The first step of scaling a business is planning, and one of the easiest ways to create a scaling plan is to use the One-Page Strategic Plan (OPSP). Originally introduced by Verne Harnish in his books Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up, the One-Page Strategic Plan makes it simple to keep everyone on the same page to achieve business goals.
We’ll share with you how to create your own One-Page Strategic Plan, how companies have used these plans to scale a business, and templates to guide the strategy of managing people and processes.
These templates can be used throughout the rest of the Hub articles on scaling a business to help you implement your calling with more success. Let’s start by examining what is included in the One-Page Strategic Plan.
One-Page Strategic Plan (OPSP)
The One-Page Strategic Plan is normally two pages, but I guess the decision was made to call it a One-Page Strategic Plan because it sounds better. The first page focuses on people and long-term vision, while the second focuses on processes and quarterly results. We’ll look at each page separately.
Download the OPSP. If you print it, please use landscape mode and fit-to-page for the best results. Then use the template to follow along.
Long Term Plan
The first page of the One-Page Strategic Plan is focused on people and is broken into six sections:
- Strengths and Weaknesses
- People that Drive Your Reputation
- Core Values
- 3 to 5-Year Targets
- 1-Year Goals
We’ll look at each of these to help you understand how they help business leaders scale a business for success.
Strengths and Weaknesses (Bottom)
I’ve included the strengths and weaknesses first because the One-Page Strategic Plan (OPSP) was created with the intent for people to work their way from the bottom to the top. The first step of solving any problem is recognizing there is one.
Given that we’re using it to scale a business, you’ll probably want to focus on areas where you are:
- Struggling to meet core customer demands
- Spending too much time
- Reaching a point that you need to hire more people
If your strength is serving customers but you’re spending 20 hours a week performing accounting tasks, your weakness is likely your accounting process. By reducing the time spent on accounting, you can focus more on serving your core customer base.
Take this portion seriously, as it will drive the rest of the plan. While you’re working on it, check out our interview with Mike about writing business plans.
People Drive Reputation (Top)
People are the key to running a successful business. Whether the people are employees, customers, or owners, they can impact the business’s success. Let’s look at each concept and how they affect planning to scale a company.
The creator of the One-Page Strategic Plan intends for you to use metrics that show the company is succeeding, but you need to understand the stakeholder expectations to create meaningful metrics. So we’ll discuss expectations.
Employees (1st Question)
If the scaling opportunity you are working on only involves certain employees or divisions, you might want to include who they are in this section. You will probably want to consult with employees as you develop the scaling strategy because they will be the key to success during the implementation stages.
The Harvard Business Review outlines why change management fails—ultimately, all of the reasons focus on the inability of management to get employees to buy into the strategic plan. Include employees early and often to get the most out of your scaling plan.
If it is the whole company, you may want to include information on how you measure success. If you have never created metrics before, the Academy to Innovate HR lists 21 employee performance metrics that help measure employee success. I suggest reading it.
Customers (2nd Question)
Without customers, there is no company. It’s just a glorified hobby. You’ll want to include customers in various ways when scaling a business. Consider drawing upon customer knowledge and opinion in the following ways:
- Customer service surveys
- Beta testing
- Market research
- Requests for new product features. Craft.io has a blog on collecting feedback, and it sounds like many product managers love their feedback portals.
If you’re going to include customer metrics in this section, you may want to have ones like Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction Score, and Churn Rate. Check out Hubspot’s 15 customer success metrics to learn more about customer metrics.
Owners and debt holders (3rd-6th Question)
This section was called shareholders in the original One-Page Strategic Plan, but in today’s business world, there are many more potential stakeholders than just shareholders.
Scaling opportunities might need approval for business decisions from:
You may also need to disclose your new strategies and risks in quarterly or annual reports.
Make sure to include anyone who can help or hinder your scaling strategies. The executive team will be the driver that ties the company’s core values with the brand promises and a Big Hairy Audacious Goal® (BHAG). Without them on board, this powerful tool may not achieve the key results.
Boston Research Group surveyed 60 CEOs to understand what the most important metrics are for new members of their executive teams and found that the three most important measures of executive success are:
- Exceeding performance goals
- Establishing a reputation as an expert, both within the company and externally
- Fitting the company’s culture
The same can be used to establish whether owners provide measurable results to help the company achieve scaling goals that improve revenue and profitability. Keep reading for information on how core values guide a growing firm.
Core Values (Column 1)
Core values are the first column in an OPSP tool because the scaling strategy owners implement should stay in line with the core values and vision. Reminding the team of how the company sees the world is key to keeping the implementation in line with the company’s focus.
If you have a mission statement and values, include them in this column. Also, include behaviors and values the team should and should not emulate as they implement the strategy. Here is an example of an email Elon Musk sent emphasizing how important it is for every team member to keep the brand promise:
Be clear, compassionate, and honest when communicating core values with your company and customers. This column and the next are driven entirely by the small business owners, CEOs, or the executive team.
Keep reading to learn about how the purpose column fits into the one-page personal plan and how it guides the company scaling strategy.
Purpose (Column 2)
The purpose column in the one-page plan focuses on why you are doing what you are doing. It is meant to be inspirational. When originally written, the column was meant to be worked on from bottom to top. It takes an approach where you must build the foundation first and then build upon it.
The foundation is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal ®, a term registered by Jim Collins and introduced in his book Built to Last. The next step is how the company wants to measure profits, followed by actions, and finally, the purpose, which is the summary.
An example of what the purpose might look like would look something like the statement below:
The above statement summarizes how a company might try to scale revenue from blogging.
Big Hairy Audacious Goal ®
Big Hairy Audacious Goal ® is simply a statement of how you will change the world. An example is Meta’s (formerly Facebook) intended goal “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” It’s big and nearly impossible to achieve fully without merging us all as one.
Most people will create a BHAG using four strategies:
- Numerical: Hit a specific revenue, profit, or customer number.
- Aspirational: Attempt to be like another company, for instance, become the “Nike” of backpacks.
- Market Leader: General Electric once aimed to be one of the top two companies in the industry or exit the business.
- Transformational: Change how the industry operates. For instance, Airbnb and Uber changed their industries by making it so that homeowners and restaurants can earn additional income. Both companies’ main asset is tech playing the middleman between consumers and owners.
When you started your company, you probably had a meaningful reason. What was that reason? Write it down on your OPSP template.
We’ve given you a few ideas of what you should include as the foundation, so let’s go to the next section of the One-Page Strategic Plan, measuring profits.
Measuring profits can be done in a variety of ways, but the goal is to give a meaningful way of defining how much profit you want to make from a venture. For scaling a business, the primary goal, as discussed in The Ultimate Guide to Scaling a Business, is to reduce the marginal cost of sales. That means you might want to consider profit metrics like:
- Profit per Customer
- Profit per Transaction
- Profit per Employee
- Profit per Piece of Content
Once you’ve defined how to measure profits as the company grows, it’s time to look at the actions to achieve success.
The actions are the changes you make to reduce the marginal cost of increasing revenue. Include the high-level goals of your scaling projects in this section, such as comparing automated accounting, training people on process changes, and implementing dashboards to monitor progress.
Paul Akers encourages focusing on making improvements that save 2 seconds per task completed. He finds this a great strategy to improve his company and life using LEAN mindsets. Listen to our interview with Paul to hear how easy it is for small improvements to build up.
Once you have some high-level priorities outlined, it’s time to look at what you want the company to look like in a few years.
3 to 5-Year Targets (Column 3)
In this column, you want to get more specific about where you want to be in the next three to five years. At the top is a box for the date you want to accomplish everything by, the revenue you want to generate, profit margins, market cap, or cash on hand.
This column will consist of brand promises, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure them, primary capabilities, and the sandbox. Start from the bottom and work your way up. You’ll also want to update this section when the execution of the action items is complete.
Let’s look at each.
Brand Promises (Column 3, Bottom)
Brand promises are what you agree to deliver. The specifics will vary by industry, but there are six main ways of differentiating your company from competitors:
- Product: Explain your product features, performance, efficiency, warranty, etc.
- Service: Explain how your services compare to the industry.
- Channel: Explain how you deliver your product or service to the customer.
- Relationship: Explain how your customer service differs from the competition. Are you faster or friendlier? For instance, the HVAC company One Hour Air promises “ALWAYS ON TIME…OR YOU DON’T PAY A DIME!®”
- Reputation: This can be accomplished through marketing or by combining the differentiation strategies so when people ask about your service, your clients immediately think of you.
- Price: Are you a premium brand, a low-cost provider, or priced based on client needs?
Check out 6 Ways to Differentiate Your Business by MarketResearch.com to learn more about these strategies.
Once you have established your brand promises, it’s time to create KPIs to measure their success.
Measuring Brand Promises with Key Performance Indicators
Promises are only as good as the emphasis put behind them. To fulfill a brand promise, you’ll need to measure the results across the entire organization using key metrics. Jack Welch once said:
No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.
No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.
Your business may need more KPIs than employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow to identify whether you are meeting the brand promise. Datapine has a list of over 300 KPIs to consider based on the job, industry, and technology you are using. Find the ones that drive your business to match the company identity you are trying to create.
Keep reading for information on how to define the primary capabilities of your organization.
Primary capabilities are focused on what you want the organization to be able to achieve. As it relates to scaling, these might be steps like:
- Automate fulfillment
- Start using a phone app for employees to input receipts into the accounting system
- Create a database for customer feature requests
These are also referred to as key thrusts. As long as they align with the core purpose and can be verified with a measurable target, they should help the team complete its business goals.
The owner of Urbanity wrote nearly 100 page business plan and got a business loan without any experience in the boutique business. Find out how below.
Keep reading to learn how the sandbox impacts the ability to scale a business.
Sandbox (aka Target Market)
The sandbox is a term used in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits to describe what we more commonly call the target market. You likely already know the target market because most people looking to scale a business have already reached their ideal customers. The focus here is to remind the team of who the organization serves and who it doesn’t.
Keep reading to define the annual goals of an organization.
1 Year Goals (Column 4)
Fast-growing firms can see over 100% growth per year. An organization growing at this rate will need to define its goals and fast-track them to maintain the customer service and quality control level executives expect.
The top of the column has space to input the targets for financial targets and should be updated before the beginning of each year. To give even more clarity to employees, I suggest including the percentage change over the last year, which we’ve included in the templates. The picture below shows what direction I would expect each to move.
This column includes sections on initiatives, critical personnel goals, and critical profit and loss numbers that the company needs to meet. We’ll look at each to help you create a strategic plan to scale a business.
Key initiatives break down the primary capabilities into smaller, more manageable tasks. For instance, you may want to break down fulfillment automation into:
- Research alternatives
- Plan layout for implementation
- Implement a fulfillment automation plan
- Train employees on the process
Critical Personal Numbers (Columns 4, 5, and 7)
In this section, you’ll want to include critical numbers for hiring to meet your annual revenue targets. Make sure to break it down to the skills, too. For instance, a construction company might want to add:
Verne Harnish’s OPSP separates critical numbers into four categories:
- Dark green: Meets 100% of the goal
- Light green: Can successfully meet the goal, over 75%
- Yellow: 25% to 75% of the goal
- Red: Under 25% of the way to the goal
You can use the color coding in an online dashboard to help the executive team quickly review the execution of the plan on a routine basis. Don’t check them daily, but weekly or monthly would make sense. You can emphasize action items with your team to meet the critical numbers based on the information in the dashboard.
Critical Profit and Loss Numbers (Columns 4, 5, and 7)
Like the critical number for hiring, profit and loss numbers help identify what has been completed and what should be emphasized to meet future growth. In this section, you are looking for leading indicators that show whether the work is being performed to meet the objectives.
Some examples of leading indicators are:
- Emails collected
- Requests for bids
- Phone calls received
- The number of people who click on your ads
- Anything that can be used with other data to approximate the number of sales you can expect
Most industries average a 5% to 10% closing rate. Hubspot industry data shows that a 2% growth in traffic creates a 1% increase in transactions, but analytics will show better estimates.
That concludes the first page of the One-Page Strategic Plan. The second page focuses more on the actual actions to meet future growth expectations. Let’s look at the processes plan.
The process plan is where you get into the real details of how to scale your business. It covers industry trends, productivity drivers, quarterly actions, the theme of the quarter or year, and how to measure each person’s success. Create this page before the beginning of each quarter or after you successfully build the processes.
Let’s look at each to see how the One-Page Strategic Plan can help you scale a small business.
The process plan starts with a solid foundation at the bottom of the page. In every industry, some trends occur. How well you can recognize and respond to trends impacts how profitable the company can be.
List the ones you see going on in this section. If you aren’t already keeping up with the pulse of your industry, I suggest becoming more active on:
- Trade Organizations
- Google Trends: Find top and rising searches by industry, including:
- Location of searches
- Historical trends
- Related topics
- Related search terms
- Check out the picture below for what comes up with eCommerce:
Keep reading for more information about using a strategic plan to scale an organization.
Productivity Drivers (Top)
The top of the page is broken into three categories that drive productivity:
Each of these should be focused on meaningful results that will help drive revenue and profitability during the quarter.
Make or Buy
This section is focused on inventory and manufacturing. You may want to measure metrics like inventory per SKU, turnover per SKU, gross margin percentage, and loss. Remember, the goal is to increase revenue and profit by becoming more efficient.
In this section, you’ll focus on growth statistics in sales and marketing. You may want to include the sales leads, consultations, and closing percentages. You might also want to have or review metrics like average transaction value, average discount, and revenue per employee.
Record and Report
This section focuses on accounting and should include items like how long it takes for accounts receivable to be paid, EBITDA, and other metrics that show the company’s financial health.
Quarterly Actions (Column 5)
Column 5 is focused on the quarterly results. It includes a table with the financial goals for the quarter, followed by your “Rocks” and critical numbers. We discussed the critical numbers earlier, but be aware that each column will have different critical numbers.
Keep reading to learn about what Verne Harnish calls rocks.
Rocks are the goals you must accomplish to stay on track. They are things like hiring a new developer, increasing your seller ranking on Amazon, or completing 20 consultations with prospective clients. You will have some goals with which you must succeed. If you fail to meet those goals, you may have to cancel the initiative.
Make sure to specify who is responsible for each Rock.
Quarterly and Annual Theme (Column 6)
The theme needs to focus on helping motivate employees. It consists of a theme name, scoreboard design, celebration, and reward for meeting the goals. Depending on your company size, you might need to have a single theme or a theme for each division.
Your theme name should be catchy to get people’s attention. For instance, if you run a business in which most of the revenue is generated during the summer, you might want to run a quarterly theme in the spring called “Heating Up,” then “It’s a Scorcher” for the summer months. If the reward is specific, you can base the name on that, too.
A scoreboard is a fun way to measure progress and what it should look like as you go. Common methods of showing the progress are with a thermometer scoreboard like the one pictured below. Alternatively, you can use a baseball diamond or a football field if you plan to take the team to a game.
You can also have a graphic designer and developer create something to view it in the company’s tech stack. Get creative and fun with it for the best results, but don’t spend a lot of time overcomplicating it.
Celebration and Reward
A celebration and a reward are similar but different. A celebration might be a pizza party, while a reward would be a bonus or taking the team to a sporting event. Doing both is a way of thanking the team and each individual. If you do a reward for individuals, try to make it something meaningful to them.
Keep reading for info on the accountability column.
Accountability (Column 7)
Accountability is about the individual and their performance. It should include the KPIs for the team and break them up based on each person. In addition, this section should spell out what each worker’s priorities are. At the bottom, it will include the critical numbers to meet.
Let’s look at individual KPIs and priorities to see how they impact when you scale a business.
You’ll want Personal KPIs that are meaningful to each position. As a writer, I might be judged on words per article, affiliate links clicked per blog, or an average Google ranking.
KPIs and priorities should be the basis for your promotions, reviews, and bonuses. Otherwise, they aren’t significant or specific and might easily be overlooked.
Personal priorities are the specific tasks to be accomplished for an employee to be successful. When focusing on how to scale a business, an accountant might need to have a personal priority of categorizing all vendor spending within the first eight weeks of the quarter. A salesperson might need to increase sales by 10%.
Scaling a business means you’ll consistently improve the processes, but that doesn’t mean you need an overly complex business plan to get great results. Once you’ve created the first page, you can use it until you surpass your three-to-five-year goals. Then, you just need to use the second page to plan new and improved processes.
What KPIs do you find most useful for scaling and managing your business?