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HOW TO PLAN LONG-TERM IN 5-MINUTE INTERVALS

Small businesses and start-ups are the backbone of our economy. So why do they fail so often?

For many, the answer is lack of long-term planning. 

Devin Lemoine and Eddie Gibbons, Ph. D., of Success Labs, a Baton Rouge-based management consulting firm, delivered an interactive presentation about strategic planning at a recent Tech Park Academy. In the presentation, they explained that long-term planning doesn’t necessarily involve filling out heavy three-ring binders with pounds of paper. Rather, you can make a little time go a long way by focusing on key areas. 

For this post, we’ve distilled Devin and Eddie’s actionable advice even further, so that even the busiest of entrepreneurs can think long-term. While extra time spent on long-term planning is almost always well-invested, here’s how you can do it in the shortest windows of time:

Five-Minute Interval #1: Write a quick mission statement.

A mission statement sepearates what you do from what you are. A clear mission statement helps you adapt to change and make decisions faster, among other benefits

Since the best mission statements are short, you can draft one in less time than say, a market analysis. Here are some examples of great mission statements:

Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” 

Microsoft: “To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.” 

Spotify: To give people access to all the music they want all the time - in a completely legal & accessible way.” 

One way to quickly create a mission statement is write one sentence that summarizes your business as quick as you can. Next, edit it down to only 12 words. Then, edit it even further to 10 words, then again to 6 and 8. Of these final four sentences, pick which one you think is the most memorable and easiest to repeat.

Five-Minute Interval #2: Draft a vision statement.

Success Labs defines a vision statement as an "aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future."

Visions statements can be long or short, but you can still jot down a draft in less than five minutes. Here are some examples of effective vision statements.

Feeding America: "A hunger-free America."

Make-A-Wish:  "That people everywhere will share the power of a wish."

But some vision statements are long.

Apple: "We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that's not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we. . .”

Whether your vision statement is long or short, dreamy or worldly, it should describe how you hope the world will change because of your business. 

Five-Minute Interval #3: Do an abridged SWOT analysis. 

To reiterate: you don’t have to create 10-pound three-ring binder to long-term plan. The Success Labs' basic method involves just two pages. 

One of these two pages is a SWOT analysis, which will increase your awareness of external threats and opportunities. (The second component is described below). 

Although complete SWOT analyses can take time to finalize, an abridged SWOT analysis finished in less than five minutes can still give valuable insight.  

To complete an abridged SWOT analyses, start with a pre-made template. Then, go around the template answering the following questions:

STRENGTHS — What do you do well?

WEAKNESSES — How could we improve, or what could your competitiors exploit?

OPPORTUNITIES — How can we profit from our strengths, or what trends could we take advantage of?

THREATS — How could our competition attack us, or what trends could harm us?

Five-Minute Interval #4: Write a few goals that advance your mission statement.

Now that you’ve nailed down your mission and vision, try penciling just three goals to help you fulfill your purpose. This’ll help you ensure steady progress.

Your goals can be anything, but the best are quantifiable. As Eddie explained at the Tech Park Academy presentation: “You cannot manage, unless you can measure.”

When setting goals, remember the SMART methodology, and make sure your goals are: 

  • S - Specific
  • M - Measurable
  • A - Achievable
  • R - Realistic
  • T - Timely

And there you have it: strategic planning for entrepreneurs in 20 minutes. When it comes to strategic planning, taking lots of time can pay off. But spending just 20 minutes thinking about the future can be all you need to stop your business from failing long-term.

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Stephen Loy