Business owners and leaders constantly find themselves caught up in the operational and day to day. That is completely understandable. Small business owners typically have to be a jack of all trades. Customers, marketing, sales, products, services, systems, processes, human resources, financial, technology, communications don’t wait. They all have to be managed by someone – and usually there is no department to do it. Just the owner or business leader and a hand full of staff. No wonder one of the major pitfalls for business owners is failing to take the time out from operations to think and act strategically or do some business planning. Somehow, business leaders need to find the time to do both – the strategic planning and the operational. So, here are a few simple steps and tips to get started and create the time for business planning and strategy.
In summary, the key steps are:
- Do something different
- Summarise the current business or AS-IS
- Define the Vision for the business or TO-BE
- Articulate a compelling Case for Action
- Develop and execute the plan
The first step for business owners and leaders is to DELEGATE as much of their operational and tactical workload as possible. Leaders should review their role and separate out their operational workload from their strategic workload. Seriously ask – how much time do I spend on planning for the future. Then get curious about the future and invest the right amount of time in planning for it.
The second step is to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT from the normal day to day. Get out of the office. Take key staff with you. Go on a field trip. Use the wealth of strategic planning processes and tools available – SWOT, Visioning, Values development, BCG Matrix, Portfolio Analysis, Competitor analysis, etc. There are many tools available to help business leaders think differently. In need, get a consultant to help.
The third step is to clearly articulate the current state of the business or the AS-IS and summarise it – finances, resources, operations, staff, structure, customers, services, products, systems, processes, technology, communications, etc.? Understanding the starting point is fundamental to any journey.
The fourth step is to take the time to consider the possibilities and imagine the future or TO-BE for the business. Describe the vision for the business and time frame to achieve it. In other words, what will the business look like in the future and when? What markets will be served? What services or products will be offered? What is happening in the industry elsewhere in the world? What will the customers look like? What will the staff look like and what skills will they have? What will the systems and processes look like? What technology opportunities will be leveraged? What will competitors be doing and offering? If you cannot articulate the future then how will you know what needs to be achieved for success?
The fifth step is to create the CASE FOR ACTION. Consider both the AS-IS (current state of the business) and the TO-BE (or vision for the business) and make a list of the compelling reasons for change. The Vision needs to be inspiring but the Case for Action has to be the driving and motivating reasons for change. Maybe customers won’t need your current services. Maybe new technologies will make your products or services obsolete. You may have to create new efficiencies to remain profitable or to be competitive. Staff may need completely new skill sets to achieve the vision. Create an explicit list.
Beyond these steps, the plan will need to be developed and executed. But that will be another tip. In our experience, Execution matters more than the inspiration. Great strategies and business plans require great execution. Without effective execution, plans are worthless. That is why we created Simulthink – to help leaders, business owners and teams Think and Act Together! Click here for more information about business planning and strategy.