It is widely accepted that most business leaders are good strategic thinkers. They have learned how to see the big picture and why it’s important.
Prior to strategy, though, the owner must have a clear picture of their business from an operational sense, as well as how it fits into their personal lives. Vision comes before strategy in this context.
Personal matters will usually influence your vision of what you want your business or practice to look like in one, three and five years’ time. Business owners can have all sorts of matters on their agenda – for example, clearing personal financial liabilities, planning for retirement, educating children, children coming into the business, and succession planning. These timelines must be included in the business vision so it can be amended if necessary.
When strategically planning, it’s important to know what the end result or outcome will look like.Strategy involves determining how different timelines within the vision will be achieved. Having a murky, ill-defined vision is like a child creating a modern art painting: they slap the paint where they feel like it, and only they can sense what the artwork is supposed to represent.
There are times when strategic sessions will test the vision, but it is incumbent on those creating the plan to really focus on how to achieve the vision. For example, in terms of marketing, where does the focus need to be? In terms of finance, what needs to change? In terms of labour, who will do the work?
When the strategy is clear, the business owner can then drill down to the objectives needed to achieve the strategy. These are usually three-, six- or 12-month objectives. The number of objectives depends on their priority and size. Three-month objectives are often best because the time-frame is short enough to prevent procrastination yet long enough so things can be measured quickly.
There can be several objectives, but as US business management expert Patrick Lencioni says, having a major thematic goal for one quarter that everybody buys into is one of the most effective ways to get results.
Once objectives are set, those who are responsible for their implementation need to take ownership of them. This is because “after all is said and done, more is said than done”. Many, if not most, small business objectives aren’t achieved because of poor implementation or, in some cases, no implementation. Owners can become quickly distracted. Using external advisory boards or mentors can help avoid procrastination as they bring in accountability.
“Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.”
Having a clear vision and concrete objectives mean the strategy will work. Those who have the vision can check whether the way objectives are implemented is congruent with their view of the world and the business. The implementation schedule must have milestones or check-in points to ensure the objectives are met on time.
Having a clear vision, a strategy for achieving this vision through objectives, and implementing a plan of action to achieve the objectives will ensure the owner’s desired outcomes are achieved.
I help small business owners gain clarity on their vision and strategy. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.