Category Archives: Starting Out

What is a business strategy?

Strategy is a word that comes up over and over again in business. You’ve got to have the right strategy; marketing strategies, finance strategies, HR strategies; you can find all sorts of strategy building advice and templates online (Google produces 638 million results for the search term “business strategy”); but really… What is business strategy?

A strategy is a like a route mapMichael Porter (very clever man) defined a business strategy as the “broad formula for how a business is going to compete, what its goals should be, and what policies will be needed to carry out those goals”.

That’s a pretty good definition, in essence a strategy is the route map for getting from where you are now to where you want to be in the future.

So to work out a strategy you need two things: a clear picture of what “here” looks like, and a good idea of where “there” is.

What?!

If you don’t know where you want to be in the future this is a good time to stop and think about it!

Where do you want to be in 5 years time?Why are you doing what you’re doing? What would you like to be doing? What do you enjoy and what would you like to change? This isn’t your strategy – they are your goals or objectives.

These are big ideas, they take a bit of thinking about. But what I’ve learned is that you don’t need to know all the answers for certain at this stage – if you start now you have time on your side, time to move the goal posts more than once!

Possibly an easier question is “What don’t you want? What shouldn’t the future be like?” most of us have a pretty good idea straight away.

Which way?

A map is no good unless you know where you're starting from!You can’t build a strategy without a good idea of your current circumstances. The route map analogy is useful here – a map won’t help you get home unless you can work out where you are starting from so it pays to take some time to write down what you’ve got that you like and enjoy and what you are not so happy about.

Strategy time!

When you know where you’re starting from and where you’re going to the final piece of the jigsaw is to link the two up – set out your preferred route from “here” to “there” in a series of manageable steps.

It is often difficult to see where to start in order to make progress (if it was easy you would have already got there!) but it can be much easier if you break the route down into smaller steps. Over the following years you can weigh up every decision you make against this strategy and see whether or not it will help you reach your goal.

Meaning is like psychological oxygenAt the moment I am reading The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success by Kevin Dutton and Andy McNab. In it Andy McNab points out that “meaning is like psychological oxygen” – knowing why you’re working hard is the most effective personal power source.

He then goes on to tell a story that illustrates how (in his words) “There’s nothing like a task that is both pointless and physically draining to rip the **** out of you, especially if you don’t know when it’s going to end.”

To me this is where the biggest benefit of a strategy is – if you know that you’re on your way to your better world your effort is not pointless. You are working towards something, you can measure your progress along the way.

LinkedIn

This week I found out I have been awarded the North Devon Business Action 2014 LinkedIn Award!

Susie Kevern on LinkedIn I love LinkedIn, it allows me to keep in touch with what’s going on in the wider (business) world while being based in a small village tucked away in North Devon.

There is a fantastic group of accountants on LinkedIn that target the same sort of work that I do – helping businesses understand their finances and have strategies in place to make the most of the opportunities that come to them. These accountants are spread far and wide across the UK and it would be difficult to interact without the internet, but on LinkedIn we can discuss all sorts of issues and share updates about what we’re working on.

I think there is a common misconception that LinkedIn can be used to create sales, but I have yet to see an example of this.

To me the benefit of LinkedIn comes more from the ability to build a network of business people who have information and (hopefully) an understanding of what it is that I do, in the hope that they might tell me about new opportunities that they come across.

Nowadays we are so used to being bombarded by sales messages and special offers that my first reaction is to ignore them totally!