“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”


Growing up we had a beautiful piano. It was a Bechstein piano which my parents had imported from Germany. We loved music; indeed it was an integral part of our lives. The piano was part of it.  To me, as a 3-year-old that piano was the most beautiful thing in our house. Contributing to its beauty was the way my sisters, who were respectively 9 and 10 years older than me, played on it. I admired them greatly (I still do). In those days, to be honest, some of that admiration had to do with how they could play the piano.

I was 3 and I wanted to own that piano. Not only play on it, but I wanted it for my own. My parents said the one who studied the furthest would inherit it. There was a rule that all the sisters had to take lessons up to grade 7. My sisters were nearly there but I had not yet started!

I had a strategic plan to get that piano.


So, at age 3, I had a goal… I was going to get that piano. I realised that I would need to make a start and so found my brother’s music book. He showed me the first three notes in the book and on the piano and I taught myself the rest from there.

Through the years there were many obstacles. In the town where I grew up, they did not want to teach piano lessons to anyone younger than 9. But I was 7 when my mom took me for my first lessons. By this time, my mom had realised that I was serious. At last, she found someone who was willing to take me as long as we did not advertise the fact.

Unfortunately, this lady moved away after a few years and again we could not find anybody who was willing to take me on. You see, the problem was that I was not regarded as a prodigy. And I was adamant that I wanted to play grade 8 by the time I was 16. This was, quite frankly, in the view of the local music school an achievement reserved for music prodigies. But then I met a teacher who told me that if I were serious about this and the commitment it required; she would take me. A few months after my 16th birthday, I played Grade 8, and my dad inscribed my name on the inside of that piano!

Necessity of a Strategic Plan

Would I have been able to do this if that goal had not been that clear in my mind? Getting up at 5 every morning for years to practice while everyone else was still sleeping? Practicing for 3 and later 4 hours every afternoon before my final exam when music was not one of my school subjects?

No, it would not have happened.

Would I have been able to fight to get a teacher to take me through to my final exam if this goal had not been clear in my mind? No, it would not have happened.

I wanted that piano and I planned on getting it.

Purpose, Vision and Mission

This is what is needed for any endeavour in life (business included) to succeed. You need a clear picture in your mind of what you want to achieve. This is called the vision. You need to know why you want to achieve it. This is your purpose and provides the motivation. To get back to my story, my vision was to play Grade 8 and my purpose was to own that piano.

But it was not enough to have that dream. A dream stays in Neverland until you start working on it. The how to get to see your dream fulfilled is called the mission. My mission was to take piano lessons until I could play that exam. The strategic plan is how you break everything down into smaller chunks (goals and objectives) to bring you to your ultimate vision and purpose. My strategic plan was to learn to read notes, find a teacher, play the required exams and fulfil the theoretical requirements. There were specific dates by which I wanted to reach each goal.


I had a SMARTER vision.  I like Michael Hyatt’s version of SMARTER:

  • My vision was Specific: I wanted to play Grade 8 by the time I was 16. Be very specific about what you want to achieve.
  • It was Measurable: I wanted to play Grade 8. In essence, if you want to know how something is doing, you have to be able to measure it.
  • The plan was Actionable: there was action to be taken and an action verb in there – I wanted to play.
  • It was Risky: I was not a prodigy and according to all the “knowledgeable“ people around me therefore it was not doable.
  • I had a Time in mind: I wanted to attain my goal by age 16.
  • It was Exciting: it was incredibly exciting to see how I was catching up with my sisters when I had been 10 years behind them!
  • My plan was Relevant: I had to go up to Grade 7 anyway… by and large the timing and season in my life was right.

Just something about the first R. Most people feel there should not be risk. You should rather do something that is doable. But keep this in mind: without risk there will never be growth and development. For example, a baby learns to walk by taking the risk to fall. In doing this the baby’s muscles develop and grow. Without taking that risk, chances are really slim that the baby would ever walk. I am not necessarily advocating taking blind risk. But a calculated risk is good if you want your business to grow.

Strategic Plan = Route Plan

A strategic plan is then the plan for how you will take your business from point A to point B. It is like the route plan for a journey. The car will be serviced, and tires checked. The tank will be filled. We will stop for bathroom breaks at the following locations, 2 hours apart. Every second stop we will have a cup of coffee. At the third stop we will fill up the fuel tank again. Every fourth stop we will stop to overnight.

Content of a Strategic Plan

A strategic plan for a business should contain the following:

  • A purpose statement – this is the motivation for what you want to do;
  • A vision statement – this is what you want to achieve… remember that it must be SMARTER;
  • A mission statement – gives the broader framework for how you are going to achieve it;
  • The values by which you want to conduct business – it provides the ethical boundaries within which you operate;
  • The long-term goals – this is the vision broken up into smaller actions;
  • Those goals broken up into short term objectives or tasks;
  • The logistics required to achieve the goals and objectives;
  • A marketing and communications strategy – this describes how you are planning to get buy-in from investors and customers;
  • A financial plan showing projections for the first number of years.

Going back to our quote in the beginning: Failing to plan is planning to fail. This is one of those things without which a business cannot be sustainable. A strategic plan takes time to formulate but it is time well spent. It provides direction for your business to go as well as the route map for getting there. Without a strategic plan chances are good that your business will become part of the 80% that do not survive after the first year.

If you need any assistance with your strategic planning, contact us.

I want to invite you to use our free template you help you start a strategic plan for your business.

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