Beginner’s Guide: Creating a Strategic Plan? Top Questions to Get Started
In today’s evolving business climate, it is imperative to understand the foundation on which your firm stands and to know where it is headed. Strategic planning is the foundation for growth and sustainability, and is an essential component of any accounting firm. Without a plan, the firm will likely struggle to recruit, grow and improve. Perhaps your firm has a strategic plan today, but it is stagnant and ineffective. Whatever the state of your firm’s plan, marketing brings a key perspective to the table, and if you have never participated in a strategic planning process, knowing where to start or what questions to ask can be overwhelming. Consider taking the following questions to leadership to get things rolling.
- What is the current state of the firm? Review current initiatives, goals and strategies, along with any significant changes that have been recently implemented. Understanding the current situation is essential to align the strategic plan with the firm’s overall vision and objectives.
- Where is the firm headed? What goals does leadership want to accomplish? Understand how leadership defines success and where they want the firm to be in the next 2-3 years. Identifying long-term and short-term goals helps prioritize strategic objectives and tactics.
- Where is the firm today in relation to these goals? What needs to happen to accomplish them? Analyze firm performance so opportunities for improvement can be identified and addressed. This is important for evaluating the current progress as well as for any new goals that may be identified and pursued.
- Has your target client changed? Your ideal client likely looks different than it did five years ago. Make sure your team knows what this new ideal client looks like and define aligned strategies.
- What are the firm’s financial goals? How does the firm plan to grow revenue and profitability over the long-term, and what specific strategies will it use to achieve those goals? Sharing growth goals internally will not only provide transparency, but it will allow your team to take ownership and see how their actions contribute to the overall growth of the firm.
- What are the firm’s current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)? Going through this exercise at least once a year is essential to prevent your strategy from becoming stagnant. It will help identify areas where the firm can capitalize and mitigate potential risks. For example, if the firm is looking to add an additional service line and/or location, understanding both the internal and external environment is necessary.
- What are the current market trends and competition? What changes are happening in the accounting industry and how is the firm positioned to adapt to those changes? Whether it be recruiting, technology or the ever-evolving role of the profession, you must research and stay current on industry trends.
- What additional resources are needed to achieve the firms’ strategic objectives? This could include anything from talent to technology as well as external resources. The amount of available resources the firm has to invest in these initiatives will determine the timeline.
- What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure success? How will people be held accountable? Have measures in place so evaluating your progress against your goals and objectives is simple and transparent. Adjust your plan as necessary to address any issues or changes in your firm’s environment.
Marketing plays a significant role in the creation of strategic plans. Without a clear long-term strategy, resources can be wasted on the wrong tasks and activities, and budgets may not be invested in the right projects. Working through these questions will help steer you in the right direction as you work with leadership to create a solid strategic plan that positions the firm for long-term success.
About Tanya Doescher
Tanya is the Director of Marketing at a Delta Consulting Group. She is responsible for developing and executing the firm’s overall growth goals and objectives, and oversees the development, implementation and execution of Delta’s marketing strategy.
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