By Sharon V. Munroe

During the week of May 1, small business owners from greater Austin heard outstanding presentations as part of the citywide Small Business Festival. One of the most valuable sessions, held at the Microsoft Offices, included SCORE Austin members who posed questions and gave feedback to small business owners.

Their first, open-ended question was thought provoking: “What is the greatest challenge you are facing in your business today”?

It gave us an hour’s worth of discussion as each business owner and mentor weighed in. All the business owners thought carefully and shared their top concerns, which ranged from how do you grow your client base to how do you hire great salespeople?

No matter what the marketing or operational challenge we face as small business owners, there is one universal theme: if you have a challenge, get a plan (and help when needed).

Here’s how to write a strategic plan in six easy steps:

  1. Define the challenge: What is keeping you up at night? The more details you can put in writing, the better.
    • Use short phrases and supporting bullet points to make the challenge or problem easy-to-read and act upon
  1. Research: Look online for case studies or ask a SCORE Austin mentor or a business peer (or two) if they have encountered a similar challenge.
    • Use your written definition from point #1 to help with communications.
    • Compare your challenges, looking for a similar business and issue.
  1. Look for potential solutions: What ideas and advice might solve your challenge? What are the options you should consider?
  • Collect several solutions to the problem. The first one you come across might or might not be the best.
  1. Choose a Plan A: And consider a Plan B if needed.
  1. List the steps you will follow to implement Plan A: Consider the time and resources you will need to make it happen.
  1. Track and evaluate your success: Again, if Plan A does not solve the problem, move onto Plan B, repeating Step 5.

About the Author:

Sharon V. Munroe has more than 20 years’ experience in building and growing businesses through marketing and sales. Sharon conducts research and documents strategic plans for her small business clients. Her experience includes strategic marketing communications, market research, strategy and writing for various industries, including healthcare, tech and retail. A SCORE Austin client since 2010, she has founded or cofounded four organizations. Her marketing strategy and research firm is NGrowthMode (pronounced InGrowthMode).

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Have a challenge? Get a plan