Strategy & personal development

Business strategy – scary words!

Businesses refer to their strategy but what does that really mean? Strategy is commonly defined as “A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term goal or overall aim”.

So the ‘plan of action’ could be to double sales and we’ll hire another salesperson. No, this is not strategy, this is simply wishful thinking, a knee jerk reaction and a hope that additional resources will achieve the long-term goal.

How many salespeople have joined a company, been given a customer list and told to ‘go sell’. They know the goal is to increase sales but they don’t know the business strategy or their unique selling point, the USP.

Business strategy concerns:

  • The analysis of a situation
  • Choosing intended future actions
  • Implementation

Before we get carried away, I just want to distinguish between business strategy and operational strategy.

  • Business strategy concerns ‘what we do’.
  • Operational strategy concerns ‘how we do’.

It is too easy to get lost in the detail of ‘how’ before you have established the ‘what’ you do.

Business strategy concerns the analysis of the external environment together with a thorough understanding of your internal resources and capabilities (tangible, intangible or human). Next you need to understand your key success factors to analyse how your business obtains its competitive advantage.

A thorough understanding of these factors enables you to develop a clearly defined business strategy to be shared with your employees. When your employees know and understand the business strategy you can really leverage your position in the market.

“What on earth is he waffling on about? Resources, capabilities, key success factors, competitive advantage, what – I just want to grow my sales!”

Sure, if you throw enough mud around, some of it will stick and you will increase sales however, focusing your efforts according to your competitive advantage will yield greater results with just a little more effort than you employ today.

‘I can just pile it high and sell it cheap though’. Of course, and if that’s your competitive advantage then it could well be your business strategy but you should still be aware of how you retain that competitive advantage or somebody else will eventually sell it cheaper.

Most people have heard of the term SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and it is useful to understand your current position however, it is a snapshot in time and should be used in conjunction with other tools to develop your overall strategy.

So why doesn’t every business have a detailed strategy?

The simple answer is time and/or knowledge. A thorough strategic analysis is not a 5 minute job and the outcomes will be heavily dependent on the quality of the research however, thorough understanding will take you 3-5 years into the future, a SWOT analysis will be accurate until tomorrow. Sufficient time must be dedicated to the research and analysis to obtain the best outcome.

There are many frameworks to consider and how the research and analysis are conducted will be unique to your business hence I’m not going into great detail in a blog post or editorial, we can discuss this further at a later date.

Finally, the critical aspect to your business strategy is implementation.

First you must ensure your management systems together with your policies and procedures support your business strategy. This will be unique to your business and can be quite complex however, if these systems are not aligned then implementation will become troublesome.

The second aspect is communication, communication, communication. I cannot stress the importance of communication in implementation of absolutely anything.

You know your business strategy but never underestimate somebody else’s interpretation of your expectations.

Many years ago, in a previous life, I thought I should only need explain something once or perhaps twice if it was complicated, if I had to explain it again a third time then it’s due to the recipient’s ability to listen or follow instruction. BIG MISTAKE; If I need to explain something a third time then I am clearly not communicating it properly, or not in a way the recipient understands. I or we, need to change how we communicate. DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING, ask for feedback; what is the recipient’s understanding of what is required? Ensure all parties are working together and pulling in the same direction.

Only move onto implementation when your organisation is aligned and employees are fully engaged.

What next

There are several options available:-

  • Do nothing, it’s working as it is so leave it alone (– short term thinking).
  • Do it yourself (- but ask yourself where your time is best spent).
  • Get some help!
Robert Isaacson
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Robert Isaacson

Business Mechanisms Coaching & Consulting was created by Robert and Sarah-Louise Isaacson to bring together their expertise, knowledge and skills under one umbrella to ‘minimise business risk – maximise business potential’. Robert completed his MBA (Master of Business Administration) in 2021 whilst employed as a director of a UK SME. Robert’s expertise is focused on strategy, business development, sales and finance including risk management. He has been in sales for 30+ years.

Business strategy – scary words!

by Robert Isaacson Time to read: 2 min