As much as we’d all like to skip ahead to the part of a business journey where success is guaranteed, the reality is every business requires a strategy to ensure it progresses in the right way at the right time.
And this is true regardless of whether your business is just starting out or is firmly established. There’s always a plan of action needed to get from where you are now to where you want to be.
Importantly, this strategy needs to work for you, your business and your clients. So here’s why you can’t jump straight to step 10, and the nine interim strategic steps that are required to allow your business to move forward.
The importance of strategy
Strategy is the plan of action that takes you from where you are now to where you hope to be. It involves considering the big picture, including the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of what your business is seeking to achieve, not just the ‘hows’ of daily operations.
It’s about knowing where you ultimately want to go and charting a course to get there, factoring in your business goals, potential market changes, emerging competition, trends and more.
Ultimately, the strategy you create is designed to set your business on the path to success. It accounts for the varying possibilities, and looks at ways to overcome your business’ weakness, enhance your strengths, seize available opportunities, and mitigate any threats.
And ideally, the outcome is business success, where you reap the results of the strategy you have devised and propel your business forward.
But before you reach step 10, there are a series of strategic milestones involved. Here’s what they are and why you can’t skip straight to the end.
Step 1 – Identify your ultimate outcome
This isn’t some arbitrary wish, either. It needs to be a clearly defined and realistic goal that your business intends to achieve. Then, in a later step, you will map out exactly how you get there.
Step 2 – Work out where you are now
In order to get where you want to go, you need a comprehensive understanding of where you are now. This involves a complete audit of your business including its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
This audit then allows you to determine the course (or courses) of action needed to propel you from A to Z.
Step 3 – Engage key stakeholders
Although the business owner remains at the helm of the ship, any strategic planning is far more effective if you involve the key stakeholders in your business from the outset.
In big business, this includes shareholders, but in your average SME, it’s likely to include customers, investors and staff.
When you bring these parties to the strategic table early, seeking their feedback on where the business should go and how it can get there, you create ‘buy in’.
In other words, these key players are invested in the process and want to assist in achieving the business goals.
They might also have feedback on activities you could undertake to achieve that goal that you, as the business owner, may not have considered.
Step 4 – Define your targets
So you know where you are now and where you want your business to be. Now it’s a matter of setting the targets and milestones that will allow you to achieve your business strategy over time.
In other words, ask yourself, how will we know if the strategy is working? What key performance indicators need to be set to ensure the business remains on the right track?
Step 5 – Assemble your team
Once you know the activities that need to be undertaken and the milestones that will be measured along the way, it’s time to assemble the team who will be tasked with taking you there.
This team might include existing expertise within your business and also new staff or consultants beyond it.
Step 6 – Assign responsibility
In a similar vein, who will be responsible for what? Who will lead each activity that you have identified? What resources will they require to achieve that aim?
When you assign responsibility, you create accountability, which is key to ensuring milestones and deadlines are met, and the team you have is invested in the outcome.
Step 7 – Combine and manage
While each individual activity might be assigned to someone, there must be one person in charge of the big picture outcome.
This involves combining the activities, understanding how they work together, and knowing what needs to occur in which order to make the progress you desire.
Step 8 – Implement and monitor
Once you’ve mapped out your plan of action, who is responsible and what they are required to achieve, it’s a matter of implementing then monitoring the activities involved.
For some businesses, this might require additional financial resources or expenditure on items like staff, equipment and premises.
Step 9 – Measure and adapt
With the overarching strategy clear and each individual activity mapped out, focus turns to measuring those actions to ensure progress is being achieved.
If that progress is meeting your KPIs and everything is going to plan, then that’s great. But there’s also a good chance you might need to tweak and adapt the activities involved in order to get where you want to go.
Step 10 – Reap the results
Results are the point that every business hopes to skip to. After all, we want to see our business develop, evolve and attain success as quickly as possible.
But the reality is, the cart rarely goes before the horse. And success is made all the sweeter by the planning and hard work involved.
Talk Strategy with Clive
With more than 30 years’ experience in mentoring small to medium-sized businesses around Australia. Clive works with company owners and their teams to grow their business and achieve goals through strategic coaching.