- Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. – Japanese Proverb
- However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. – Attributed to Winston Churchill
A hundred people at an event heard the word “Strategy” as part of a presentation I gave recently. Likely there were at least a hundred different interpretations and mental pictures that lit up for the attendees, some very related and others quite different from the others. Each was a product of their experience, education, beliefs and prejudices. This fact gets to the heart of effective, and ineffective, communication….always a challenge, but a well known one. As Valeria Maltoni has written, “There is more to semantics than meets the eye.”
Just like having a solid business plan, having a marketing strategy that supports and advances that plan is crucial to success. Many programs, classes, books, and online tools (along with tips and suggestions of varying degrees of helpfulness….) may help you assemble a business plan that will pass muster and get you going. To many entrepreneurs and business owners, though, marketing strategy embodies a different kind of geography in their thoughts and can have too many connotations to list. Nonetheless, here are two thoughts you need to consider, regardless of your particular definition:
What does a strategy get you? It can establish a specific direction, a foundational launch pad, for your business, focus your resources, generate a plan that is both effective and agile, and give you a reliable way to “gut check” your direction and efforts over time. Most business owners I have met are world-class technicians, but struggle with strategy. Even those who have had some education and experience in that area can suffer from being too close to their particular industry and business, thereby missing the “We don’t know what we don’t know” gaps in what they put together. What they need to do is get some expert help putting together (or reworking…) their marketing strategy….bring someone on board to view these problems in new and novel ways.
All of the books, articles, templates and other information inputs we encounter bang on about the importance of goals. When I initially think of goals, especially in the U.S., I am presented with the mental picture of a football goal post. This implies that once I Hit The Goal, I’m done. Of course, many of the resources I mentioned earlier encourage you set new goals, circling back and starting the circle of attainment over again. That just feels kind of jerky to me. In her article “On Strategizing” Maltoni quotes Scott Adams on why a system is more useful than goals:
“For our purposes, let’s agree that goals are a reach-it-and-be-done situation, whereas a system is something you do on a regular basis with a reasonable expectation that doing so will get you to a better place in your life. Systems have no deadlines, and on any given day you probably can’t tell if they’re moving you in the right direction. My proposition is that if you study people who succeed, you will see that most of them follow systems, not goals.”
I tell my clients that, once they build and initialize their strategy, implementation becomes a “horse they cannot get off of.” The majority of them are not happy with that message. As a business owner, if they’re involved in a project, they want it to be a project….that is, it is this lump of work that they (or the hired expert…) can complete and get off of my desk, so they can move onto the next project and get back to selling their products and services. When reminded of the importance of working ON the business as well as working IN the business, and how it strengthens the business, the strategizing process and system look much more valuable and key to growth. The dynamics of every business now require a consistent process and may require much more frequent course corrections than in the past (or in the past as we perceived it…). A sustainable business depends on making dynamic choices. Regular, if not constant, co-ordination of the current state of things with what is on hand to work them out is the new norm….fixed objectives are not viable because of the more frequent and unknowable disruptions our society and world endure daily.
So, the novel view: A Strategy feels like a “One-And-Done” item which, sadly and frequently, ends up in a filing cabinet. Strategizing is an action word. It’s something you do with some kind of frequency because of the need for it in your business. Again, many business owners are not expert strategizers, and that’s OK. As I mentioned, they are world-class technicians for their business’ focus. Do some research, get some recommendations, and start up a valuable relationship with an expert strategizer for your business.
What could be more valuable than establishing your business system of growth and success, and not just “hit the sales goal for this quarter”?
Holidays make many entrepreneurs and small business owners nervous.
On one hand, HURRAH! A holiday!
Depending on your business, you may be looking at numerous merry-makers coming to your shop and celebrating by indulging in a bit of “retail therapy.” A different kind of business is looking at turning a “regular” weekend into a three-day weekend, and one where a LOT of people (their employees included…) take some time, gas up the motor vehicle of choice, and head out for a vacation of some length. Sometimes these two collide and the owner can have a staffing problem, but, hey, just put in a few more hours yourself and you’ve got it covered right? But what happens if, on this more dangerous holiday weekend, somebody gets hurt or something? In between all the travelers, the uncertainty of fireworks (as one of my colleagues said, “Normal people with a few drinks in them setting off explosive devices….what could go wrong?“…) and the randomness of other accidents…well, there’s plenty to get wound up about.
How do you arrive at the thing or things to focus on every day?
There are innumerable items that float through my brain every day, usually just at the time the alarm goes off (if I’m lucky and don’t wake up early…). Living in a particularly woodsy area of the Pacific Northwest, I liken them to looking out my window and seeing all of the trees and such swaying in the wind. I can’t count them all, but they all attract some bit of attention and, at the same time, join in a constantly moving vista that can leave me a bit awestruck and frozen first thing in the morning. They are pretty as trees, but when translated into the metaphor of all the items and actions vying for my attention and prioritization, it’s overwhelming.
Some things are easy. Morning routine (everything to the point where I’m ready to “go to work”, whatever that looks like today…), followed by checking my calendar AGAIN (I’ve already looked at it a couple of times to triple check when my first meeting is, if there is one…). Like you, some days have more than others. The days that have one or no meetings are more difficult, really. Relatively “open” days require me to inspect the pile of things to do and, minding my own best times for productivity and creative work, prioritize and dig in accordingly. Not always easy.
OF COURSE you’re using social media to market your business! It’s 2016! NOT having a Facebook Business page is like not having a logo or a business card…..unthinkable!
So how’s that going?
It seemed so straight-forward when you worked through that online wizard: uploaded a few photos (they didn’t quite fit the alloted space, but you just needed to get SOMETHING in there…), banged out a short description, added a link to your web site, made a post or two, invited all your friends and family, and hit the PUBLISH button. Easy Peasy…
We all want things to be easy. And it’s not just business, American or Western Society that defaults to easy. While I still worked at Microsoft, one of my managers got our entire team “Easy Buttons.” You pressed the Big Red Button and a voice said, “That Was Easy!”
We have a few things working against us:
- The problems and challenges we face today (business, societal and personal) are complex with no simple answers. The kind of effort required to tackle them can’t be splintered into micro-moments of attention (better known as “multi-tasking”…). We need big blocks of time, and lots of them, to work through these things.
- Our culture prizes Fast, Immediate, Responsive, 24/7/365 over taking the time to gain the ability to learn hard things more quickly and produce at an elite level (so we move past “good enough” to “WOW!”).
- The difficulty of measuring the complex over the simple (an example – “audience engagement” versus a Facebook page “Like”).
- The tendency to answer a simpler question when confronted with a difficult one (more on that shortly…).
As business owners and entrepreneurs, what does this mean?
“Well, that happened.”
That’s still one of my favorite movies quotes. It’s uttered (actually more “admitted”) by Bob Berrenger (Alec Baldwin) upon crawling out of an upside down car accident in the movie State and Main. He seems a bit dazed, but not very concerned, despite suffering from a bad cut on his head and, subsequently, walking away from the scene of the accident. He’s not worried about his past actions and mistakes…..he just moves on. That comes back to get him, but I will let you check out the movie….it’s excellent.
Taking the context of that quote a different way, I’ve spent some time thinking about how this kind of detached view of my past and future can affect me and my business.
Are you scared?
Never mind what it is you’re scared of…..are you scared? How does this drive your life decisions and your business?
I was reminded several days ago about something I said in a conversation with a colleague: “Most problems in business stem from one simple emotion: fear.”
Many of us don’t recognize this, as it can be very subtle. It can hide behind what we feel is desire, responsibility, and sometimes “doing the right thing.” Overt fears are a bit easier to recognize, but can be just as hard to manage. So much has to do with how much attention you give the fear, especially in relation to how much actual, real control you have over what drives it. The fear derives its strength from this perceived helplessness….no one wants to feel at the mercy of things, but when we confront that fact (lack of actual control), we get even more scared and grasp at almost anything to try and “regain” control, even though it’s not possible.