December 4, 2020

7 Steps to Building a Killer Business Strategy

by Mike O'Neill

Are you a business leader who’s feeling stressed and starved for time? Have you attempted to use strategic planning templates to build your business strategy? Most leaders who opt for these quick and easy-to-fill-in business forms often wind up not getting the desired results.

If you’re a leader who continues to find yourself struggling to get ahead of things, you’re likely fighting against the “not knowing what you don’t know” mentality, which is frustrating.

While these fill-in templates might seem like a great idea, they're more useful for short-term planning vs. long-term. While templates offer generic, poorly-executed strategies, working with a strategic planner who has experience allows you to create something you can customize to meet your business's unique needs. 

Building a killer business strategy takes planning for long-term, actionable goals.  What you want is a business strategy that will stand the test of time. Businesses can’t casually create phenomenal strategic planning in a few hours.

We know our clients understand the difference. They want something that guides the execution of a plan that covers all the bases and helps employees actively participate. They want to invest in actionable strategies that work. 

There is a better way to handle short and long-term planning to have a clear direction and accountability moving forward. In the following article, we’ll show you seven simple steps to building a killer business strategy.

1. Develop Your True Vision

Vision is one of those words that can have different meanings to different people. For clarity, think of a vision or vision statement as a snapshot of your business's future. 

Your vision should include the goals of what type of company you aspire to be. Unlike a mission statement, you'll want to articulate what success looks like to you in terms of your customers, markets, and sales volume. 

What products or services do you want to create and release? What improvements do you want to make to your business processes? Are there opportunities for expansion into new markets that you want to explore?

You’ll also want to think about any additional resources you’ll need to acquire, such as software, equipment, or additional people to work within your organization.

2. Focus on What You Can Do

In 2020, due to COVID-19, the rules for businesses changed. Laws and regulations were put into place instructing businesses on what safety measures and precautions they needed to take. As a business leader, the best thing you can do now is to create a plan for moving forward — through and beyond COVID-19. 

We can look at restaurants for an example of this concept put into action. Restaurants could no longer serve customers indoors, and later in many states were allowed to operate only at half capacity. To make up for the loss, restaurants transitioned to delivery, takeout, and outside seating where available. 

No matter what type of business you’re running, this is the mindset you’ll need for building your business strategy. 

Your business strategy could include:

  • Extending your new product & service launch schedules
  • Providing more valuable resources for your customers
  • Plans for tweaking and improving your business processes — such as automating more of the steps to free up time for more critical tasks
  • Building processes in areas of your business where you haven’t already established standards and guidelines for quality assurance

3. Define Your Targets

Defining your targets involves knowing who your ideal customers really are — not just who you think they are. 

You need to make time to interact with and get to know your customer base exceptionally well so that you can better anticipate their wants, needs, and potential problems that your business can solve. Then, consider the size of each of your market segments at this stage of your business’s growth. 

You’ll want to make sure you have enough potential customers to sustain your business. While an in-depth market research analysis isn’t necessary, you want to make sure you have a good sense of who your target customer base is. 

Without a clear target market, you lose the ability to create an integrated sales and marketing approach.

4. Focus on Systematic Growth and Factual Decision-Making

Every company needs growth to sustain itself. Yours is no different. Building your strategic business plan should include identifying the business segments you want to grow and in what proportion. The product mix yields your defined net margin results. 

Without this, a company doesn’t know how much it can afford to spend on things such as overhead expenses. Without growth, a company can’t invest in technology, equipment, or employees. 

A Strategy is a “what goes in, what comes out” exercise. Business executives will often complain about the lack of adequate statistical data, but there is plenty of useful data in strategy formation. 

For example,  accessing public records of nearby ports can quantify actual shipments of merchandise by potential customers.

5. Think Long-Term but Be Nimble and Inclusive

Companies can think in the long-term but still be nimble about it — business changes consistently. 

Don’t be a company that only thinks from one quarter to the next. Doing so only stops you from seeing what’s coming next. The best companies create a process to treat their business strategy as an annual cycle rather than looking at it as a one-time event. 

As part of being nimble, many companies include different people in their strategy building than they have in the past. We’re facing a time where companies are hiring more millennial employees, which requires greater transparency. 

Deciding whom to include in the formation of the business strategy is a critical part of the business strategy formation. We recommend business leaders include those who can think strategically and whom you can trust with company secrets.

6. Invest Your Time in Pre-Work

To make sure that your team leaders take the business strategy seriously, ask them to conduct research, and prepare the relevant information before your strategic meetings.

Taking the time to invest in pre-work makes the resulting business strategy more effective because your team created it with the most current and accurate information. Failing to perform adequate amounts of pre-work results in a lackluster business strategy that may not prepare for or solve all problems or risks.

Examples of information that can be gathered or researched include:

  • Gathering feedback from customers so that you can find areas for improvement
  • Analytics from your website to see where you might have conversion problems
  • Checking out the competition to see where they’re lacking so you can fill those gaps
  • Gathering feedback from marketing and sales to find problem area that needs attention or areas you can improve

7. Measure Your Results and Adjust Accordingly

The rule of thumb with building an effective business strategy is that every step needs to be actionable. 

The best businesses have built strategic plans that:

  • Can be tracked, and they track it often
  • Promote ownership of the plan across all levels of employment
  • Have KPI’s (key performance indicators) in place that are predictive and align with the business strategic plan
  • Have productive meetings
  • Have a performance management cycle in place
  • Take into account the discipline and responsibility necessary to execute the plan
  • Are repeated annually

To develop a 1-year strategic plan for your business, you’ll need to Identify 2-3 major goals you want to achieve and then determine what tactics need deploying to make your goals a reality. 

Review your yearly plan each month to make sure you're still on track for hitting your goals, and create a new plan every year.

Bench Builders was founded to help business leaders overcome the daily challenges that we see as we work with companies of various sizes. We understand the difficult situations top leaders face as they strive to grow and improve — and we know how to help guide your team using a combination of experience, skill, and proven tactics.

Are you ready to build a better business strategy? Let’s talk. We can discuss what you need and what we’ll do to help you get what you want. If we think we can work together, we’ll keep talking. If not, we don’t. Simple as that. No sales pitches. Just honest conversation.

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