5 Steps to Create a 1-Page Strategic Plan for Your Business

5 Steps to Create a 1-Page Strategic Plan for Your Business
Image credit: Shutterstock

When I started Cutler PR six years ago, I didn’t have time to ponder and strategize over complex business plans. I needed to dedicate every second to getting results for our clients so that we could build a brand name and grow our reputation and referrals.

Since then, we've experienced amazing growth. So much so that now we can’t afford not to plan. Without a strategic plan, we may miss out on opportunities, stunt our growth and limit our success.

Related: Eternal Sunshine of a Flawless Plan: Winning Startup Strategies

However, I’m still very biased toward action rather than planning, and I believe that an overly complex business plan will not be helpful to me or anyone else in our company.

That’s why I absolutely love Verne Harnish's One Page Strategic Plan. As Harnish says, “if you want to get everyone in the company on the same page, then you need to literally get everything on one page.”

The one-page strategy allows business leaders to boil everything down to its simplest form and align it with core values, purpose, a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) and action items.

In short: Every company with revenue at or approaching $1 million, and up to $250 million, should create a one-page plan.

Just ask Vijay Patel, Founder and President of Loading Dock Inc. and Overhead Door Company of the Meadowlands and New York City. "I am old-fashioned," Patel told me, "so I was very skeptical about all of this change, especially with the core values. In the past five years since we've been practicing the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up [more on this below], our company keeps growing in many ways I never thought was possible. Work only keeps getting better and better." 

Still, Harnish's concept is more than just a plan -- it’s really a process and a mindset. Here are five steps to complete the One Page Strategic Plan:

1. Read “Scaling Up.”

Over 10 years ago, Harnish wrote “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm,” a business classic. Recently, he published a follow-up titled Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It . . . and Why the Rest Don't.

The book focuses on four decisions entrepreneurs must get right to succeed. They center on: people, strategy, execution and cash. Harnish provides not only a wealth of knowledge and information, but also the framework needed to fill out the One Page Strategic Plan.

In this way, business leaders can better develop and prioritize their goals and understand what’s truly important, before diving into the plan itself.

Scaling Up has helped us tremendously. It really allowed us to get our heads out of the water and really think big-picture,” said Ranee Patel, service manager and executive team member at Loading Dock Inc.

2. Determine your purpose and core values.

Core values means the shoulds and shouldn'ts of the company. What is the organization at its core? What are the most important principles that should guide its every action and decision?

Developing four to five core values is important to company identity and culture, but they shouldn’t be manufactured. Don’t create new values and attempt to implement them at the company later. Instead, look for what is already present. Everyone involved may have an idea of what these values are; and putting them in writing will solidify them.

Purpose is another consideration, and it goes hand-in-hand with core values. Why does the organization exist? What’s its point? Getting a clear understanding of purpose and values is the first step toward creating strategies and plans.

“If the core values are the soul of the organization, the core purpose (some call it “mission”) gives it heart,” writes Harnish.

Related: If You're Not Serious About a Business Plan, You're Not Serious About Business

3. Identify your BHAG.

Every business needs a big hairy audacious goal, or BHAG, as coined by the great business thinker Jim Collins. This is the Everest the organization will climb over the next 10 to 30 years. The goal can be qualitative or quantitative, but it should be measurable.

This huge goal serves as a major motivator for everyone in the organization -- it gives the whole team something to work toward. The BHAG is where the company sees itself down the road, so all plans and strategies should work toward getting it there.

As Harnish writes, “That’s why it is good to remind ourselves that in business and in life, the journey, not the destination, is the reward.”

Andy Bailey, founder and head coach at Petra Coach, a business-coaching business, adds: “The main point is that everything must align -- from the very very long-term strategic things to the very short-term action items for the quarter.”

4. Choose the right KPIs.

Strategies and plans need to be measured in a way that makes sense for the organization. Key performance indicators and critical numbers should line up with the brand promises, and brand promises should reflect the core values and purpose. Everything must be aligned.

At that point, by using actual quantitative metrics to guide people within the business, you can easily measure the success of individuals and teams. When teams reach their goals, reward their performance. Choose rewards that align with the brand.

5. Break it all down into action items that are accountable and 'owned.'

To achieve the key metrics needed, everyone at the company needs a clear role and understanding of his or her responsibilities. So, assign action items to specific people and set straightforward expectations. Inform everyone on roles and responsibilities throughout the company: Teams need to know who is doing what to avoid confusion and to get the work done efficiently.

If not, as the plan changes, responsibilities may get blurred.

"It should be a dynamic process that changes on a regular basis,” Bailey, the business coach, says. “The faster you grow, the more often you update it.”

What does your business plan look like? What is it missing? Share in the comments below!

Related: How To Write A Business Plan