Does my small business need a strategy?

A while ago I asked Healthcare Practitioners in private practice about their strategy, and the response was “We are just a small business, not big enough to have a formal strategy”
From my experience, this is the perception of many small business owners and probably a contributing factor to the statistic of 80% of small businesses in South Africa failing within the first five years. Without a strategy or plan, any business, big or small will stall, decline, and stagnate.
A strategy is merely a roadmap designed to achieve your long-term or overall aim, indicating what road you are choosing to get you there. As the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland points out, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”, and “there” is probably not the destination you had in mind.
There are a few steps in this process of strategic thinking you need to keep in mind, whether you are working on a strategy for a multinational company, a small entrepreneurial business or even a strategy for yourself as an individual.
1) What does your “there” look like? Be extremely clear about your vision or why for your business so that it can act as your GPS coordinates.
2) Have goals in place on how to operationalise this strategy, and remember to add checkpoints along the line to ensure that you stay on track
3) Identify tactics to achieve your goals. These concrete activities are really your SMART goals which you have chunked into daily, weekly, and monthly actions that will deliver your goals.
4) Once your plan is in action, it is important to keep a keen eye on it. Are you keeping to your tasks and hitting your deadlines? Are you meeting your SMART goal checkpoint targets? And are these goals still valid? By checking in on your strategy regularly, and measuring it against your business as a whole, you will ensure it remains relevant and successful. And if it is not the case, you will be able to make the necessary adjustments in a timely manner.
For some reason it is easier to keep ourselves busy through ticking to-do lists, moving from campaign to campaign or quarter to quarter, only working “in” our business, and not “on” our business, the phrase that Michael Gerber uses in his book The EMyth. Maybe business owners feel overwhelmed by the idea of creating an overarching big-picture and therefore always plan to create the perfect strategy one day. The fact of the matter is, if we do not have a mindset of strategic thinking, it will never happen.
How do we ensure that strategic thinking is not just another item on my to-do list to be ticked one day, but that it becomes part of my everyday thinking?
Here are a few pointers:
1) Create the space for this kind of thinking
a. Block some time out on your calendar, and treat this commitment like an appointment with a client
b. Enter this space with a clear mind and clear intention – eliminate external noise such as emails, taking phone calls, or thinking about this afternoon’s golf.
c. Go to a different space from where you normally work – a new place with different energy and minimal distractions – a quiet coffee shop, a different room in your house, your garden, somewhere out in nature.
d. Don’t categorise the thoughts that come up as possible or impossible straight away, rather be open and write everything down. Allow your mind to wander, research shows that a wandering mind is one of the precursors to innovation!
e. Talk through your strategic thinking with someone you trust – a mentor, thinking partner or business coach – to challenge your ideas and give you the opportunity to look at it through a different lens.
2) Read voraciously and learn more about the world around you
a. This way you will be connected to the world around you, you will be able to pick up macro and micro trends which will contribute to you making informed decisions with the past and future in mind.
3) Look closely at the people around you.
a. Connect with informed people whose knowledge and insights you can tap into
b. Connect with diverse people with different perspectives and new voices to ensure that you don’t get stuck in your own perspectives and assumptions
c. Connect with people that can hold you accountable in different aspects of your business and life – this will ensure that you move forward, and don’t get stuck in the dreaming and planning phase.

Have fun! The process of strategic thinking gives you an opportunity to stand on the balcony and look onto your business, reconnecting to your purpose.
Strategic thinking is not a fixed plan or recipe, but rather a deliberate process of continuous re-evaluation of information emerging from our ever changing world, referring back to the vision and roadmap, making the adjustments necessary to ensure that you get as close as possible to your GPS coordinates.
Create enough space for this process, be informed, be connected to the world and people around you, and watch how your business is elevated to the next level.

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