Building your Small Business Strategy
Business Strategy is an ongoing topic, and not an easy one! There is a lot of talk about business strategies. I even have Business Strategy as one of my Google News categories. There are so many different “strategies” that it can be hard to know which way to turn or what to do if you are a small business. As a small business you probably don’t have the money to go and hire a GOOD consultant to help you develop your strategy. Don’t throw up your hands and keep going the way you have been.
If you are just plodding along, STOP. Stop wondering what it would take to develop a good strategic plan. Stop expecting someone else to come up with your strategic plan.
Start thinking about what you want from your business. Any strategic plan has to include goals that you want to achieve. Those goals might be almost anything. Almost anything, because some ideas (like living forever) aren’t achievable. Do you want a big company? A small company? Do you want to become a billionaire? Have a small business that you can pass on to your family? Create a business that helps others? These are up to you!
Even if you have a competitor directly across the street, that doesn’t mean you both want the things from your business. Do not let someone else tell you what your goals should be. They are YOUR goals.
You may have heard to old example of goals and airline pilots. Pilots don’t take off to see where they can go. They go with a goal in mind – such as Logan Airport in Boston. They have to account for everything from wind speed to adverse weather and still be prepared for an emergency. They have to continually make adjustments.
So start planning on what you want from your business. And be prepared to make adjustments along the way.
LEARN and THINK
Your entire business can’t be based upon speculation. You don’t want to take off and hope it works out for the next 30 years. You can always learn from others. What did they do? How did they do it? Why was it successful (or why it failed)? If you can identify key concepts that may have similar impacts regardless of whether it is in the same industry, can you adapt the ideas to your business? What can you do differently than all of your competition? If you are just in the planning stage of your business now is the time to explore what the keys are to achieving your goals. Whatever they are!
You don’t know for sure what will happen, you can only act and see what happens. Remember to refer back to the previous section. Educate yourself and consider what the consequences of those actions are. You WILL make mistakes. Learn from them and make changes in course as needed.
OK, so you acted! Now you need to keep track of what happens. If you don’t keep track how will you know if your actions are helping you achieve the goals you set for yourself and your business? If you are working on gaining more clients, keep track of how many you gain – and how many you lose. If your goal is to keep your costs down to a certain level, keep track and review the costs regularly. If your goal is to pass on the business to your family, are you building a business that is worth passing on, or even if your heirs would want it. There have been many businesses that have been closed or sold because the next generation didn’t have any interest.
A businessman that I know owns several manufacturing business. He once told me that on Friday of every week he sits down and reviews the activity of each business for the prior week. He keeps track. Note that the key is in the first line of this paragraph. He owns several businesses and is very successful.
BE PREPARED TO CHANGE COURSE
Species that do not evolve become extinct. The same is true for businesses. Change is inevitable. You see it in mill towns, in your neighborhood, in the services that banks offer. If you don’t adapt to change you fade away. Evolution is part of life and if you don’t evolve and work to improve your competitors will. One of the best examples of this is a company in southern Maine. Hussey Seating is a good example. According to their website:
“It’s unusual for a company to stay in one family’s ownership for that length of time, let alone a business with a history of manufacturing everything from long furrowed plows to combat the rocky New England soil in 1835, to fire escapes and ski lifts in the early 1900’s, all the way to spectator seating since 1960.” (husseyseating.com)
Listen to what you customers tell you. Their feedback is essential. If you aren’t going to listen to them they are probably not going to be your customers in the future. If you don’t know why they come to you, don’t be afraid to ask! Learn what they think your strengths are and the strengths of your business. They can also help you how your strategy is works, or perhaps why it isn’t. After all, they are the ones paying to bills. And finally, listen to yourself. Are you achieving what you want? If not, prepare to change, again.