Rick Meekins is the Managing Partner at Aepiphanni, a Business Consultancy, an Atlanta, GA based small business consultancy that provides Management Consulting, Implementation and Managed Services to business leaders and entrepreneurs seeking to improve or expand operations.
What You Don’t Know About Strategy | Extraordinary Business
How ignoring creating a thorough strategic plan could sideline your business
As a consultant and business blogger, I see the term “strategy” and “strategic planning” getting thrown around like rice at a wedding. Thankfully, there are many competent consultants that can speak to strategy and strategic planning and deliver on services extremely well.
My fear, however, is that there are many business owners that think about strategy in the same way that they think about taking a vacation or cleaning out the basement; they know that it is important, it is for their benefit, but there is no time to invest right now.
I offer that strategic planning and strategic thinking are essential from day one.
I also offer that strategy should be appropriate for the stage of business that you are in and the available resources. but I digress.
Erica Olsen, author of “The Strategic Planning Kit for Dummies” offers that “accidental success is dangerous.” A firm that grows rapidly without a plan that addresses how the company will manage that growth – employees, processes, access to resources, management, customer service, quality, etc., will ultimately suffer and without aggressive support, is likely to fail. It looks like this: the business begins to take on contracts and has difficulty filling them, or the level of service goes down, customers become dissatisfied and go away.
Meanwhile, the business has been investing heavily and sporadically, trying to play catch up. If they DO catch up, they will have to invest heavily to turn their reputation around. If they DON’T catch up, they may be facing reorganization or closure.
Another challenge that strategic planning helps companies avoid is when seeking to hire new employees. Employees are a significant investment in both time and money. Given the investment, you would want the investment to pay off, ideally, very quickly. According to an article by John E. Lawlor of Practical Decisions, your company’s strategic plan provides the framework and direction for employees and to help drive their engagement. Employees that have little idea of the company’s direction will have little engagement. Those that can see where the company is going and their contribution to it are more likely to be committed to being part of that vision.
One of the traits of a leader is that people tend to follow them! meaning that you could have employees but still not be a leader. Have you ever noticed that some businesses have nearly constant turnover? This tends
Florida’s Small Business Development Center offers that a company without a strategic plan is like “baking a cake without a recipe.” As Forest Gump might say, “…you never know what you are going to get.” So even if you have a vision for what your company’s future looks like, without considering all of the resources and requirements for getting to that future state, deciding on ways to address potential pitfalls and truly evaluating its feasibility, it is unlikely that your company will ever reach that point!
A company I worked for many years ago often talked about buying real estate, building a strip mall, expanding into other states and cornering their market. The company had all of the resources to be able to do so: access to capital, a strong network, a good reputation in the communities they served and visibility on a nation level. However, while they had the goals and the thinking, they were never able to capitalize on them because they never figured out how they would get there.
Kaihan Krippendorff, in an article in Fast Company offers that despite the reasons small businesses should scrap strategic planning – time, cost, low ROI and the need for constant adaptation – small businesses still need to adopt an opportunistic approach to strategy, building a strategic plan that is appropriate for where they are in the business cycle. This means that you are not going to go out and hire a huge firm to work with you to build a five year strategic plan, but rather, you are going to gather appropriate information about your market, competitors, your company, resources, etc., and create a framework for how you will grow. As you reach milestones, you will re-evaluate and plan the next stage. For a small business, strategic plan can NEVER be a static document that you follow blindly.
The need for strategy in your business cannot be understated. The corporate or MBA path toward creating and pursuing goals isn’t the only path. The most important path is the one that works for you, for your company, that allows you to take a heads-up approach to running and growing your company. That means that it won’t take weeks to develop, it won’t be filled with information that has no value to you and it won’t be so set in stone that if there is a need to shift, you will have to throw your plan out. It should be efficient – no fluff and effective – getting the job done.
I promise you; running your company on inertia will only lead to running out of steam. Strive to build an organization that is extraordinary.
Rick Meekins is the Managing Consultant at Aepiphanni, the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth. Our entrepreneurial multidisciplinary team works with clients to develop differentiating solutions and provide direction focused on lasting, strategic results. We exist to help our clients CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD extraordinary businesses.
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