I recently overheard a conversation where someone was talking about their strategy for developing business ideas. They said the key is to “throw a lot of things out there and see what sticks, then do more of that.” Now the first thing I thought of when I heard this was – that sounds pretty time consuming and risky to me!
Fair enough you might hit on a winner at some point and I’m sure there are those who have succeeded in business doing exactly this but do you think Jeff Bezos (Founder of Amazon) was simply working his way through a list of things to try when he stumbled across “selling books via the internet?”
Look at companies like Uber who apparently still don’t make a profit, but they’re comfortable with that because it’s part of the strategic plan. Once they’ve cracked driverless cars their costs will plummet and they’ll have cornered the market.
The key part to the title of this blog is “deliver better results this year”. No one can say definitively whether a random approach will work, as we’ve said you could strike it lucky and your business take off, but our strong advice would be if you want to make significant forward progress this year, then put some time into strategising. We’d recommend breaking down that process into 5 steps as follows:
- Think about what you want to achieve in the year. You can only develop a strategy to achieve something if you know what that thing is. Ideally you will have already established a vision for your business (if not check out our earlier blog “the importance of a clear vision and SMART goals if you want success next year”).
So with that in mind, think about what would you need to achieve this year in order to move you towards that vision. What are your overall business objectives for the year? These could be relating to you personally (i.e. I want to reduce my work levels to 4 days a week) or they could directly relate to the business (i.e. I want to double turnover, or I want to launch a new product). Remember when setting these Goals it’s important to make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Timely).
- Plan how you’re going to achieve those objectives. We would recommend breaking this down as follows. First, when you look at the overall objectives, consider what impact they are going to have across the full spectrum of strategy, so consider the five key areas of your business (Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance and Talent). Then identify what the strategic objectives in each of those areas is for the year on the basis of the overall objectives you’ve identified. Now it’s often tempting once you know what you want to achieve to plan out a step by step roadmap between now and the end of the year for each of these areas of the business. The challenge with this is a) it can become a massive task that never gets completed and b) things change as the year goes on that may impact how you reach your objective. So rather than taking this approach we would recommend identifying what your strategic objectives would be for the quarter in each area if you’re going to achieve your strategic objectives for the year. When this is done we would recommend breaking down the detail of the tasks that need completing simply for the month in order to keep you on track to complete your objectives for the quarter. This then becomes a process you can carry out on a monthly basis.
- Commit to your plan. How many times have you made plans in the past that then fall by the wayside once life gets busy again and you get caught up in the day to day activity of running your business? Remember what your business vision is. Remember that you’ve made this plan in order to move you towards that vision. If you actually want to achieve that vision then you need to be committed to moving towards it and the planning you’ve done was specifically designed to move you towards it this year.
If it’s helpful, why not write out your business vision and put it somewhere you can see it regularly in order to keep inspiring and motivating you to stick to the plan. One of the best ways we find to stick to our plans is to tell someone else what we are committing to. It’s amazing the power that accountability has over us. It’s very easy to let ourselves down but we don’t like to disappoint others.
- Measure your progress. The second aspect of SMART goals is “measurable.” In business it’s so important that we set measurable goals and targets because then there is nothing vague about them. We can see if our strategy is working by whether we are achieving the numbers we’ve set out for ourselves. So if one of your objectives for the year is to reduce the number of hours you are working in the business, you need to put a number on this and then put in a system to measure it. E.g. target to be working 35 hours a week and then use a time tracking app to clock your hours.
- Even when you strategise effectively, you are not going to get it right all the time. Don’t beat yourself up about this, the important thing is to think where you want to go, plan what you think is the best way forward, commit to executing the plan and then measure the impact. If you find that you’re not achieving the numeric targets you’ve set for yourself then you need to review what the numbers are telling you and make a decision. Are the numbers going in the right direction but just more slowly than you expected? In which case is there anything else that you could do to increase the rate of progress? Or are the numbers not going in the right direction at all? In which case maybe it’s time to review the plan and identify if it needs a fundamental overhaul or if there are just a few areas that need tweaking. Then commit to the new plan and go again.
Now we all know it’s easy to read a blog but not necessarily so easy to put what you might pick up from it into practice. If you’d like some help with putting it into practice why not check out our ENGINEERING BUSINESS GROWTH CLUB HERE