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You’re a business owner, and you’re looking to make your company the best it can be. But where do you start? Unluckily for you, there are lots of solutions available out there and lots of opinions on where to start. The solutions that are free often don’t work well enough (you’ve tried), and the paid ones don’t seem to generate results fast enough or haven’t worked for you either (you’ve tried too).
I have seen it happen over and over. As a leader in the business development space, I’ve seen companies trying cookie-cutter strategies after they are told they need to build an online presence, publish more, focus on SEO, etc. Thousands of dollars later, they are usually in the same or worse situation as before. Others are told to get some influencers on board, make organic content, etc. Some are told to bring some A-team members on board to help them with sales, operations, HR, etc.
At the end of the day, these suggestions rarely prove fruitful. It’s not because any of those tactics are bad or not needed. It’s because these tactics did not align with each business’ specific strategy or because the business itself was not following a clear strategy. Therefore, these attempts to make a business better often fail.
A business strategy is the foundation that supports idea decision-making in any business. None of the most successful companies out there have gotten that way solely by following trends or copying others, period. They had to have a clear strategy that guided their decision-making.
My suggestion to you is to start with the basics: Do your strategic planning right. If you can answer the following questions, then you are in a good position to start. What does your business provide? Who are your customers? What benefits do you provide? What is your business trying to achieve? If not, then first answer those questions clearly. This would be your company’s mission.
Next, evaluate what you have been doing so far. Make a list of your business goals (a.k.a. objectives), and see if they are within your capabilities or power to accomplish them. See if you are measuring success correctly. This is crucial to understand because sometimes we measure something important the wrong way. Make sure your goals are also ongoing, meaning they are long-term and open-ended. Evaluate whether you are setting deadlines, budgets and scope for each initiative being undertaken to accomplish your goals.
So far, so good. You have successfully evaluated your mission and your objectives. Now what? The next step is something overlooked by most business leaders, either because they don’t know how to do it right or because they don’t know how to use the information they get from it.
You need to look at what is affecting your business that is external to your company. This is your external analysis. Is something happening in your industry that can affect your business? If so, what is the level of threat to your company? By defining not only the threat but its level, you are better prepared to produce more reasonable objectives as part of your strategic planning process in the latter steps.
Next, you are going to analyze your company — this is your internal analysis. You are looking to understand your strengths and weaknesses. I know you have heard that one before. I am using those familiar terms to take you to the next level of internal analysis. Ask yourself, what is something that you as a company do well, based on either internal or external benchmarks? Is what you do valuable, rare or costly to imitate? That would be a strength your company has. Now ask yourself, is there something your company does that is not working? Or, is your company missing something that would help it significantly? Those would be your weaknesses. Looking externally but from your company’s perspective, ask yourself, are there any industry trends that can either hurt your company or be exploited by it? Those are your threats and opportunities, respectively.
This next part is crucial. So far you have analyzed a lot, but it hasn’t solved anything for you yet. Now, you need to pick a strategy that matches your mission, strengths and the opportunities in your industry. Your approach should make use of everything great you have to offer. There are several types of business strategies. Some are cost leadership, differentiation, technology leadership, economies of scale or focus strategies, which are the strategies I just mentioned but applied to niche markets.
Finally, after you complete your analyses and choose a strategy that makes sense (based on the results of your analyses), you need to create new objectives that are aligned with your newly analyzed and improved mission and business strategy. A tip here for your success: Make sure you use the information from the objectives analysis you performed earlier to produce better ones.
All these suggestions might seem unrelated to your current business issues, but a clear strategy guides hiring. You would not hire someone who is an expert in print media if you realize that your business has an opportunity to thrive online more than anything, would you? You would be able to sift through the services you are offered by looking at your objectives and deciding on which of those service offerings would make good initiatives to accomplish your objectives. The list is endless.
If you are looking to make your company better, have tried many things already, and are wondering where to start, I recommend beginning by doing your strategic planning right. Your company, your family, your employees and your business partner(s) will thank you.