With the new year fully underway, businesses everywhere are thinking about the future. It’s a season of planning, preparation, and strategizing.
For small businesses, this sort of thing is especially important. It might be your first attempt at building a strategy, or you might still be getting comfortable with managing the many moving parts of a business.
With smaller enterprises, there’s less margin for error. You have to be extra careful about how you use your budget, anticipate future events that you might not have encountered before, and plan for continued growth.
That’s why we at Sagely have developed a Quarterly Strategy Template to help small businesses get started with confidence. In this article, we’ll show you how it works and how you can start making the most of it.
The importance of strategy
Having the right strategy in place is critical for small businesses. Here are just some of the main reasons why:
Gives you clear direction and purpose, providing concrete actions to follow and a vision to pursue
Encourages collaboration, keeping everyone aligned on the same page
Helps you identify and take advantage of risks and trends
Allows you to use budget and resources wisely
The Sagely strategy framework
In our strategy template, we use the OKR framework. That stands for Objectives and Key Results, and it’s a goal-setting framework that splits your strategy into key objectives and a number of metrics that you can use to measure the success of that objective.
So what about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)? Well, we still use them, but they’re better suited to measuring ongoing success — in this case they work in tandem with the shorter-term OKRs.
We encourage sticking to 3 key objectives per quarter, and 3 key results for each objective (although you can use up to 5 if needed). We also recommend using SMART goal principles for your KRs — keep them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Why did we go with quarterly vs. annual?
Simply put, it’s easier to track. As a small business, you don’t have the wealth of resources (human, time, and financial) that bigger organizations can draw on. On top of that, you still have to manage a broad scope of work, from creating and marketing your product or service to accounting, managing, and operations.
Christina Trampota, our Sage (expert in residence) for Product, Strategy, and Marketing says, “The competitive dynamics in the market change so fast that it’s unrealistic to expect a plan to stay as expected for an entire 12-month period. Any agile organization that closely reacts to the market and their customers will watch things monthly and quarterly.”
Strategy is just another responsibility on a mounting pile of more urgent challenges, and we think it’s best to simplify things as much as possible and leave you free to focus on the day-to-day work of running your business. Quarterly strategy planning is, in our experience, a great way to strike this balance.
How the template works
If you open up the spreadsheet we shared containing the template, you’ll find a quick list of instructions on how to use it. Here are the key points:
Make a Copy of the template and save it to your company's Google Drive or Download to Excel.
Gather historical data. This is your opportunity to find out what worked last quarter and what didn’t. This information can guide your strategy and help give you the best chances of improving on past performance.
Get decision-makers together. Strategy planning should not be done in a vacuum, so call a meeting for everyone to share their input, get in the loop, and raise any concerns.
Understand that you don't have to complete the entire document in one sitting. You’re busy, and waiting until you have a spare slot to do the entire task can result in putting it off indefinitely. Don’t be afraid to work in chunks.
When complete, print it out and place it somewhere you can see daily - above your desk, on the office noticeboard, or as your desktop background. Your strategy should always be front and center and easy to consult in a second if needed.
Schedule a meeting to share all (or part of) it with your organization. This is your opportunity to make sure everyone is on board, address any questions, and establish a collaborative atmosphere.
These meetings should be ongoing as well. Having constant communication with your team will remind them of the company’s goals and how important their contributions are.
The power of a strategy template
With the right strategy template, you can bring new levels of structure, direction, and focus to your work and that of your entire organization. This allows you to have an agile yet precise direction even in the face of adversity and unexpected changes in the ecosystem and economy. It simplifies things for everyone and ensures your teams are aligned and connected.
If you need any help or guidance on how to get the most out of our strategy template, sign up for Sagely today and schedule a Strategy Session with one of our Sages.