When people start a business they tend to have a vision of something they want to build. They want it to look and feel a certain way, or get to a certain size. But after being in business for a little while they can get a lost, or stuck and don’t know how to move their business forward. This is because small business generally don’t have a strategy and don’t know where to begin in creating one, so here I’ll outline the 5 Step process we use to get you back on track, and build the business of your dreams.
You can’t improve your business if you don’t know what you want it to look like. So step 1 is about envisioning what you want your business to be, how big and by when. By committing a goal to paper you’ve got a guiding light when things get tough, or you’re confused about a decision that needs to be made. With a clearly written, easily understandable goal, you’ll be able to see which options will get you closer to that goal, and which ones won’t.
Questions to ask yourself in this step are;
- Who are my target customers?
- What value do I want to provide to customers (How are you making their business/life better)?
- What size business do I want to build (revenue, profit, value, staff)?
- What’s my time frame?
- What would my staff structure look like with a business that big and serving those customers?
In order to improve things, you need to know where you are right now. You need to make an honest, warts and all assessment of your current situation. Try to be impartial, it’s easy to be either too hard or too forgiving of yourself. Do this assessment over a couple of sessions so you’re not getting it done when your stressed or tired, or just had your 14th cup of coffee for the day. Get input from your management team, significant other, or valued customer or supplier.
Questions to ask yourself in this step are;
- What things do we do well?
- What things don’t we do well?
- What is changing in my industry?
- Are customer preferences changing?
- What are the external factors that threaten my business?
- What are the external opportunities for my business?
- Are my processes streamlined enough?
- How could I do them better?
- If I was starting my business today, how would I set things up?
- What size is my business now (revenue, profit, value, staff)?
In Step 1, you worked out where you want to be. In Step 2, you worked out where you are right now. Taking away Step 2 from Step 1, leaves you with a gap that needs to be bridged. Step 3, then is about how you design the bridge so you can move the business from where you are now, to where you want to be. Fair warning, this is the hardest step because its all about choice. This is going to be your business strategy and strategy is all about what you choose to do, and what you choose not to do. For example, you could choose to acquire competitors to grow in size more quickly, compared to choosing to grow organically by investing in marketing and advertising.
To help design a strategy you should be asking;
- What markets will we be active in? (this will tie into who your target customer is)
- How will we deliver our services to them (will you franchise, own your own stores, license your brand name, enter into joint ventures, use online platforms etc)
- What do we do differently to our competitors? How can we capitalise on that to provide more value than our competitors do, to our target customers?
- At what times will we make our moves? (you can’t do everything at once, how will you prioritise, which things will you do when?)
- How will we make money from all this? What’s your pricing strategy (premium price lower volume, lower price high volume etc)
Once you have your business strategy, you can then hire (as you will have planned above) the specialists like marketing consultants, to help you with your marketing strategy etc.
“Every decision you make either gets you closer or further away from your dream business.”
It’s one thing to work out your strategy, it’s another to implement it. This step is about organising yourself and keeping yourself accountable. You should have a big piece of paper, a whiteboard, a spreadsheet or if you’re fancy a some sort kanban or project management software, to keep track of all the projects that you will be doing, their budgets, timeframes, who is responsible for doing them, and what their milestones are. As part of this process you should be building in regular meeting/review times. Monthly is good rhythm. It gives enough time to get stuff done, but not too long that you forget about it, of course the due dates aren’t always one month. Just that you will formally review progress each month. Milestones should be getting completed throughout the month as needed and planned in your strategy.
This step is really linked to the implementation plan in step 4. Improvement shouldn’t happen ad hoc, it should be part of your business processes. You should plan to review each of these steps regularly to work out if a) the goal is still what you want b) what can be done better in your planning, implementation and analysis, c) what is happening in the market/economy how do those events impact your goal, your strategy or your progress? In step 5 you are essentially planning to continually move from step 1, to step 2, step 3, step . Keeping your business constantly moving closer to your goal.
So if you’re not getting the results you want from your business or you’re stuck in a rut. Follow these 5 steps to get you back on track and of course if you need help with that, check out our business consulting services tailor made for small and medium businesses.