What do we think of when we talk about mapping out a small business strategy? Is it a very, very cunning plan? Is it a document with an impressive “thud” factor as it hits your desk? Compared to larger businesses, small business often lacks the resources to dive head first into strategic planning.
Corporations can pour vast amounts of time, technology and cash into blue ocean-type planning exercises to differentiate their brand and position their products or services in the marketplace. For all their sophistication, however, these exercises don’t always deliver a compelling business case or a blueprint for the future.
How Can Small Businesses Compete On Strategy?
Not all business strategies demand dedicated teams and reams of research. Mostly, it’s about understanding the market. Where is your industry sector going? Do you have a good feel for your customers? Do you know who your competitors are and how they approach customer acquisition, retention, pricing and distribution?
The first rule of developing a strategy for a small business is to stop thinking size is a disadvantage. In the eCommerce era, even a small business can access a global market. Small, can also equal agile and nimble. A small business can often jump on an opportunity well before their corporatized, risk-averse competitors.
So, here are some ideas for firing up those strategic synapses and mapping out a path forward to small business success.
Building Your Small Business Strategy
Always start with an exit strategy or two in mind. Every small business owner needs to clearly identify what he or she expects from their business and what their exit strategy looks like a few years down the track.
How are you going to realize the value of your business? How are you going to extract your money from the business? How much money are you looking for?
1. Don’t Get Caught Up In A Paper-Based Strategic Plan
As Dwight D. Eisenhower once memorably said, “The plan is nothing, planning is everything!” Regardless of whether you commit it to paper or implement it intuitively, a plan is a plan.
You still need an intimate knowledge of your business landscape. You still need clear goals, even if they aren’t written down. Just don’t over fixate on the written element of the plan. Simple is good providing you follow through on your plan and execute.
Regularly address emerging challenges, explore opportunities and position the business to exploit options further down the track.
2: Question Everything
The only constant in today’s business environment is disruption and turbulence. Just look at the impact the rise of eCommerce combined with mobile technology and social media has had on Australian retailing.
In less than a generation, once mighty corporate retail brands have been shaken to their core as a brand a month seemingly goes out of business. An ability to adapt, to explore new influencing channels and reassess long-held conventional thinking on running a business has led to their doom.
Fearlessly question prevailing assumptions, whether about the broader market, your customers, or your industry.
3: Focus On Driving Outcomes
Obsessing over the here and now is an assured way to miss out on some major opportunities. Rather than sticking rigidly to a plan you hope is right, don’t be afraid to adjust your strategy on the fly. After all, change is constant.
Assess whether your key milestones may have altered as your market moves. It helps to keep one eye on your outcomes of a project or your business and another on opportunities that may come along. Always base your strategic plan on desired outcomes rather than one approach.
Step 4: Adjust As Required, Stir Then Repeat
Be prepared to fine-tune your business strategy as and when needed. That is the essence of being agile, adaptive and resilient. Don’t be afraid to explore new avenues, new products, and distribution channels, marketing approaches even if they may seem unconventional. It’s all about capturing grow and sustaining your business.
Building a strategy is in part about providing for those unpredictable pressure points, unanticipated market changes, unexpected customer demand or a fresh approach to marketing that inevitably pop up.
Learn to embrace change. Those ever-shifting inflection points can open the way to new markets and new customers. While your competitors are busy playing catch-up, you’ll be striding speedily forward.
5: Not Making A Decision Is A Decision
Don’t allow indecision, uncertainty or second-guessing yourself to paralyze your decision-making. Running a small business is about commitment.
When it is time to implement a strategy, take a deep breath and push firmly onwards. Remember, perfection is the enemy of good. When in doubt opt for speed of execution, rigour, time to market and quality execution.
Finally, even if you don’t have all the information you think you need and not everyone in your business agrees with your decision time waits for no one, so make a decision.
When it comes to developing a strategy for your small business, never lose sight of the passion that got you into your business in the first place. Reconnect with your vision of the business in the future and use that as your jumping off point for driving your business forward to a prosperous future.