Strategy – more than a plan

Is a business plan enough? Business plans are important tools for any owner, and in my role as a QIP practice surveyor I have seen many such plans – some brilliant and some in need of work. Not a lot of work, as most are pretty close to the mark and just need firmer time frames and outcome measures. But none of them was a strategic document. None projected a longer term vision of the business or demonstrated a purposeful system of achieving it.

Strategy is more than a list of goals and actions – more than a plan. Strategy is deeply rooted in the DNA of the business, the owner and the organisation. It is the combination of behavioural patterns, customer management, competitive advantage and the philosophy of adding and delivering value. Well, so say the academics in the field of strategy. Like Mintzberg who listed no fewer than ten ‘schools’ of strategy, or Sun Tzu (‘The Art of War’) whose work has been commandeered by business coaches and consultants often with good effect. And of course Michael Porter, a more recent guru who insists that strategy is focused on a unique mix of offerings that enhance competitive advantage.If you would like to develop a strategy for your business that provides direction and perspective in turn generating a purposeful business plan, HR plan, marketing plan, earning plan and exit plan you may benefit from two things. Firstly, an open mind on how to analyse, structure and drive your business; and secondly, some education or coaching to guide you through the process.

What options are there for your strategy? What will provide you with an advantage in the construction and delivery of your service and products, and is there a customer base who is prepared to pay what you value it at? For example, do you pursue a pricing strategy, a service strategy, a relationship strategy, a scale-efficiency strategy, a reproducing strategy, a blue-ocean strategy, a value adding strategy or, well that is enough to start with.

Once your overarching strategy is decided and the economic value established we can turn to how you can outperform, outlast and outwit your competition – yes I borrowed that from Survivor on TV: the ultimate strategy game. Or you could study Game of Thrones instead (drastic business plans), or perhaps House of Cards is a more palatable model with less killing but equally ruthless. But I digress. What you need to develop is:

  • A clear understanding of how strategy arches over every business decision, process and product that you make.
  • Knowledge of where your specific competitive advantage lies and how to maximise it.
  • Ideas galore to transfer to your business plan to ensure your strategic intent is reflected in your activities and outcome measures.
  • A practical appreciation of brand consistency, where your value adding occurs and how to price it.
  • Examples of implementing strategy in your finance, HR, team building and leadership activities.
  • Finally, a renewed enthusiasm for your business and your ability to actively manage it to success.

The Practitioner Business Academy may be a good place to start.