Better Strategy for a Better Business…but Where to Start?

Strategic planning for your business is like planning for a holiday.

It can be very simple. A weekend for two, away for golf, within a two-hour drive from home — book the venue on or near the golf course, take the car, don’t forget the clubs. Done!

A three-week European skiing holiday for a family of four kids, that will also include a sojourn on the way home in a tropical climate — two vastly different climates to dress for, ski gear, numerous sets of clothes, multiple accommodation options, package deals including lift passes, organising flights and seating, connecting flights and time delays, etc etc.

One is so simple. The other is complicated and time-consuming.

This summary is designed to give you the best starting point for where you and your business are now:

Strategic Approach #1: Quick Start Method

When to Use

When it’s obvious what your business needs because you can ask a really simple question like ‘what do we need to focus on right now as a priority?’ or ‘what needs to happen right now in the business?’.

These questions can usually be simply answered, for example:

  • More clients
  • Win a big tender
  • Recruit a new person in a key rol

Having said this, if it isn’t obvious to you what your business needs to focus on as a priority, you may need to move along the strategy scale to other methods.

What is Involved

For each of these examples, you may need to bring in specialist support people such as:

  • A recruiter
  • A specialist in helping companies win big pitches
  • Someone to help you develop a client acquisition strategy

Alternatively, you may address these initiatives yourself, or by pulling together a project team internally, but you will invariably benefit from specialist advice if it involves an area that isn’t your core competency.

A client acquisition strategy will require some analysis, research and planning, whereas recruiting a new person to add to your team is very straightforward.  

Strategic Approach #2: Business Case Approach

When to Use

I use this method when there is one big choice to be made. There will need to be a Yes/No decision on a strategic opportunity.

What is Involved

You will need to assess the opportunity, potential ROI and risk as part of developing a business case for making a strategic decision.

Number crunching, market research, analysis and scenario planning to assess risks are all necessary components of a business case.

Depending on what’s involved, you may enlist some external help, but ultimately it’s your decision and you can’t outsource that.

Strategic Approach #3: Business Review

When to Use

This is usually needed when the business is at a crossroads of some sort. Either poised for a new stage of growth, or needing to consolidate after a period of growth, or even when you know that some aspects of the business need to change but you aren’t sure where to start.

What is Involved 

I specialise in this so I am biased.

I have yet to see a business owner able to go through this exercise impartially and objectively. Added to that is the fact that no business owner has the time to do this review unless they take themselves out of the business for a period of time so they can focus on it.

However, if an external consultant or advisor conducts it, that person can also deliver any news to the team that they may not like, and also help execute on recommendations that have come out of the review.

This strategic approach is best left to a specialist advisor or consultant.

Strategic Approach #4: Portfolio Planning Method

When to Use

This would be the most complex scenario for most medium-sized companies.

Use this approach when there are several entities involved in addition to the core business, which may or may not share financial and human resources.

What is Involved

The key here is a mix of a Business Case and Business Review.

You would need to review each entity in its own right, and then analyse the financials using different scenarios to determine the best way to structure and resource the entities from a day to day management perspective.

Each entity needs to be efficient and effective in its own right, but how resources are shared, funded and managed across the group are key decisions to be made.

This approach needs external specialists to provide input at different points depending on the resources you have within your portfolio.

Strategic Approach #5: Personal Strategic Discovery

When to Use

When the owner is no longer needed in the day to day management of the company, and is searching for the ‘next thing’.

The focus is purely on the owner, not the business.

By way of comparison, if the owner no longer wants to be in the business because they already know what else they want to be doing, that would require a business strategy (Business Review) in the event the business is unprepared for the departure of the owner on a full-time basis.

What is Involved

This personal strategy involves some soul-searching and deep thinking.

I have created an approach for clients in this situation, to give them a framework or a guideline to help them in their personal strategic planning.

But essentially, no-one can do this exercise but the individual concerned and it may take some time depending on their circumstances.