can do together.

TRY THE STRATEGIC PLANNING INTENSIVE

The full program details can be found here.

In short, together we will work through the full three phases in one month. When I say together, I mean really and truly. This is beyond your 30min check in call, or even an hour. We will take the time we need to dive deep and do the real work.

Additionally, you’ll get the full workbook, including the supplemental guides and activities to support your planning now, and reviews in the future.

Cut out all the guesswork and create an effective strategic plan, with me, now!


“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
— Lewis Carroll