It’s likely that at the start of the year you created your Business Strategy or plan. Great. Or maybe not?
This month an article from the Chartered Accountants (ICAEW) Faculty of Business and Management, titled, “It’s all in the execution”, caught my eye. The article was written by Rick Payne, following a roundtable discussion of FD’s / CEO’s from a range of UK businesses.
The point of the roundtable was to discuss key concerns and provide insights into the challenges of making strategy actually happen.
Some of you may know I’m a chartered accountant. I never wanted to be an auditor or do tax calculations (though I secretly got some pleasure from getting tax calculations right!). I was far more interested in advising businesses in improvement and ensuring that improvement came through in the financial records.
Everything has to lead to better profit.
I maintain my membership of the ICAEW, the professional body for chartered accountants in England and Wales. Whilst all the audit and tax stuff mostly passes me by, I regularly read material produced by the Business and Management Faculty.
The Link Between Business Strategy And Freedom
This subject of executing business strategies is important to me. I find a lot of my time is spent helping small-business owners think about and plan for their future – both personally and for their business.
Most owners of small businesses aspire to have freedom. That freedom is usually to have the time and money to have choices in life. The link beween executing your strategy and the freedom you desire is quite apparent with the businesses I work with.
Working up a strategy for creating that freedom can be tough yet rewarding. Just having clarity about where the business is going feels good. You can tell your staff, your bank manager and constantly remind yourself why you’re working and where you’re aiming for.
The Challenges Of Executing A Business Strategy
Great, so you have a strategy and a step-by-step plan to get you moving towards it. But the the hard part is making it happen!
Here’s where the article I referred to earlier comes in. The FD’s at the roundtable saw several challenges to making a strategic plan happen including:
- The external faces of change – competition, technology and regulation;
- Making sure the rest of the business knows what the plan is, their role in it, and most importantly, are motivated to work;
- Keeping focused on the plan. Focusing on being focused is as important for a small business owner as it is for a boss of a corporate. Maybe it’s even harder for the owner as it’s their business, their brand, their life. When it’s that important it’s possible to either have laser-like focus or get distracted by the next problem or opportunity. Unfortunately my experience is that the latter is more common.
- Making sure you can get the people, skills and money to make things happen. My experience with business owners is that the hardest resource to get is the right person with the right attitude and skills.
Steps To Execute Your Business Strategy
So, what advice did those FD’s have? And what do I think it means for small-business owners?
Honest Conversations: Talking to the people in your business about the strategy, targets, performance, culture and expectations is essential. Those conversations don’t come easily but need to be had. None of us are good at mind-reading. We need to hear the story, the meaning, how we fit in and why we should play our part.
Structure, Process, Information: The sort of things accountants love! Yet far too few small businesses have enough structure. Too much relies on its boss – the hub of the business. Just like a bicycle wheel, remove the hub and the spokes of the wheel collapse. Organisation, job roles, delegation, standard operating procedures, automation, management review and accountability all create structure. They also give the owner more freedom as they are less of the hub.
Communication: Here’s a test. Ask a friend to come into your business and randomly ask a member of staff what the plan for the future of the business is. I’ll guarantee you they’ll get a blank answer. Something like, “I don’t know, I just work here!” If that’s the norm in your business then you will have an uphill struggle getting to your strategy. That freedom, with the time and money you desire, will be harder to get.
A good sign you have communicated and listened enough is if your people can clearly explain the strategy to others.
Finally, focus on being focused: If we accept that it’s too easy to get distracted from making your plan happen, then you need to reduce the distractions.
Start with having fewer objectives or major changes in any given period. I’ve read somewhere that a business can’t handle more than 4 major changes in a year. Call them the VITAL FEW.
Equally, make sure you have the habit to regularly check progress on your plan. If necessary have a non-exec director, coach, peer group, your accountant or business partner hold you accountable.
Fail to Plan…Plan to Fail!
Before you say it. Stuff happens to make some parts of a plan out of date. So why have a strategy or plan?
Just as the old saying goes, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”. A plan and a strategy give you clarity and focus. When changes happen then re-plan, don’t be like a sailor with no destination port and let the wind blow you anywhere.
I hope these short thoughts have convinced you to have a strategy and put in the effort to make it happen. Doing the things isn’t easy, it requires time, effort, some money and sometimes doing things you aren’t used to.
Good luck with making things happen. Remember, you deserve more time and money for all that effort you put into your business. Don’t short-change yourself.
If you would like help either creating a strategy or executing your existing one, I’m offering a FREE 2 hour one-to-one for the first 5 people that sign up. Book your time slot here