Guiding clients through the creation of a business strategy
Riia O’Donnell is a human resource professional and consultant with more than 15 years of hands-on experience in every discipline of the field. A subject matter expert, she has written for the online HR market for 7+ years on topics ranging from workforce planning to HR as a strategic partner.
For many companies, getting work done and out the door is priority number one. Taking the time to generate a business strategy may seem a lofty goal, but without one, your client may be steering a rudderless ship. Creating a business strategy, or revising an in-place strategy that doesn’t conform to today’s needs, is a task worth completing.
A business strategy determines where you are in the marketplace and where you hope to go. It creates a foundation for all decisions: identifying strengths, talents, and opportunities for expansion, as well as defining areas of weakness that require growth and development. A structured business plan guides everything the company hopes to achieve and provides pathways to realization.
Advising a client on developing or updating a business strategy revolves around five key touch points. The plan has to be deliberate, simple, actionable, agreed upon, and communicated. Without all of these factors in place, the plan—no matter how lofty its goals—can’t become the foundation on which their business is built. The secret to a successful business strategy follows these key items as they align with the overarching mission of the company. Broken down, you should advise your clients on each of the touch points to make sure their strategy incorporates actionable, measurable steps.
More than moving forward with the day-to-day operations, a deliberate business plan outlines the pluses and minuses the market offers and the steps your clients will need to take to overcome or capitalize upon them. In addition to outlining specific goals that are achievable, the plan must recognize how the business can compete and prosper. Ask your client to consider how goals will be achieved, what milestones will need to be met, and when.
The plan must also align with the company’s mission and vision. As well, you’ll want to advise them to leverage opportunities and assets. Business plans can be fluid: market conditions may affect how the plan is executed, but the core values should remain and measured consideration should be made before making any adjustments.
The more complex instructions are, the more readily they’re set aside in frustration. It’s critically important to advise clients that their business plan must be simple. Too many goals and objectives will send clients in a variety of directions, likely doing none well. Ask them to keep to simple, achievable goals when deciding on a strategic plan.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, strategic planning models exist in a multitude of iterations. Advise them to review a variety of models, including Balanced Scorecard, SWOT analysis, or others. Once they’ve determined a model that works for their business, you can advise them to adapt it for their specific needs.
The loftiest goal will forever be just a goal without a plan to get there. Advising clients to come up with actionable, achievable steps is paramount. Market saturation may be the end-game, but what steps are needed to get there? You’ll want to help them develop a strategy that capitalizes on the innovations and developments they hold and plan to achieve and how they will get there–specifically. The journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step, but a successful business begins with a plan of action that examines the market, exploits its needs, and capitalizes on its wants.
Just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many voices can put your clients into analysis paralysis. Whatever their business strategy, they must achieve consensus. Everyone must be working to achieve the same milestones, to break into the same new territory, and to attain the same goals. When your client’s leadership has agreed upon a strategy, every business decision can be guided by that consensus. The result is everyone working diligently toward the same goal.
They warn of the best laid plans of mice and men; but worse are the best laid plans that no one knows about. When your clients develop a business strategy, simplify it, and agree upon actionable goals, the final step is to communicate to staff. Employees who don’t understand the mission or direction of the company are likely to work at cross purposes. With a clearly communicated strategy, your client’s staff members will understand goals and visions, and will be better able to execute their work in alignment. A best practice you might want to recommend to your customers would be to poll their staffers before and after a rollout of the business strategy. If their knowledge base hasn’t increased once the communiqués have been sent, it might be a good idea to reword and rework the communication plan.
Guiding clients through the development (or revision) of their business plan can be an eye-opening experience. For many who’ve never formalized their vision, it can provide a pathway to success. For others who are reinventing theirs, it could lead to innovation and new opportunities. Working with clients, ask them to structure their operations in alignment with the plan you’ve worked hard to develop. These five elements can be a first step in their road to success.