As a business advisor I am contacted daily by business owners that want me to assist them in taking their business to that fabled ‘next level’. I always start off with a very simple question: “What is your next level?”
90% of the time the penny drops, as the answer is always the same. Not a clue! We all want to grow, improve, become more profitable but that is as generic as ‘I want to be more strategic!’
If you don’t know where your business is either going, or needs to go, or how you’re going to get there, you need to define the path that lies ahead very clearly and apply creativity, practicality and relevance.
Where do you start? Well you need a plan.
Crafting a strategy for a smaller business
The strategy journey for any business is mission critical for success, especially an SME. We often fall into the trap of thinking that we need a 40 page strategy document using various models and frameworks to come up with something that pretty much mirrors what it is that we knew we needed to do in the first place!
I personally favour the ‘one-page strategy’. Don’t take this too literally. Keep it short, focused and relevant.
Remember that the strategy itself is not as important as the effective implementation of the required actions to achieve it. What are the steps to craft a powerful strategy for your business?
Define what your goal or ‘next level’ is
Where do you want to take your business? Do you want to grow your number of customers, your revenues, profits, products or markets? The list goes on and on. You need to map this out. Understand what it means to your business.
Do you have the resources and the time? What are your challenges? Is your ‘next level’ achievable and sustainable? This phase of your process should be filled with hundreds of questions. When you can start answering all of the questions you will start realising that you are on track to define what the ‘next level’ is for your business.
Start with the foundation that you have built
Always attempt to leverage the momentum that you have already built. There will be times when you need to make a radical shift in another direction. Perhaps if you sell analogue fax machines in Silicon Cape it may be time to look at a new direction.
However, in this example your momentum is your ability to sell. Leverage that in your new direction. You truly need to understand your business in order to move it forward effectively. We will pick this up in a subsequent article.
Don’t plan too far in advance
The days of planning a three to five-year strategy are gone. If anyone can predict what lies ahead in excess of 18 months you have some very real talents. It’s important to not live with a short term focus and have a longer term ‘direction’, but focus on delivering on the first 12 months without fail.
There will be more than enough variables for you to have to deal with without you worrying about some potential issue in 48 months-time! I am yet to come across a strategy that remained intact, irrespective of the period.
Determine what you need to get there
Do you have the resources, time and skills in your business to get to where you need to go? Understand what is required in order to achieve your ‘next level’. If you are planning on moving into a new market do you need to recruit someone that understands the technical side of that market? Do you need to raise additional funding?
Map out your ‘Path to Success’
This is the most important step. Translating your strategy or plan into tangible actions is what will ensure that effective execution takes place. Map your action in detail.
If you can translate a 12 month strategy into weekly actions you will ensure momentum is maintained, you will measure whether your plan is relevant and can re-assess and make small changes along the way (if required). You will be working with reality as defined by the market.
Working through the actions and executing them effectively will result in a discipline that will entrench the strategy into your business.