The world is constantly changing. What was revolutionary when we started our business is outdated today. Your business needs to evolve or you’ll be left behind. That requires regular strategic planning.
Yet, surprisingly, many business owners I meet don’t set aside time each year for strategic planning. Some don’t have any sort of plan at all.
If you don’t have a plan, it’s too easy to get sidetracked by all the stuff that life constantly throws at you. You’ll rarely reach your end goal - especially if that involves one day selling your business for a lot more than it’s worth right now.
But I’d argue there’s a bigger business problem that has further-reaching consequences: not putting you plan into action. The best strategy in the world is not worth the paper it’s written on if it isn’t acted on.
We need to look at our business in two ways: strategy and operations.
The difference between strategy and operations is like a rowboat. If you're madly rowing without steering, you’ll end up going round in circles and get nowhere (yet be exhausted). That's where strategy comes in. It’s the rudder that steers our rowboat and gives our business direction.
So your strategy provides the vision of where the business is headed. Operations involves implementing the strategy; it’s the day to day stuff that we do to deliver on our promises.
Many business owners are mired in the operation of their business. They're trapped in the business and are too frantic to take the time to work on it: to make it more efficient, effective and effortless. Consequently they (and their team) end up wasting time and effort on activities that may seem important, but aren’t driving the business towards their strategic goals. Their reacting to the squeakiest wheel.
Other owners have immaculate, detailed plans… but fail to pull the trigger and put them into action. This holds them back from achieving their strategic goals, and is frustrating and demoralising for their team.
Owners need to recognise the role they play in the business. Every business is a function of the owners: your personality, your vision, your way of doing things. Some owners are great at the big picture stuff, and have powerful visions of where the business is headed. Others just want to get in there and do the work and deliver what their customers want. Rarely are the two sides of strategy and operations totally balanced in an owner - you’ll lean towards one or the other. So it’s important to understand where you sit on the spectrum, and then get support to help you where you’re lacking.
I touched on the challenges of wearing our two hats - as a director and shareholder - in a previous post. This mirrors the strategy / operations divide: as a director, you’re focused on doing work (operations), while shareholders want to maximise business value, which is a function of your end game (strategy).
I’ve seen this delineation work well in partnerships where one person handles strategy and the other gets the work done. The ‘strategy’ person is usually great at conveying a vision to others, making them a natural salesperson and integral to a strong team culture. They bring in the work, and the other partner ensures it gets done and invoiced, and that customers are happy. If you don’t have a business partner that counterbalances your strengths, you’ll need to employ someone who can free you up to operate in your genius.
Learn how to Have your cake and sell it too.