Your company is not alone if there are gaps in your business strategy. I have worked with third generation companies that just never took the time to discover their core values or purpose, let alone create a vision for where they want the company to be in 10-25 years.
These aren’t bad companies; in fact, they are great! They just never set aside think time or had the right support and guidance to work on their strategy. We have all heard that sometimes you need to step back and work on the business and not in the business.
Daily operations and firefighting can sometimes make it hard to allocate time to look at the big picture, but it is absolutely necessary to scale your business profitably. You can grow to a certain size without clearly developing and articulating your strategy, but there is a point where it becomes imperative to make sure everyone in the organization knows how to operate, what is important, who your ideal customers are, how to serve them and where you are trying to take the business long term. Good employees want to be part of something great and need to know what the plan is to get there. Plus, if they know the strategy, they are going help you make it a reality!
Where do I start?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. In an ideal world, I would start with your core ideology and define your core values. These usually come from the founder or key leaders in the company. Next, determine what your purpose is. Why does this company exist? How are you going to make an impact on the world ,and why do you do what you do? This is not necessarily what you do as a company.
Begin with the end in mind. What is your long-term vision, or "Big Hairy Audacious Goal," as Jim Collins describes it? You won’t’ know how you are going to get there at this point, but coming up with this long-term goal for what or where you want to the company be in the future is inspiring to all involved. This will be your north star to help develop 3-5 year strategies.
Next, you can identify your core competencies—what does/will set you apart in your market. These should be differentiators. The world is full of fierce competition, and it is imperative that your product or service be different so that you can gain valuable market share with desirable margins.
You can leverage the work on core competencies to develop your core customer profile. This is the customer that truly values and needs what you have to offer and that your company can deliver in a way few others can. It is also the customer that deserves your focus and will allow you to grow with them profitably into the future.
Once your core customer is identified, you understand and can fill their unique needs with your offering you can move on to your brand promise. This is the promise you make to customers and prospects about your product or services. This should help you generate new sales and the guarantee you develop should remove the risk from the prospects you want to do business with and put that risk on your shoulders. A good brand promise and guarantee should make you uncomfortable because it is bold and holds you accountable for fulfilling your offer.
It is also important to clearly define the sandbox you want to play in. What products or services will you sell? Being strategic rather than just taking any business that comes your way will keep you on the right path to do what you do well: give your customers what they need and help you deliver what you can offer profitably. It is important to define what market segments and industries you will sell into and what regions or countries. Next determine how you will sell, what methods, channels, etc. Will you sell direct, through partners or distributors? These all have a bearing on price points, margins, service offerings and distribution infrastructure.
It takes time to develop and refine a great strategy so please don’t rush it just for the sake of getting it done. That said, don’t become paralyzed either; you can continue to refine it as you work it and operate your business.
Work with your team or key members of your team to develop your strategy. It can be helpful to have a strategy coach guide the work as they have done this for many clients and bring patterns, tools and process to help you develop the best strategies to achieve your long-term goals.
Best wishes and plan well, Alan
Here are more resources to help with developing your strategy:
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images