How To Succeed at Strategy

Ever had a morning when you can’t get your head together? You know the feeling. You keep remembering all these random things you have to do, and you have all these interesting, if irrelevant, ideas. If you don’t have a day planner or a personal assistant that can get you back on track, you can waste a lot of time on a morning like that.

The exact same thing can happen to your business. Your employees have lots of things to do, and they have lots of ideas. That’s all positive energy—they want to help, they want to do well, they want to keep their job safe. But without focus, without purpose, it’s very easy for them to waste a great deal of time on “work” that accomplishes nothing for the company.

You have to be their day planner and their personal assistant. And you can not do that well unless you have focused your own mind and your own intentions. You have to know what is best for your business before your employees can. And the best way to define what’s best for your business is by creating a “One-Page Strategic Plan.”

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I know this is a touchy subject. Strategy is difficult. Really difficult. “Strategy” is not the same as “goals” or “targets.” Saying you “want to make more sales” is not strategy. Saying that your business “puts the customer first” isn’t strategic, either.

So what is strategy? A lot of ink has been spilled on this subject. But the essence of strategic thinking for business is this: You know who you are. You know what you do for your customer. And you know how you are going to position yourself for future success. When you have that figured out, you don’t get thrown off track. You can tell the difference between “busy work” and “building the business.”

Strategic Thinking Starts With You

There are lots of different outlines for one-page strategic plans. My favorite one has fifteen different sections. You might not need all of them, but you’re going to need most of them.

The most important sections come first. You begin your strategic thinking by defining who you are. What are your core values? What is your core purpose? What is the grand, wonderful thing that you intend to accomplish?

You can’t be effective in the world until you know who you are. You can’t be strategic until you have a vision of yourself.

Once you know yourself, the next step in strategic thinking is to know your customers. Think way past the obvious. Someone walking into a hardware store looking for a ⅜ inch drill bit does not need a ⅜ inch drill bit. They need a ⅜ inch hole. Why? Think past your products and your services to the true desires of your customer. What are they trying to accomplish, and how do you help them? How do they see themselves, and how to you help them be the person they want to be?

Strategy for Business

Those are two very difficult steps to get past. But once you have them done, you can start thinking strategically about your business practices. Now that you know who you are and why your customer comes to you, you can think about your strategic positioning and your brand promise. What makes you special? Why does your customer benefit from doing business with you?

You answer those questions by joining together your vision and your customer’s true desires. In the process, you’re going to come up with some really unique and interesting ways to delight your customer and to market your business. Your brand promise and the key benefits you deliver to your customer will bring your messaging to life.

All the great ways you serve your customer better than your competitors will become clear to you as well. You’ll know how you’re different and why you’re better. You’ll know exactly what you do and why you do it. You’ll know what your customer truly needs and how you deliver. That clarity alone will help you attract the right kind of customer so you can build your business and start hitting some of those goals and targets.

Strategy for Management

Most importantly, with a good one-page strategic plan, you can give your employees the “big picture” in a way that they can use. This is a critical aspect of modern management. The Great Recession and with the arrival of the Millennials have changed things completely. Today’s employees need to understand the business they work for. They need to understand the “why” of the business, not just the “how.”

This gives them confidence in their ability to do their job. It also gives them confidence in their job security, which enables them to settle in and contribute to the best of their ability. With the “big picture” in mind, they will make better decisions and they will make fewer mistakes.

Strategy for Success

But what’s even better is that your customers will be able to tell right away. This is probably the biggest benefit that comes from creating a one-page strategic plan. All of the clarity that you give to yourself and to your employees has a hugely positive effect on your customers.

You customers will know that they’re dealing with a well-run business that is on a mission. They will feel like they’re in the company of people who know what they’re doing. They’ll sing your praises to others, bringing you more customers.

That’s the ultimate impact a one-page strategic plan has. No more foggy-headed mornings. Create one, teach it to your team, and then together you can make it come true.

Marc Daniels