Kickstart Your Strategic Planning Process – Part One


We have written successful strategic plans for start-ups, small businesses, nonprofits, banks, downtowns and entire communities. Over the past 20 years of facilitating this process, I learned what works and what definitely doesn’t work and I want to share this with you now.

Why a strategic plan? This is the single most important asset to any organization. Without purpose and direction, your company will not win.

So, my goal with this two-article series is to provide you with some practical, experienced advice to develop your road map to success. I will write about:

  • The purpose of strategic planning

  • Three phases of a sound strategic-planning process

  • Effective strategic planning tips

Who should facilitate the strategic planning process?

Strategic planning can be an emotional process, with personal agendas filled with assumptions, especially if you’re going through this process for the first time or haven’t updated your plan in a while. If this is your first strategic plan, seriously consider having someone outside of your organization facilitate the process. If you’re updating your strategic plan, chances are someone working in the company who is organized, diplomatic and neutral will do a good job. If not, call a pro.

A frequently asked question is, “Why should I call a marketing person to facilitate strategic planning?” The answer is simple: The purpose of a strategic plan is to develop and implement internal and external strategies to gain market share. Who knows more about gaining market share than marketing professionals? In addition, the strategic planning process uses the same approach as marketing planning – it’s what marketing people do every day. However, I can recommend many other groups and organizations:

  • Dave Haviland, Phimation, is a private consultant with clients in Upper Michigan

  • Great Lakes Center for Youth Development in Marquette has experienced professionals on staff who facilitate strategic planning for nonprofits and small community groups. You should also talk to them about grants!

  • Denise Hansen, Michigan Small Business Development Center also does a great job at facilitating the process for small business and nonprofits. SBDC services are provided at no charge through the State of Michigan.

Strategic Planning – Let’s get started.
A great strategic plan acts as the roadmap for how the entire organization will reach its final destination – your vision. It outlines strategies and prioritizes activities for finances, operations, facilities and of course, sales and marketing.

If you’re entering a strategic planning process, you should be confident about these five things:

    1. Understand the market

    2. Have a clear vision and mission of the company (remember: the vision is the end game and the mission are the things you do every day to get you there)

    3. Can guarantee that you will deliver nothing less than great products/services that customers need

    4. Have the right person to facilitate and document the process

    5. AND, most important: Understand that the #1 objective is customer satisfaction, which is key to owning and leading your market


Once you and your team are clear on these points, you are ready to begin! Stay tuned next week for how to start writing your strategic plan.

Welcome to our First Official ‘Launch’ Blog Post!

Copper Country Intermediate School District Superintendent, George Stockero, recently surveyed 65 small businesses in the four-county area. His goal was to identity the needs of the local business community so he could align school curriculum to meet those demands. Can you guess what the #1 need is in the Keweenaw? That’s right! Marketing.

Why are we doing this?

Mr. Stockero’s findings are partially what inspired us to start writing this weekly blog. Our goal is to provide small U.P. businesses and non-profits with helpful tips, data and stories. We hope you can leverage this information to make smarter choices about how to spend your limited budgets and where to spend your valuable time.

We also recognize that if everyone in the U.P. values and understands marketing, the more business we will have too!

What topics can you expect?

We will make sure to include posts that will benefit everyone, from technology start-ups to medium-sized manufacturers. Some future planned posts include:

  • Strategic planning – where do I start?
  • Attracting talent way, way, way, waaaaay up here in the U.P.
  • Customer service in the U.P. – it’s good. I think.
  • 5 minutes can buy you 60 more in the workplace.
  • Just give me the damn sale price!
  • How to build your U.P. marketing team, and when it’s time to call an agency.

We’d also love to hear from you. Send us your ideas!

Who should follow our blog?

Anyone in business who wants to grow sales, attract talent, open new markets, launch new products, improve service and laugh.

We’re looking forward to providing you with smart, insightful business tips all year round. Please sign up here to receive a Monday morning email with our latest blog.

Karyn Olsson, CEO