If you were a child of the 80’s you would know the great song by Talking Heads “We’ve on a road to nowhere,” that song always comes into my head when talking to business owners who don’t have a business strategy. It is such a critical part of your business and whether you think you don’t have the time, it’s too hard, or strategy isn’t my thing, there is no excuse for not having one in place as in its simplest form strategy is just a plan of action to achieve the goals which you set.
With a few easy tips on how to prepare and set out your business strategy you’re on your way to knowing where you are going.
Tip 1 The Set Up - You should sit down to do your planning at least once a year, there is no right or wrong about how much time to spend but I have always found the keys to strategic planning are to be well prepared, remove all distractions and find a relaxed creative space. Try getting out of your normal working environment, have regular breaks, get up and move around, have the session facilitated so you can focus on contributing and not the logistics of the day, involve key people which may be team members for a larger business or a business coach for sole traders, work out how and who will capture the outputs of the day (flip charts, video or audio recording, photos).
Tip 2 Do Your Homework - To know where you are going you need to understand where you have been and where you are now. Before your planning session, gather the information on your business using your own internal business systems and people, also seek external perspectives from customers, industry benchmarks or subject matter experts. Capture this in a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats matrix, this is an easy to use tool which can feed into the future strategy or goals as you ponder what strengths can I build on, what weaknesses can I overcome, how do I exploit opportunities and avoid threats.
Tip 3 Get Started, set your Vision, Mission & Values - The first step is to develop an aspirational yet realistic vision for the business. This is what you want the business to look like in 3 years’ time, it may be to be the best at what you do, the biggest or to be the most trusted or respected. Whatever it is, you must be passionate about it as it serves as an anchor back to where you are going when key decisions need to be made or you are starting to lose focus. Now lay out the nature of your business through your Mission, this is usually a couple of sentences that details the purpose and what the business does in terms of its products & services, customer offerings and characteristics. Finally decide what the values of your business are, these will outline how you, your team members and the business will conduct itself in achieving the business goals. Some examples of what your values may be include being inclusive, respectful, bold or inquisitive.
Tip 4 Set Your Business Goals - Now you have outlined what you want your business to look like (through your vision, mission and values) and where you are now (through your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) you need to set your objectives/goals which will take you from here to there, typically these cover areas of growth, profitability, customers & markets and innovation. Work through each area of your business, setting clear and specific goals which can be measured and are time bounded. You will most likely end up with a long list, so once you have done this conduct a prioritisation exercise focusing on those with the greatest contribution to the vision whilst providing the most amount of reward for the least amount of effort or resources.
Tip 5 Make it happen - Next comes your plan by which you intend to achieve your goals and vision. How will you go about it, who will be accountable for its delivery, what resources do you need and do they have the right capability, will you require external expertise from partners, how much will it cost, are your processes robust enough to adsorb the change, are there any technology dependencies. All these things need to be factored in when formulating the plan, which must be clear, concise and have been agreed to by all those involved in the delivery.
Tip 6 Measure it - As your strategy comes to life and embeds in your business, you need a way to track progress and make adjustments if required. This is where we create business performance measures (refer www.fizzify.com.au/for-you/business-performance-is-your-business-running-you). These link directly between your vision, goals, actions and the operational activities that happen on a day to day basis to make them a reality. Review on a regular basis (weekly is ideal) and use to drive business improvement or a trigger to seek help when measures miss their target or are trending in the wrong direction. Remember business measures are living and change as your strategy, priorities or targets change.
Tip 7 Display it - Finally the outputs of strategic planning process can be as document heavy and complicated as you like, but by far the best are the ones which are easy to understand, fit on one page and give a clear picture to anyone who picks it up of what the business does, stands for, where it is heading and how it will get there. Why not display a copy on your visual management board or in your client meeting room. It’s not only a good way to keep you and your team members focused but also to show new and existing customers you are going somewhere.