As a Business Strategist, all of my clients inevitably hear the question, �and what do we hope to accomplish by this?� Many of the business leaders I initially work with tend to work in terms of what is immediately in front of them rather than looking at the big picture. Many people have labeled this �working in the business, rather than on the business.� Others might say that many business owners �can�t see the forest because of all of the trees.�
You might ask why that is, but the answer is often obvious � the things that are right in front of us tend to be those things that require our immediate attention. For example, your company may have orders coming in, going out, clients that are paying late, need immediate decisions, sales calls to take, products to develop and the shiny new thing that came across your desk that you must take advantage of in the next 36 hours or you will miss the chance of a lifetime.
If you think about it, it is like watching a mouse in one of those spinning wheels. You watch the little guy working really hard to make that thing spin as quickly as possible, but you know that he really isn�t going anywhere, no matter how hard he tries. While the mouse probably doesn�t have the aspirations you have to get anywhere, your business will quickly get left behind if you continue operating this way.
Enter strategic planning.
Strategic planning is a method of driving your company toward its vision. This isn�t a passive activity, or something that you do when you get the opportunity. This isn�t something that is simply a logical progression of activities. It is something that is driven.
The opposite of it is continuing on inertia. This is like a wheel that starts rolling down a hill. Sure, it will gather speed without much outside force. No one has to run along next to it to make it keep going. What happens, though, when the hill starts to smooth out? What happens when the decline becomes an incline? Of course, the wheel will slow down and eventually start rolling backwards. What happens if the wheel bumps into a tree on the way down the hill? What if it gets hit and changes course?
Being strategic and acting on purpose with your business will help you steer the business through some of the obstacles the business might run up against, and give it power to keep going up and over those hills that it will inevitably encounter.
A strategic plan starts out with a vision. Your vision should tell you where you are going, or what you expect to find at the other end of the forest. For example, being a web design company won�t get you very far. There are thousands of different directions you can go with that. However, being the best interactive web application company focused on midsized hospitals is much more tangible. Strategy begs to answer how you will get your company there, but it does so, specifically.
How do you determine that you are the best? Well, that will have to be based on popular opinion, versus a gut feeling or a few peoples� comments. You�ll have to present your company in such a way that you are open for criticism. You�ve got to compete for awards. You�ve got to have systems, process and standards so that you have deliver the same quality product and/or service repeatedly. You�ve got to listen to your clients and your markets to determine what they are looking for and to anticipate their needs that they don�t know exist.
Each aspect of your vision needs to be to be approached like this, in a way that will allow you to measure your results. If 10 hospitals say you are the best, that is great. If 50 hospitals say you are the best, you are probably on your way. If 500 hospitals say you are the best, depending on your target market size, you are probably the best. If you tell a client that 500 hospitals across the US say you are the best, do you think you might win the next client?
Now, this is a broad stroke when we talk about strategy � it would be easy to dig down into the details, put time, dates, costs, build financial models, etc., but you have to start somewhere. The most important thing is to be able to see the forest. Once you can begin to see the forest, you can begin to see the path through the trees.
Aepiphanni Business Solutions is a Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of business leaders and executives. We specialize in helping people get into business, and stay there. We welcome clients in the personal and professional services industries, including restaurants, catering and event planning. As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts, questions and suggestions. If you are seeking a business assessment, or have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-265-3908, or email us at [email protected].