Strategy: Is Your Goal a Place or a Direction?

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You started out putting together something that you could call a Business Plan, right? If you had some help, or needed one to present to the bank or some investors, it was probably pretty detailed and held most everything you hoped to accomplish and how you would get there, all in one hefty document.

Then you launched your business, and got down to the day-to-day of keeping things going and growing.
The months and years flew by. Some products and services took off, and others flopped. You made adjustments, and kept at it. You marketed to your select audience the best you knew how, taking advantage of every free or low-cost method you could find so you could keep costs down. Your strategy, such as it was, was “Keep Things Going!” It worked for awhile…

Now it’s been several months or probably years. You’re working like crazy, but the return has slowed. Even if you’re getting new customers, you’re not getting as many return customers. Your products and services have changed a bit (or a lot..), but not much of the other pieces of the business framework has. You’re still not as profitable as you need to be to REALLY be making a living. You keep looking for things you can alter a bit or tweak to squeeze out more, but you’re running out of options.

In an earlier article I wrote entitled “Just How Big Does That Strategy Need To Be?”  I mentioned the whole Business Plan process and the other strategies and plans that “Fall Out” of it. While I mentioned various strategies, I focused on your marketing strategy and its relation to your business goals.

Sadly, most businesses, once they arrive at the early, completed business plan, never revisit it. It is static. It is not a “Direction for the Business”, but a fixed point, a Place. The same goes for the strategies that emerge from it. It becomes an actual (or virtual…) “doorstop” or “bookend” on their filing cabinet, never to be cracked open and seriously reviewed. Consider that the world, both globally and locally, changes daily (or, in the case of the Internet, constantly……). How can you hope to keep your business relevant to your industry and growing customers if you don’t step back and critically review who you are and where you REALLY want to go as a business regularly?

I’m not advocating a permanent, “navel-gazing” attitude that doesn’t allow you to keep things moving. But movement for movement’s sake is a HUGE mistake. If you keep your business headed in the direction you THINK it should go (or the direction it has ALWAYS gone…), you are in Big Trouble when you find out that the industry and the bulk of your customers have vectored off in a different direction…and you didn’t even notice.

There’s a planning for execution piece that a lot of businesses miss, even if they do take the time to review and revise their strategies. Many take the “New & Improved Strategy, Version 2”, slap it in the binder, stick it in with the older strategy, and get back to doing what they’ve always done. That is not only a waste of time and resources, but a simple recipe for failure. You need to take the strategy and use it to design real processes, and plan how you’re going to implement it, keeping your eyes closed to how you USED TO DO IT to the best of your ability. Large companies call this change management. Small companies sometimes call it a “pain in the rear!” Smaller companies have an advantage: if they have a flexible culture (as Peter Drucker said, “…culture eats strategy for breakfast…“), they can be much more agile at instituting the changes needed than the big corporations can. This really IS a competitive advantage, but you have to actually do it, and that can be painful.

None of this can happen unless you review your goals and strategies regularly. There really isn’t a “How Often?” answer that fits everyone. I look at my business plan 3 or 4 times a year. I’ve altered my entire business model twice in the past 2 years, to the glorious improvement of the health of my business.

I’m planning on reviewing again in roughly 2 months….it’s time, and I want to keep growing in a healthy way.


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