Too often rigidly sticking to a business strategy is a sure fire way to steer a company away from the very goal it believes it’s aiming at. Creating a successful business plan is more than just jotting down where you want to be in five years. It takes a great deal of patience, number crunching and talks with your business partners, key personnel, and your customers.
Understand your competition
Ignore your competition at your peril. In a fiercely competitive market place you cannot ignore what other businesses are doing. Keep an eye on their achievements, new product launches, and how customers and end consumers react. This will give you much needed guidance on how you can perform better.
Aim to be the best
Being the best is tough. It takes a lot more late nights and early wake up calls, but if you truly want your business to be successful you have to aim high. By creating a high standard for your business you are more likely to succeed.
Do the math
Check and re-check every forecast. If you have been relying on industry reports published by other organisations, check their facts and figures are right too. It’s the lazy option to just accept every number that comes into your in tray. If you don’t have the skills in-house to do this job effectively, hire in an expert to help you prepare the numbers that you are basing your whole business strategy on.
Grab some face-to-face
Email, Skype, text, phone calls – they’re all very good for keeping track, but they should be supporting face-to-face meetings. Regular meetings with your staff, important investors, industry advisors and your key customers (although not necessarily all at the same time) is a more effective way to keep everyone training their thoughts on the business goal.
Flexibility is a vital component of any strategic business plan. You need to be able to act quickly to new ideas, without losing sight of what is already working, and where you ultimately want your Dubai business to be. Give yourself room to change branding designs, ingredients in products or the type of benefits you are offering to stay ahead of the competition.
Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow
There are times when you need to push yourself and your team really hard to get products or services out into the marketplace in time to beat off the competition. But there are also times when you need to sit back and analyse what has happened and how it fits into the business strategy. You have to differentiate between the times you are working flat out successfully, or just grinding everyone down needlessly.
Know your customers
Focus groups, long business lunches, trying it out on your friends and family – you have to know who your customer is and what they really want. Are you expending huge amounts of effort on a product that nobody actually wants to buy? Have you asked yourself that question yet? Most businesses do ask it of themselves all the time, but you need to test, test, and test some more to create the absolute best product in your industry.
Revise your plan
Every business plan needs revising. When new information comes in, when the number crunchers turn up some unpleasant or if you’re lucky, some welcome surprises. Keep your business strategy close to hand so you can easily revise different parts of it as you go along.
A business should be organic, changing continually because you are shaping it to be as successful as possible. Invest some time and energy into creating a really robust business strategy that will grow as your company grows.
History may well show that the dotcom boom at the turn of the millennium marked a sea change in the progress of our global free enterprise economies. In the post industrial 20th century we witnessed a steady albeit linear progression in economic development. This 21st century has already demonstrated that the life cycle of products and services has shortened considerably, that disruptive technologies are displacing well entrenched business models and that the shift in economic power from west to east has moved at a pace that neither hemisphere has yet begun effectively to manage.
In brief, businesses are changing on a logarithmic scale almost beyond the wit of management to control and in these circumstances one may well ask – is there a role for strategic planning or is it now beyond our capabilities to plan for the future in such a fast changing world?
The answer has to be an emphatic one in favour of planning. It is when the future is most uncertain that a strategic plan can become the bedrock of an enterprise. Properly constructed with broad buy in from the organisation the strategic plan will offer a response to rapid changes in products and markets by providing management with a clear path to a set of agreed objectives. So whilst the enterprise may well be knocked off course by unforeseen developments management will have a greater chance of recovering when corporate goals remain clear and alternative strategies, embedded in the plan, are brought into play.
What then is the essence of a good strategic plan? There are three key components. First the organisation must have a Vision or Corporate Goal. This is the much vaunted “flag in the sand” to which all members of the enterprise can aspire. It must be clearly stated, ambitious yet realistic, with a clear timescale and it must be motivational so that all can feel a part of the grand design and pull in the same direction.
Second there must be a series of sub-objectives embracing the entire organisation including sales and marketing, finance, production and human resources. In this way planners can ensure that a balanced view is taken of the enterprise and not all effort placed solely on, for example, sales objectives and strategies at the expense of human resource considerations. Moreover by including all parts of the organisation there will be greater grass roots buy-in.
Third each objective must have a strategy for achievement which must then be translated into a series of tactical steps to be measured, monitored and controlled. It is this last step – all about execution – which is the most important. Planners have been vilified for producing impressive weighty tomes which then sit in desk drawers gathering dust until the next planning cycle. A good plan is alive. Objectives must be kept clear and their means of achievement regularly monitored by an accountable executive responsible for performance.
In summary and stripped to the essentials a good strategic plan answers the 3 most important questions any management team can ask: What – How – When. What do you want to achieve – How will you do it – When (and how) will you execute.