“Running a business without a strategy is like embarking on a sailboat without a rudder. You will eventually get somewhere, but you will never know where until you are there.”
Strategic thinking is planning with a specific purpose in mind. You are not just running a business to be in business, but you envision and pursue a specific outcome and destination, and you are focusing all your efforts, energies, and resources to get there.
The Strategic Planning Process
Following in-depth research and analysis, you are ready to design your organization’s “Strategic Pyramid”. Your mission during this process is to capitalize on strengths and opportunities, eliminate weaknesses, and neutralize the impacts of threats on your business. Given the nature of this strategic thinking and planning, you are well advised to involve your partners, key team members, and even some external experts such as consultants.
Your Vision Statement
The “Pinnacle” of your strategic pyramid is your vision statement. (This one worked pretty well for us 🙂 ) It articulates what you want your organization/ brand to be or become. You visualize and envision what you have built and grown your business into after a few years.
Vision statements are clear, concise, memorable, and short. Your vision statement is of an inspirational nature and should remind everyone about what you (and they) set out to accomplish. As such, it should be prominently visible at all times. This is important; when you get consumed with the details, a glance at your vision statement will remind you of the big picture and help you stay on track. A good example of a vision statement for an informational portal could be “A portal so rich in information, users set it as their default home page.”
Your Mission Statement
Your Mission statement describes why you are in business and what it is that your business offers. It articulates what you do for the people (your customers) you service. This short statement simply tells the reader precisely why your brand exists. For example, “to provide readers with a point of consolidation for all relevant news articles published around the globe for convenient reading”. (Our mission statement is to provide clients with real, practical, and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges).
Your mission statement is also your elevator speech (something you would tell someone you haven’t seen for a while about yourself during an elevator ride). Your mission statement becomes part of your brand’s DNA. This is what you’re about, and this is what you do. Your team has to live and breath the essence of your mission statement day in and out. They have to believe in it, feel it, live it, and be it.
Core values are those values that your brand will not compromise under any circumstance. Integrity, value for money, and transparency are a few examples of what’s commonly used. However, whatever you state as your core value, be sure you are absolutely sincere and you mean it. If you claim something that you don’t actually practice, your brand could get into a lot of trouble.
For example, the portal we’ve been describing states “to publish only accurate and verified information” as a core value and then copies an article that’s a hoax. You can imagine the damage this would cause to the portal’s credibility among its readers.
As another example of a good core value for a consulting firm such as ours is to “never compromise the integrity of its work”. This means that we state things the way they are, even if a particular client may disagree and ask us to state something else. We simply won’t compromise what we feel is the case, even if that means we loose this particular client.
Strategic Objectives is where things get a bit confusing. These are objectives that you need to accomplish to realize your vision and satisfy your mission statement. They may at times sound very close to vision or mission statements, which is where the confusion often lies. Should that happen, keep in mind that strategic objectives describe “how” you will reach your final destination, now what that is or why you are trying to get there. (Sounds confusing, right?)
Strategic objectives are broad and long term. A strategic objective for a consulting firm such as Pinnacle for example could be to setup physical offices in every capital throughout the Middle East region. That would be a primary strategic objective for a vision that states that we want to become the regional local consulting firm of choice. As for the portal, one of their strategic objectives could be to sign data-exchange agreements with credible and respected news outlets around the globe.
SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. SMART Objectives are critical to set targets and goals that can be measured. At the end of the day, you must be able to assess whether you are making progress or not, and to what extent so you can adjust your strategic and business plan if needed.
Going back to our strategic objective of setting up physical offices in all Middle East capitals, a SMART objective could require that we launch one office each twelve months until all ten targeted capitals are serviced. The same goes for the portal, whereby a SMART objective would stipulate that they sign twelve agreements in year one, 18 in year two, and reach 50 by year five for example. It’s also good practice to include growth in sales and profits in your SMART objectives. This will help you in demonstrating to your board how great you are performing as a CEO.
Critical Success Factors
Critical Success Factors reflect what you absolutely need in order to succeed. These tell your board or shareholder that if they are not willing to commit to those, you could not possibly reach your vision or make good on your mission. If your strategy to revamp a software company for example is to productize services, allocating funds and other resources for R&D is a critical success factor. Without those funds, your team will not be able to package a service into a scalable product that the market needs and wants. In the case of regional expansion, finding solid and reliable partners is a critical success factor.
What comes next
With the above, you’ve just written the most important part of your strategic business plan. You know where you are today, where you want to be in 3-5 years, and you have a clear path on how to get there. You also know how you will measure and monitor your progress, and you are aware of what you need to succeed.
You now need to convert all of this into a tactical business plan that describes the various projects and activities you will implement. This includes your programs of work, organizational chart, supply chain managment and distribution, and your financial projections amongst others. Your marketing strategy is also discussed in this document (especially your segmentation strategy and marketing mix), although you will address marketing in a separate and more elaborate document (your marketing plan). Once you get going, you will also need a Human Resource Management plan, Standard Operating Policies and Procedures, and a suit of other plans that will help you in growing your business into a mega corporation.
This is all a lot of planning that needs to be done. But it pays off. Like they say, “plan your work and work your plan”. Happy strategic planning, and if you need help, give us a holler 🙂
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
This article has been written and posted by Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting, LLC. Distribution, copying, and sharing is only authorized and permissible if no changes/ alterations are made to the content and appearance of this publication. Credit must be given to the publisher at all times by including this paragraph in any distribution. For additional articles, visit our website. To request an article about a specific topic you are interested in, please contact us with your request.