MY STRATEGIC PLANNING TIPS
A recent interaction with a potential client reminded me that it’s wise to evaluate the competition, not just when you are setting off on your business venture but on a regular basis.
This got me thinking about benchmarking, evaluation and accreditation, all valuable practices which it’s worthwhile incorporating.
But … you’re running your business day to day, trying to generate orders, fulfilling orders, dealing with enquiries, staff, emails… it’s a busy environment that doesn’t often allow for strategic planning time, let alone continual evaluation of your business practices.
Once in a while it’s great to step back and look at the whole picture. Maybe pop it in your diary to spend a day once every six months reassessing your business on a strategic level. Not just for large companies, a strategic business plan can be a great advantage to small businesses.
Here are my top strategic concepts to consider:
Benchmarking is the practice of comparing your business processes and performance to the best industry standard, usually measuring quality, time and cost. Comparing your business in this way allows you to develop a plan for improvement and can identify new business processes that explain why market leading companies are successful. Benchmarking can be conducted as part of your strategic review or incorporated into your daily business activity. Undertaking becnchmarking is one thing, but you need to act on the results for it to be worthwhile, which brings me nicely to continuous improvement.
2 Continuous Improvement
A principle of Lean Working, continuous improvement seeks to improve every process in your company by focusing on enhancing the activities that generate the most value for your customer, while removing as many waste activities as possible. Originally developed in Japan and known as Kaizen, it’s a never-ending quest for perfection. One of the key methodologies to use is Plan-Do-Check-Act, where you establish objectives and processes, execute what you’ve planned, check what you’ve achieved and consider what can you improve in your process so that you can achieve greater results next time.
Effective implementation of whatever strategy you have chosen to help you develop your business is critical to the success of that strategy. You need to think through the practical implications for your business and set your priorities. Your strategic initiatives must be meaningful, realistic and achievable. For example, would you be sacrificing another important business function?
Neglecting the implementation of strategy can mean that strategic initiatives are only partially successful, so work on creating an implementation plan.
4 Time Management
Great time management is critical to your success, but we are all guilty of getting caught up doing what needs to be done, spending too long on no-priority items, getting sidetracked answering emails or searching the internet. There’s loads of information on the internet on time management techniques which ironically does nothing to aid your time memnagement. I’m far from perfect at it myself but I do have two great tools that I use to help me manage my time.
The first one is dealing with emails. Back when I worked at Rockingham, the email load was just overwhelming, literally 100+ emails to deal with per day. So I made a rule: I allocated a specific time at the start of every day for dealing with emails, organising them into folders or replying as necessary, then assigning them as tasks if needed. Then after that I checked them briefly after lunch and again at the end of the day. Just three times a day. I disabled all the notification windows to prevent myself getting distracted and wanting to check them every time a notification popped up. Ultimately, there was very little that couldn’t wait for around four hours, and my rule allowed me to be more systematic and thorough about the way I used email and responded to it.
The second one is creating a “to do” list. As they say, nothing beats the satisfaction of crossing things off a list. Sometimes I even make lists just so I can cross things off! But in all seriousness, it does allow you to prioritise your workload. It helps if you have little annotations for the items on your list too, for example deadlines, priority, task owner. I usually have an “ongoing” list, a weekly list and a daily list. You can imagine my ongoing list is for the more strategic or recurring items, the weekly one is for what my aim is for the week - incorporating a mixture of daily and ongoing tasks. The daily one is more immediate, allowing me to focus on tasks for that day and prioritise them. Just glancing at the list keeps me focused on what I need to do next and where the best place is to spend my time.
5 Strategic Reviews
Bringing me full circle to where I began, I believe it’s essential to take the time to complete a strategic review, once a year at least. A strategic review helps you to take stock of your business in a wider context, rather than focusing on those pressing day-to-day issues. When you’re looking at your business, remember to focus on the key things that will influence your customers to spend their money with you, after all - no customers, no business!
Hopefully I’ve given you food for thought and some tools to work with above.
If nothing else, a strategic review of your business gives you something to do in the dead time between Christmas and New Year, so stick it in your diary now!!