A common theme has emerged this week in my dealings with a number of clients - the value in stepping back and taking stock, the "helicopter view".

Often the "detail" situations that present themselves in business can cloud or blind us to the right decision, therefore any time spent looking at the big picture can be extremely valuable.

That's what strategic planning is all about.

Do you have a view of where you will be in your business in five years' time? Or next month for that matter? It's surprising when you learn that many businesses may not know where the next sale is coming from, let alone where they might be at a future point further down the road.

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It's important that you step out of the "day to day" to plot your course. If you were driving to a new town for the first time, it is unlikely that you wouldn't consult a map – so why would you operate a business that doesn't have a plan?

Our lives to this point have been exercises in strategic planning to different degrees. From learning to walk, mastering a sport, passing exams, developing relationships and even getting that job you want; you either overtly or intuitively set yourself a goal and aimed to achieve it.

In simple terms, that is what a strategic plan does in a business context. Now, you might have achieved a goal and moved on to the next or not quite achieved the result you wanted, the planning process doesn't stop there, you make another plan or refine the original – the planning process is fluid.

I read an article recently which described the results of a study of Harvard graduates. The results of the study were a description of the advantages of planning. Those graduates who had a plan and wrote it down were more than 90 per cent more likely to be successful than those that didn't.

The key to strategic planning is not so much the plan itself, although it obviously is important, it is the timeframes that you establish for achieving your goals and the accountability that is created for those tasked with achieving these objectives.

Where I get the most satisfaction, is in helping clients develop their strategic plans and seeing businesses, their owners and employees achieving their defined goals and objectives.

It is also an enjoyable process, because the key players in your business have an opportunity to consider and then contribute to the business' direction. And like when you were a child learning a new skill, independent advisors and experts can play a major role in assisting you on your way, pointing out the best way to achieve your goals.

While you might get by without a strategic plan, those who undertake the exercise will more likely get to their objectives – and quicker. It is also in your interests to have a strategic plan because your competitors may already have one!

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