To respond to the complexities that appear in business growth, you must scale your business. The first step to scaling your business is to start with a focus on your strategy, emphasizing strategic planning. When you grow your business, you are promoting revenue growth. However, when you do this, you add layers of complexity: more customers, different types of customers, more employees, more business silos, more products, and more services.
The list can go on and on. Scaling a business starts with strategy, but it also requires you to examine your operating model, your organizational structure, your operating system, and people, processes, and technology. All of this requires time, effort, and money.
None of these things should occur without first examining your strategy and doing some strategic planning. When considering your strategy, explore these three questions:
1. Do you have a written strategic plan?
2. Do you use your written strategic plan every day?
3. Is your written strategic plan effective?
Strategic planning is the most important leadership activity you can do for your business. It is also one of the most neglected activities.
Having a Written Strategic Plan
Most of us have a strategy in our heads for our business. Some of it may be fed by our imagination and form into aspirations. Other parts of our strategy are rooted in facts, formulating a vision. Neither is bad when you have a written strategic plan.
When we fail to write down our strategy, the minute something changes in our life or business, our strategy changes. Have you ever had a really good idea while lying in bed, taking a shower, or working out? Then, a few hours later, you cannot remember what that great idea was? Sometimes you forget you even had a great idea.
This is what happens when your strategy is only in your head. You forget pieces, and they can constantly change. Most of the time, your strategy is only partially formed. If your business is growing, you need to have a written strategic plan. Otherwise, you really have no strategy at all.
Documenting your strategy does not have to be hard. Yes, the strategic planning process can take a while and be some work, but simply getting what is in your head down on paper is relatively easy. Carry a small notebook around and write down your ideas as they come to you. Or, use your mobile device to record your ideas or send them to yourself as a quick email or message. The idea is not to lose these strategic ideas before they disappear. You can address them at a later date in a more formal process.
Using a Written Strategic Plan
As a business coach and consultant, the first question I ask a business leader is if they have a written strategic plan. If they do, I ask to see it — I want to see their strategic direction for their business. If they actually do have a written strategic plan, most of the time, the answer is, “I’ll have to find it.” Is your strategic plan filed away in some forgotten planning folder on your computer? Is it printed in a binder and currently serving as shelfware?
Typically, a strategic plan is built and filed away. The mission and vision statements might be on the wall in the entrance, and the values might appear somewhere in the documentation. The plan, however, is seldom used after it is written.
A “plan” is a detailed approach or set of steps to achieve something. This means your strategic plan should be a roadmap you follow every day to achieve your vision. You need to use it every day to grow, scale, and improve your business.
Making a Strategic Plan Effective
The number one reason someone does not use their written strategic plan every day is that it is ineffective. Even when you try to use the plan, it fails to make a difference in your business.
This is because of five things that are likely missing in your strategic planning process:
1. Executable focus. Too often, a strategic plan is built without understanding the current situation. When you create a strategy without regard to what is happening in the business, it is not designed to address strategic challenges that prevent you from attaining a vision.
2. Strong strategic framework. The foundational elements of a strategic plan are a mission, purpose, vision, and values. These elements must be well defined.
3. Traceable implementation. When the strategic framework is strong and effective, the actual plan will include defined goals and objectives. The objectives break down into initiatives and actions, which provide a traceable implementation.
4. Rigor and accountability. An ignored or under-resourced strategic plan will always fail. Leadership must support the plan, or it will be ineffective no matter how well it may be written.
5. Communication. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The message in this question is that you must constantly and consistently communicate throughout the strategic planning process.
Strategy and strategic planning are extremely vital to scale your business. By having and using an effective strategic plan, you are setting up your business to meet the complexities of growth. You do this by having a written strategic plan, ensuring that it is effective, and using it every day.
This article has been reprinted with permission from John Knott’s Forbes page.