A business guide to strategy

Strategy planning

Business as usual is the downfall of strategy. Running a business seems like a marathon sometimes. It’s a long journey that takes lots of courage. However, while our days are full and we are busy focusing on the next meeting or the next deadline, it is important to stop, step back and strategise for the next period.

Strategy is all about the longer term view and if we get too caught up in today, tomorrow’s business world may have changed before you realise!

Strategy is all about clarity on how you are going to reach a major or overall aim. Daily, monthly, yearly, ten-yearly – every business needs a strategy, a pathway to reach objectives.

Strategy shouldn’t be something you put off for a quiet month. You need to set time aside and live it each day. Breathe it through your organisation. It is a subject to discuss with mentors, your bookkeeper even your family. And it is fairly straightforward. You basically need to be able to answer three questions:

1.       Where is the business today?
2.       Where do I want the business to go?
3.       How will I get it there?

Whenever I meet with clients to define their communications strategy I always ask them the same question: What does success look like? What will we be celebrating when we crack open the champagne? What does success look like spread out on the table, on the whiteboard or in the bank?

Why? Because you need to know what you want to achieve from the outset. If you can’t see the bullseye, how can you hit it let alone aim? And if you don’t know what you want, how can anyone help you achieve it?

Most people want to work to something good, something bigger than themselves. Strategy is about inspiring, the bigger picture. It is your job plus more.

After determining your objectives – and remember these must be measurable – the next step is to break your end goal into smaller achievable checkpoints that you can easily plot along a timeline. For example, to meet your idea of success, decide what small accomplishments must be achieved and when. It’s best to work backwards from your end goal to make sure you meet each checkpoint.

Strategy vs. goal

When discussing your business goals and business strategies, think of them as two separate things and both should be clearly identified. Once you have your objectives, your strategy is a map or set of instructions on how to get there. For example, a football coach may have the goal of his team winning their next game. His strategy may be to increase their defence training or their stamina through new exercises.

SMART goals

These are my favourite kind and they involve establishing objectives that are:

·         Specific A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal
·         Measurable Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set
·         Attainable When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them
·         Realistic To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be
·         Timely A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no timeframe tied to it there’s no sense of urgency
Strategy is a clear statement about a chosen course of action for obtaining a specific goal or result.

I have put together a 12-step strategy list that covers some checkpoints of what a business should do to reach its goals:

1.       A company overview. Identify what business you are in and where are you now.
2.       Identify your values, beliefs, attitudes and capabilities.
3.       Write or review the business mission statement.
4.       Perform an environmental analysis.
5.       Perform a SWOT analysis.
6.       Determine your competitive advantage.
7.       Seek performance breakthroughs, spend time on improving performance.
8.       Understand and apply cause and effect relationships for the four basic ‘perspectives’, those being, Human Capital, Structural Capital, Customer Capital and Financial Performance. How do they impact upon each other?
9.       Develop a strategy map. This outlines your goals for each of the four perspectives.
10.   Translate goals into KPMs and perform gap analysis. What are you missing?
11.   Prepare a scorecard to track and drive your grand strategy. Will you meet your targets?
12.   Execute, adjust, execute.

Plan B

With the current economic environment, many people question whether they should even bother with strategy when there is so much uncertainty. But in my opinion, tumultuous times make strategy even more important in keeping you on track and heading towards your goals.

While your goal may not change, your strategy may need to adapt so be prepared for this. Every industry is constantly changing. 16 years ago, I certainly did not have social media expertise as part of my strategy to be a leading integrated communications agency. Little did I know back then it would become a major part of my business or that today (in my industry at least), you are not relevant without understanding it.

Be prepared to adapt to a changing world and be flexible with your strategy. Adhere to your mission statement and be clear on what it means. This way, while its strategy may change slightly, its core remains the same.

Micro strategies

So take time to implement strategy in the every day running of your business. This means knowing what you want to achieve each year and breaking down each quarter’s strategy accordingly. Have a meeting every day, every week, every month.

Your strategy keeps the bigger picture present and helps keep you and your team on track towards that end goal. You will be alerted to any issues much sooner and can redirect focus quickly.

While your goals may be big, your strategy breaks it down and keeps you on track. Having small, specific achievable strategies can provide a pathway to reaching the bigger picture that often seems daunting or out of reach.

Finally, the future looks nothing like the past – strategy helps you realise that and keep ahead of the game.

–Sharon Williams is CEO of Taurus Marketing