6 steps to create a better strategic plan

Most strategic plans fail because they don't exist in the first place.
By Guest |  19-07-17 | 
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Morningstar invites thought leaders from the investment community to share their insights. Views expressed are personal and should not be construed as investment advice.

This post has been written by Allyson Lewis of The 7 Minute Life for MorningstarAdvisor.com.

"There is nothing brilliant nor outstanding in my record, except perhaps this one thing: I do the things that I believe ought to be done… And when I make up my mind to do a thing, I act." --Theodore Roosevelt

The first reason so many strategic plans fail is that so many people don't have a strategic plan.

Simply put, your strategic plan should provide a structural framework for several key elements of your business and should allow you to articulate your plan in a written format. Your strategic plan should answer, "What exactly do we do?"

It should also ask three of my favorite questions:

  1. Where are we today?
  2. Where do we want to be in the future?
  3. How do we plan to get there?

The biggest problem is that we are all so bogged down with focusing on the distractions of our daily lives that we have difficulty taking the time to focus our full attention on creating a strategic plan. With this in mind, below are six concrete steps that we have put into a flowchart to help you develop your strategic business plan. Along with several of these steps, you are invited to visit the Member Tools section of our website to download free copies of the worksheets discussed in this article.

6 Steps to Create a Better Strategic Plan

  1. Rank Your Priorities: Many strategic business plan templates begin by having you answer the question, "What do you do?" I would encourage you to take this deeper by asking several additional questions, "What is most important to you?" "What's the point?" "What do you value in life?" "What makes your life meaningful?"

Remember that it requires you to remove the distractions and the noise from your daily activities for you to focus your full attention on answering these difficult questions. When was the last time you took even a few minutes to think about what was most important to you at work and at home?

Download the one-page "Prioritize Worksheet" PDF and rank your top 10 priorities. Once you have completed this step, you will have started the process of creating a solid foundation for your plan.

  1. Rediscover Your Purpose in Life: Your strategic plan should connect with you at a level that fuels you and drives you forward. It can only do this when your plan is in alignment with your purpose in life.

We believe:

--Purpose is how you serve others.

--Purpose is how you use your gifts and talents to change the world.

--And love is the foundation of purpose.

Download the one-page "Purpose Worksheet" PDF to rediscover your purpose in life.

  1. Understand Your Life Goals: To be successful, your strategic business plan should be in sync with your overall life goals. "Where are you in life?" "What life goals do you want to accomplish?" "What has been keeping you from taking action?"

Written life goals are powerful magnets. When you take out a blank sheet of paper, the sky is the limit. Only you can decide what you want to accomplish during your lifetime. But time is a limiting factor. If your life expectancy is close to 80 or 90 years, how will you choose to spend that time?

Again, are your life goals lining up with how you are spending the years, months, days, and even minutes you have ahead of you?

  1. The Timeline of Your Life: For some reason we humans want to believe that we can accomplish everything right now. We live in an instant-gratification world, and we want things to happen quickly. The reality is that you can't do everything right now. And because there are only 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in each day, and 31 or fewer days in each month--you have to choose how you will spend your time.

One of the best tools in strategic planning is to decide when you will choose to implement various goals and actions into your plan. Some actions can be accomplished soon, but others may need to be done next year, and others may need to be put into a three- or five-year timeline.

By creating a more realistic timeline for your business plan, you reduce stress and can spend your current attention, focus, and energy concentrating on the goals you have determined should be accomplished first.

  1. Create Written 90-Day Goals: When you are formulating your 90-day work goals, remember that in a 90-day period, there are only 60 working days with approximately 480 working hours. If you choose to create a written strategic business plan, you must understand the limited amount of time you have to work. Eight hours a day is not much--especially when you consider all of the unscheduled interruptions, phone calls, meetings, appointments, text messages, and distractions.

On our 90-Day Work Goals Worksheet, you may find it helpful to set only a few written goals that you will commit your full resources and daily activities to accomplishing.

The steps highlighted so far have been structured to help you create a strong foundation by ranking your priorities. Then we suggested you rediscover your purpose and understand your life goals. Next--because you cannot do everything right now--we suggested you create a timeline for your life and further begin to narrow the focus from a lifetime perspective to a 90-day viewpoint by creating written 90-Day Work Goals.

Strategic plans fail because there are no plans. Do you know what your priorities are? Could you tell the person next to you what your driving purpose is? Have you created a bucket list of your life goals?

All of that is important, but one thing is for sure--the next 90 days will come and go whether you have a written plan of action or not. And the success of your strategic plan may be decided by how well you can execute on Step 6.

  1. Create a Daily Written Plan of Action for Today--5 before 11: Creating strategic plans and executing strategic plans are very different. Today is really all you have. When you woke up this morning and walked into the office, it is likely that you had some type of mental plan for what you hoped to accomplish. Unfortunately, if you are like many financial advisors, the reality is that once the market opened and once the phones started ringing and the emails started pouring in, what you planned to accomplish and what you actually accomplished were two entirely different things.

The final tool I would like to share is called The 7 Minute Life Daily Progress Report, and it also can be downloaded as a PDF at http://www.the7minutelife.com/member-tools/.

Interruptions and distractions are going to be a part of your world. But what if you took seven minutes the day before to create a daily written plan of action for the top five projects or high-value activities that you would make a commitment to accomplish before eleven o'clock the next morning?

If you would accomplish five high-value activities every day for the next seven days, you would accomplish 35 high-value activities in the next week!

If you would just commit to accomplishing your 5 before 11 for the next 90 days, you would take 450 steps toward accomplishing your strategic business plan, your life goals, your purpose, and your priorities.

As a financial advisor, you need to create a written strategic business plan. The difference between having a plan and not having a plan is unimaginable. Make it a point to set a time on your calendar to create your strategic plan.

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