What is all this business strategy stuff about anyway?
Going off to Business School is all well and good but don’t Real Entrepreneurs just get up and do it?
I have huge respect for Entrepreneurs who have built businesses, I have certainly met and advised enough of them to know how hard they work and that success is rarely achieved over night.
I believe that Entrepreneurs want to work SMARTER as well as HARDER in order to achieve their goals. Thats where I come in, thats where my Six Simple Strategic Steps to SME Success comes in and thats where STRATEGY comes in.
I thought I would try to set out my understanding of Strategy so that we have a common understanding here. Have a read and then tell me what you think.
The first part of any Strategy is about setting Objectives. If the aim is to get from A to B you need to define B. What is more these Objectives need to be specific and measurable.
“I want to get richer” doesn’t meet those criteria
“I want to sell my business for £5 million in 3 years time”
There is a mnemonic SMART which is frequently used in Project Management. This stands for;
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Attainable
- R = Relevant
- T = Timely
The hard work in a strategy comes at the planning stage when you sit down and work out how you are going to achieve your plan. Remembering the military adage, that no plan survives contact with the enemy, you had better build in plenty of flexibility and contingency too.
The Six Ps help here: Prior Planning and Preparation Prevent Poor Performance.
Another piece of standard advice: Time Spent in Reconnaissance is Seldom Wasted.
The message here is that a successful outcome will certainly depend on the quality and depth of your planning so don’t take short cuts here.
This should be an outcome of your planning process. You have set the Objective and worked out a Plan to get there. This plan should have clear steps and milestones to enable you to communicate it, to delegate it and to ensure accountability.
Ensuring that your team own the Plan, even if you have done most of the work on it, only comes from being able to explain the Plan to the whole team and ensure that they understand it. Clarity and Structure are therefore key.
In a military context, plans are communicated in Orders Groups or “O” Groups when the plan and its execution are explained in a set format with which everyone is familiar. While you don’t necessarily need to go to those extremes, it is critical that everyone understands the Plan and their roles and responsibilities in it.
How you execute your Plan is as important as the plan itself. I have often heard investors discussing the merits of a management team in terms of their track record and ability to execute the Plan they have presented.
This needs a coherent team with the right collective experience. If you are a keyman short in a vital area, finance or sales for instance, get the right man in before you start out to execute a major operation.
That having been said, Startup Entrepreneurs often have little choice, as they have little money, than to wear more than one hat.
Maintenance of the Aim
When the going gets tough, the tough…..well you know what I mean.
Another Adage; when you are up to your neck in Alligators it is often difficult to remember that you were supposed to be draining the swamp.
Persistence overcomes Resistance everytime, well eventually.
I know that Pivoting is a topical issue today but if your plan is sound and your Objective is in site, you need to maintain the original Aim of the plan. You can compromise on Execution and find different routes to the objective, just don’t change the Objective.
This brings me neatly to my last element of Strategy – Tactics. These can be an minor elements of your Strategy which make it easier to achieve the Aim of the Plan. There is always more than one road to success and adjusting your tactics in the heat of the battle is often the way to achieve victory.
Staying flexible, keeping your mind open to opportunities as they arise, continually learning on the way to improve your knowledge. These all come into play at the tactical level and contribute to the success of the overall Strategy.
My Six Simple Strategic Steps to SME Success framework is based on establishing a clear and thoroughly appraised Strategy and executing it. The meat of the Framework contains a whole raft of detailed tactics for achieving your plan.
What is more exciting is that I am learning new tactics all the time and because I have the Framework, I can see exactly where to use this new knowledge to gain further advantage to enhance the execution of the Plan and achieve the Strategy.
Now, tell me what do you think Business Strategy is all about. Leave me a comment or email me at jbdcolley[at]aol.com
As ever, Thank you for Joining the Conversation!