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Strategic Planning
By Paul Fileman


The nice thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete and utter surprise and it is not preceded by long periods of worry, anguish and self-doubt!

Many people think that Business Strategy is another form of management baloney. If this the case, why do so many UK businesses fail?

  • In the UK nearly half of all small businesses fail in the first year;
  • 80% are gone after five years;
  • < 10% of all UK companies survive for more than 50 years;
  • The average lifespan of all companies is 10 years.

Why do businesses struggle?


  • Shared goals and a shared vision enable people who work together to make consistent decisions and to plan a coherent strategy. Without this direction, the business will always work in “999” mode. Over time, this is guaranteed to lead to short-term, inconsistent decision making, which in turn means that sales are not made, or that promises made during the sales cycle are broken, leading to poor customer satisfaction and lost sales.


  • Without a coherent plan, the business has no basis on which to decide how resources will be deployed.


  • Without a Strategic Plan, any Business Plan will most likely be flawed. In order to ensure that a business is properly funded, the business plan must be based on a realistic understanding of what will be delivered, to whom and with what resources and cost.


  • Having failed to plan, the management find themselves filling in all the gaps in the business. They become so busy dealing with “stuff” that their ability to manage and plan in the medium term is severely restricted, or even completely disabled.

The Strategy

Source: Malcolm McDonald / Martin Christopher / Simon Knox / Adrian Payne, Creating a Company for Customers, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-273-64249-9

Once you have a clear understanding of your business goals, and have ensured that your management team buy-in to these goals, you can start to work on defining your mission and values. These can only be defined if you have a sound understanding of your business, your market, your customers and your competitors. With this understanding, you can be certain of the reasons that your customers buy from you rather than the competition. Your mission and values follow from this.

Your strategy is the summary of your business change programme – all the things about your business in, say, five years time that are different from today (customers, suppliers, skills, capacity, volume, …..). Only when you have a clear strategy, can you establish the action plans to make the changes you have agreed. In the same way that a military Commander-In-Chief decides how to deploy their forces based on the military strategy and the agreed objectives, you are the Commander-In-Chief of your business.

Added: 10th December 2010

Paul Fileman is a business results improvement professional, marketer & mentor. He works with businesses to improve their profitability and performance. Find out more about Paul's company Results Zone.


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