Strategic planning: How to boil it down to one page

5 min read
Jody Carey

Ask anyone: planning is the key to business success. Many people think strategic planning is only for large corporations, but it’s essential for small business owners too.

Every business can benefit from having a roadmap.

Let’s look at how we can write a one-page strategic plan that will guide you through your everyday business decisions and help you achieve your goals for growth.

What is a strategic plan?

A strategic plan is a written document that businesses use as a management tool. Think of the plan as a roadmap to future success.

It puts you in the driver’s seat and allows you to be proactive in your decisions.

Strategic thinking is a way of looking at the big picture of your business, its future and how you will connect business opportunities with resources to achieve your overall goals.

The classic example of strategic thinking is the game of chess. The goal is to capture your opponent’s king and protect your king at the same time. The game requires each player to think of the big picture, anticipate the other’s next move and adjust accordingly.

Like strategic thinking by a chess player, strategic planning helps you make moves with one eye on the big picture.

Is a one-page plan worth it?

Yes. Many small businesses don’t do strategic planning because they don’t think they have time to create a large document. A lengthy strategic plan will collect dust faster than anything in your office — I guarantee it. If a plan is not read by key decision-makers and reviewed quarterly by management, it’s useless.

Here’s a one-page strategic plan template:

Strategic Planning Smartsheet Template
One-page templates like this are easy to find online. Image: Smartsheet

This keeps it simple. A one-page strategic plan will benefit your business more than a tome of lofty goals and daunting tactics.

As you become more comfortable with planning and your business grows, you can add more.

Create a one-page plan in 7 steps

I’ve worked with many business owners who paid a consultant to write their strategic plan. When I ask to see it, they can’t remember where they filed it.

Your strategic plan should never be filed.

It’s a living document that will change over time.

Generally speaking, the process of creating one looks like this:

  1. Set measurable goals
  2. List tasks needed to achieve those goals
  3. Create a timeline
  4. Assign responsibility for tasks
  5. Take action
  6. Evaluate the results
  7. Review, revise and repeat

At a minimum, you’ll want to review your plan at least quarterly and adjust as needed.

What to include in your simplified strategic plan

As mentioned, strategic plans are evolving documents, and they change depending on where you are in the business lifecycle.

There’s not a right or wrong way to write a strategic plan, so let’s start with the basics. Work through these questions as thoroughly as you can and write down your answers.

  1. What does your business look like today?
  2. Who are your customers?
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Who is your competition?
  5. Where do you want your business to be in one year, three years and five years?
  6. What do you need to get there?
  7. Who will help you get there?

Never done a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) before? Learn more about this tool here.

Where to go for help

Writing a strategic plan by yourself can be challenging. Working with others allows you to share ideas and create a more effective plan.

Be sure to dedicate time for strategic thinking and brainstorming with employees, partners and investors. A few options to consider:

  • Hire a business consultant to moderate the sessions
  • Talk to your business accountant
  • Find experts in your area using
  • Seek a mentor through your local Chamber of Commerce or Business Network
  • Use planning tools

Many successful business owners have been in your shoes. There are many resources available to you — use them.

How is a strategic plan different than a business plan?

A business plan is often used to start a business and obtain funding, so it typically covers just the first 12 months. A strategic plan, on the other hand, is a management tool used to grow your business long-term.

Strategic Planning Group Around Work Table

Strategic planning looks further into the future and can cover the next three to five years.

In short, a business plan is used to start your business or apply for funding, and a strategic plan guides you once your business is established.

If you already have a business plan, the information in it can be used in your strategic plan.

Why is a strategic plan important?

Once your business is off the ground, a strategic plan will help you focus on your long-term goals. You can use these to identify the steps needed to grow your business and increase revenue. A strategic plan:

  • Creates a roadmap for the next three to five years
  • Clearly defines future goals
  • Provides direction for employees
  • Helps prioritise how you will use your financial and human resources

The plan gives everyone within your organisation direction, so all are working toward the same goals.

Strategic planning next steps

Strategic Planning People Looking at Sticky Notes
Make time for strategic planning, even if you only cover one step per session.

Thinking about your business strategically and writing a plan isn’t a one-day job. Be prepared to spend several weeks or months working on your plan. To get started, set aside some time for this.

Much of your time will be spent researching and evaluating your competition.

Talking to others as you work through the process is invaluable. They will ask questions and make you take an in-depth look at your plans for the future.

Until then, grab one piece of paper and write one goal for next year and map out how you will get there. Remember, there isn’t a perfect way to write a plan. But as long as you start, you’re on the right track.