Strategic planning is the management process that helps organizations better prepare for achieving their long-term goals and objectives. Yet the relative utility of the process is not widespread among small businesses. Prior empirical studies are limited with regards to understanding how small businesses conduct strategic planning. This study explored the strategic planning process of 15 small businesses in north and northwest Omaha, Nebraska, and the extent to which they have a formalized strategic plan. A phenomenological approach was the qualitative research method adopted for this study. Through the use of interviews, the study identified the essential elements of strategic planning, the challenges the small firms encounter, and best practices they have identified and/or developed. The findings revealed the majority of the small business owners have a formalized strategic plan. The participants indicated that the primary reason for having a written strategic plan is to provide a guideline in making strategic decisions about the direction for the firm and what activities are the best fit for the organization. Furthermore, the findings concluded that the strategic plan and best practices they have implemented gave the organization a sense of direction and focus. Based on the interviews from this study, the participants regularly assess the external environment, perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, monitor their strategic plan, and make changes as needed. The results of this study illustrate the need for small firms to utilize the strategic planning process and develop strategies that help guide the successful future direction of the firm.
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