Do entrepreneurs need a strategy?
It sounds like a rhetorical question, but I hear it from many business owners, not only start-ups. If they are asking, this means they do not have a strategy in place, which, to me, means a reactive approach to the market.
A good plan facilitates strategic decisions, is a guide for your expansion plans, simplifies business review, becomes a background for a business plan, and it influences activities included in your marketing plan. It focuses your vision, reinvigorates the sense of purpose and encourages action. I find that it also encourages research which helps my clients stay on top of things.
A plan? I go with the flow.
Spontaneity, flexibility, agility are all excellent business traits, but without a strategy, these actions may well be bringing us close to chaos rather than growth. I believe that having a business strategy supports those aspects of business and facilitates quick reactions, should the market situation require such actions. It makes it easier to make those strategic market decisions.
Here are a few pointers of what I think a business strategy can bring to your business.
I have it all planned, and it’s there in my head.
As long as it is in your head, it is the best-hidden secret in your business. Writing it down not only makes it real, but it also makes it easier to comprehend and make sure it supports your exit strategy. Having it there, in front of you, makes it easier to spot any gaps that need tightening. You can see how market trends affect it and what expansion strategies need to be incorporated. It protects you from the business blind spots that are easy to ignore during your enterprise’s day-to-day operations.
So please write it down. Take it out of your head, so it’s no longer whizzing around and becomes a foundation of your business growth.
It is done and dusted.
Done – yes, but a business growth strategy should never be left alone long enough to gather dust. I want to point out that it’s not a document to weigh you down, rather a checklist – a reference point. It’s not there to punish you if you deviate from it but to help you notice that change of direction and decide whether it’s by design or an unforeseen consequence of the market trends, or perhaps a non-conformity of a supplier, or other aspects of your structure. Things change, of course, and referring to a business strategy is a way of making an educated decision on making those changes work for your business, rather than ignoring them at your peril.
So review it regularly – monthly at least, as a matter of course. Even just to check that all is well and going according to plan. Significant changes within your business structure (scaling up, launching a new product, hiring) are excellent moments to look into that document as well. Develop a habit of linking those with the action of reviewing your plan. Better yet, set up a reminder in your calendar and make it a part of your business life.
When was the last time you looked at your business strategy?
If you do not remember in which folder you saved it, it is a sign you’ve not looked at it for too long! If the answer is ‘sometime before last year’s management meeting’ – definitely too long. Do yourself a favour and look at it today, you will see how your business’s reality has evolved. Amend it, refresh it, use it. It’s a tool that can serve you well, and you can master it by referring to it often.
So, let me ask you again, do entrepreneurs need a strategy?