You run the company. It may be yours. So, since there is no stressful quarterly board presentation, no tight arsed SOB MD flying in to chew you on the numbers and you are working so hard, it’s so easy for business sense and strategic management to give way to day-to-to-day management. So here is a little exercise. It’s one of those cool ones like imagining the audience you are stressed about talking to from the conference podium are in their underwear. Imagine you have a Boss. An unforgiving son of his mother. You probably had one at some point in your career. Hell, these days it’s probably your banker. Anyway, this imaginary figure of authority always asks the tough questions and you simply do not want to be caught unprepared. He is asking, “What is your strategy?” Do you know? Did you lay it down five years ago and then forget about it as you had more important things to attend to such as writing proposals, visiting clients, appraising staff, balancing the books, answering the phone and emails? All the stuff above is, of course so much more important than actually knowing why you are doing it. When I ask this question at the first meeting with prospects, I usually get something along the lines of a smile bordering on the condescending and something like “Andrew, you know the theory is OK but we have a business to run”. In some cases this is a cover for a guilty managerial conscience. In other cases it stems from empirical managers or business people thinking that a business strategy is up there with quantum physics and as such beyond their grasp, so let’s just get on with running the business. In so many cases this ends up as just running around in circles or, worse, running the business into the ground.
Strategy made simple:
Ask yourself three questions:
1. Where are we today?
2. Where do we want to be in X months/years?
3. OK, How the heck do we get there?
That’s it basically. Get as philosophical and as detailed as you like, but this is the essence. Of course, you then need to think along the lines of, “What sort of obstacles would we encounter? Is there anybody that would go out of their way to stop me?”.
Before you get to the strategy questions, ask an even more important one:
What is my business?
This may sound borderline stupidly simple but take a minute: Are you selling coffee or are you selling an image of those that frequent your caffeine enriched beverage purveying establishment? Can you see how different your strategy needs to be depending on the answer?
Define, no, distill the essence of what it is you do. Then decide where you want to end up. Then work backwards to how you are going to succeed. And as you are starting from what you ideally want to achieve, don’t be surprised if you find that you have quite a way to go. Don’t be afraid to question the way you do things today. This will lead you to the “How do we get there” answers.
Oh, and by the way, check your ego at the door. It makes a crappy adviser when it comes to managing change, especially if you need to change your decisions and directions you set.