December is here… again, and before we know it, we will be breaking up for the festive season.
Where do you want your business to be in 12 months’ time? Take a moment and try to answer this question.
Think about it.
Stop reading my words and think about this question.
……………….. (This is me pausing to give you some time.)
If you have already established this strategic destination and how you’re going to reach it, that’s brilliant and you already have a huge advantage over your competitors.
If you haven’t, then please read on as this is vital to the success of your business.
The ‘good’ news is that if you are struggling to paint this picture, well, so do most other business owners. But then most business owners struggle year-on-year to grow their business and get it to where they want it to be. Being in this crowd isn’t a recipe for success.
Now, you can hope your competitors haven’t done this either and will therefore not have gained a clear advantage over you. But do you want that uncertainty? And more to the point. Do you want another year of working all hours to at best, do ok?
How do I know that you worked all hours and just got by? Well, I don’t, but I can hazard a guess because if you are struggling to picture a destination to aim your business at, then I’m guessing you won’t have a clear business growth strategy. Without one of those then working all hours and just doing ok is the most likely outcome.
So, you have two options.
The Easy Option…
And the one which most business owners take, is to simply carry on doing what you need to do to run your business. You have a long to-do list, demands of others to respond to and you simply don’t have time to stop, step back and think about some point in the future, be it in 12 months, 2 years or more.
And that’s the problem with easy options – they’re easy. And because they’re easy, more often than not they are the wrong option.
It’s easier to watch TV than read the business book that you know will help you and your business. It’s easier not to talk about that nagging problem in your relationship with your partner. It’s easier to eat that chocolate and start the diet tomorrow. It’s easier to let your kid play a game on your phone when out than try to keep them interested, entertained and engaged.
But this ‘easy option’ will always take us down the mediocre path.
The result of the ‘easy option’ is never great success.
The Hard Option…
Is the one we need to take.
And for your business that means applying the brakes and giving yourself, the time needed to plan where you want your business to be and how you’re going to get there.
I know you probably still have a million-and-one things on your desk vying for your attention. But carry on as you are and before you know it you’ll be well into Q1 of next year and you’ll still have a million-and-one things on your desk vying for your attention.
And, more to the point, you’ll be here again in 12 months’ time stressing that it was a tough year and lamenting how not much has changed.
Take the hard option – decide that next year will be different – step on the brakes, take time out and figure out where you want your business to be in 12 months’ time and beyond.
Here’s what you need to do…
First, plan to plan. Of course, you can’t simply drop everything and plan your business growth strategy. You have things that you need to do first. You need to ‘clear your desk’.
How long do you need to clear your desk? Schedule this effort in your calendar then add a couple of days because things always take longer than we estimate. Find that first date after you’ve cleared your desk and in big letters add something like ‘PLANNING’.
How long should you plan for? This depends on the size of your business, where your business is now, where you want your business to be and market drivers.
Don’t let that put you off – if this is the first time you’ve done this then keep it simple. Any focus and effort you put into this will reap rewards.
Essentially, you need to do 4 things; you need to:
- Define where you want your business to be – your next strategic destination;
- Assess where your business is now;
- Map out how to get from where you are now to where you want to be;
- Identify the key measures that need to be in place for you to know you’re on course.
For a micro business, the first step may take a couple of hours. Step 2 may take a working day. Step 3 may take 2 to 3 working days and step 4 half a day. So, you may be looking at around a week’s worth of time and focussed effort.
A larger business will of course take longer.
Estimate how long you’ll need to create your strategy plan for the year ahead (and add another couple of days to be on the safe side) and set aside this time in your diary or calendar.
Only by setting aside this time will you have any chance of making it happen.
So, let’s look at these 4 key steps. And as always, start with the end in mind.
1. Define where you want your business to be.
Looking forward to what you want to achieve, what’s the next major step forward in your business? What’s the next level? What would transform the fortunes of your business so that it was worth 5 or 10 times or more than it is now? What’s the next big leap – the big idea?
Think big and come up with this transformational strategic destination.
2. Assess where your business is now.
Once you’ve defined this strategic destination, once you have this end point, you need to assess exactly where you are now – you need to define your starting point.
This assessment is vital no matter what size of business you have. This is about identifying strengths and weaknesses in your business, understanding your business capabilities, knowing the key drivers of your market and a number of other areas in order to build a clear picture of exactly where your business is now.
If you skip this then you don’t really know that you have the capabilities to make the journey, how your business needs to evolve as you move towards your destination or what hazards may lie in wait and what set-backs they can cause.
If you don’t do this business assessment, you are essentially travelling blind and as such reaching your destination will be exponentially more difficult.
This is all about making your business strong enough for the journey ahead. I’ve created a course, How Strong is Your Business? that will help you get this right and includes a tool that will help you carry out this really important assessment. I really can’t emphasise enough how important this step is.
3. Map out how to get from where you are now to where you want to be.
Based on the assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, resources and capabilities, the needs of your market and customers, the strength of your competitors and so on, how long will it take to reach your strategic destination?
This destination could be 18 months away, 2 years or even 5 years away – it all depends on your current situation and the destination in mind.
Draw a time-line from where you are now to this destination and let’s say it’s a 3-year time-line. Now break the line into 3 segments and you have your annual time-lines.
Now work backwards from this destination. To reach this destination where does your business need to be in 2 years? To get your business there, where does it need to be in 12 months? To get there where does it need to be in 9 months, in 6 months, in 3 months?
Keep breaking this line down into milestones that you need to hit. Zoom in so that months become weeks and set smaller milestones that keep you moving to larger ones.
The beauty of drilling down like this is that at anytime you only need to focus on reaching the next milestone when planned. Do that and you know you’re still on course.
As you progress I’m sure you will find that you underestimated how soon you’d reach a particular milestone. That’s fine, just adapt the plan; move your strategic destination out by the extra time you need and adjust the milestones accordingly.
4. Identify the key measures that need to be in place for you to know you’re on course.
I can almost guarantee that you will need to adapt your plan as I’ve described. The steps I’m outlining will dramatically increase certainty and control which is the key to business success. But it won’t eliminate uncertainty all together – it can’t – we live in an analogue world and things happen that no amount of preparation can mitigate for.
To adapt your plan and get back on course you need to know where you are on the course and how far off course you may find yourself. To know that you need measures in place.
The right measures are important because without them you can’t know if you’re implementing your strategy plan, where you are on it or if you need to adapt it.
Somewhere along this journey will be a 12-month milestone. Create your strategy and even if your strategic destination extends beyond 12 months there will be a natural milestone at year-end.
And finally, when someone asks you where you want your business to be in 12 months’ time, you can describe a very clear picture.
Imagine how this increased certainty will positively affect you and your business and how good that will make you feel.
Start now by scheduling when you will be able to start putting your strategy plan together and make sure you use that time to make it happen.
I highlighted a short course that will help you assess where your business is now. If you want help in actually creating the right growth strategy for your business then check out my other course, Small Business Strategy for Success. In it I’ll take you through the exact steps to creating the right strategy that will get your business to the next level.