3 Questions to Identify Roadblocks to Business Growth (and How Strategy Can Clear Them)

What challenges you most about your management and leadership role as business owner? Do you think about it? Our observations suggest too many business owners work according to learned practices which they do not renew. The result is company financial performance staying well below potential. Good and reasonable performance can become a hindrance to excellent and exceptional results. It’s easy to think ‘we are doing OK, there’s no need to change.’ Consider your response to any of the following questions:

• Please explain your marketing strategy and how all the methods tie together.

• How does your business use strategic planning?

• Describe your long-term strategic plan.

• Do you have an effective written business plan or marketing plan?

• What are the key elements of your staff training and development program?

The first step to facing uncertainty and challenges is to admit there are potential roadblocks to creating business growth. The second is perhaps admitting ‘I need help to remove the roadblocks’. If you take the second step to seek help, you are in the top 25% of business owners. Most resist help. A recent classroom experience at a prominent Australian University highlights this. A working student from India observed Australian business owners seem to be very independent and commonly have the view it will all work out in the end. ‘She’ll be right mate’ still prevails. This attitude may cost your business significant profit performance.

There is a key understanding every business owner needs to grasp if consistent growth is to become normal. We all have blind spots and beliefs we hold onto and thereby restrict success, breakthrough and improvement.

Will we confront and remedy our blind spots? Gaps in vision, strategy planning, marketing plans, leadership and management practice, our experience and even how we view our own industry or product groupings can form craters of restriction.

Let me suggest 3 questions every business owner could answer to start to identify gaps and reveal blind spots. You may find the questions confronting. None of the answers are necessarily easy to find, let alone the solutions simple to implement and establish in your business. Don’t put aside the questions if you are overwhelmed by the multi-faceted specifics required to instigate change and create growth. Consider the exacting specifics of research and change required in industries such as airlines, development technology, communications, security, automation, medical practice and more, where blind spots or neglecting systems can cost lives.

Q1. What time, energy and money are you prepared to invest in research, relationships and skill acquisition to begin or accelerate business growth?

Any change or adjustment will upset routines, historical practices, processes and systems, or the current lack of them. This is often the reason change and improvement is avoided. It disturbs routines, the status quo and demands careful change management. The easier part is usually discovering what is required but the high level challenge is in execution and implementation of the business plans to be introduced.

We’ve observed so many businesses try to create a strategic plan using basic goal-setting practices, but the day-to-day pressures pull staff back to operational and more urgent matters. There is no overriding business plan in place to maintain accountability and ensure target achievement. Strategic planning is not only the realm of large companies.

Q2. How will the required changes be achieved and what process will be used to advance all facets of a new business plan?

A Harvard Business School study found that 70 to 80 per cent of small businesses fail to see the projected return on investments due to the inflexibility or lack of strategy. Many small to medium business owners ignore or resist strategic planning for growth because it’s too hard or perceived as irrelevant. Hence, there is no certainty of business practices or clarity of company purpose beyond basic revenue generation and continued existence.

A successful business plan begins where we are and moves us towards where we want to be. Strong implementation and execution must articulate how we are going to move there. Clarifying goals and expectations is part of the process and ideally should be in light of relevant product and market life cycles. Plans start with small, deliberate steps for what’s important now and then create projects with longer-term specific action plans. Maintaining team focus on the desired outcome will then happen.

Q3. When was the last occasion your senior team members spent dedicated time with you as business owner to grapple with the high level thinking, leadership and creativity needed to see a breakthrough into new ways of running the business?

We worked with a company that supplied and installed a hi-tech product with increasing demand. The company had a staff of 10 people and the business was growing quickly. The director of this company argued in an elevated tone that he needed no one’s help, he was self-sufficient and no person can change how they operate. He was certainly right about himself. Discussions with staff showed he was blind to the true needs in the business and most staff were cruising well below capacity. A strategic plan would have accelerated the business into exceptional growth.

Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, authors of The Strategy-Focused Organization, identified in larger businesses, 85 per cent of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing business strategy. Too many SMEs never even mention a strategic plan. To lead a business into high-level thinking, leadership and creativity the key team must be reading, studying and keeping up to date with what is happening in their industry and business at large.

“Pay special attention to evidence that contradicts your beliefs” – Charles Darwin

Decide to push through those long-held beliefs screaming at you ‘it’s the only way something can work’. Remove the roadblocks, fill in the gaps and move forwards with certainty and clarity.

The Ultimate Importance Of An Organisational Business Strategy

Every business owner should develop a written guide that presents The Importance Of An Organisational Business Strategy for the company. The role of this article is to evaluate the appropriateness of each operational and marketing activity undertaken in relation to the overall business goals.

What To Consider When Strategizing For A Business

If the actions of a company are not found in the marketing strategy that was previously portrayed, this means is that we are firstly dealing with a crisis, motivated by actions of the competition or the changes in the market. Secondly, it could be about a strategy that did not meet the needs of the company.

In any case, the development of sporadic marketing activities that don`t include any consistency can have a negative impact on the company’s image and sales.

A marketing strategy should have clear objectives and must include the following aspects:

  • A description of the targeted audience or final customer
  • A description of the competitive environment in which the company operates
  • The used distribution channels
  • The way in which the company is positioned in relation to the competition
  • Aspects related to the authenticity of the product and the reason for which customers may choose it over the products offered by competitors
  • Pricing strategies in relation to those offered by the competitors
  • Marketing expenses – advertising and promotions
  • The conducted market research and the final outcomes.

Why Do You Need A Strategic Plan?

A business, regardless of its type, should be based on a clear strategy and should have a strict plan of actions in terms of financial resources, offers, objectives etc. The strategic plan is the synthesis of the key data of the business, including the business idea, its development project, and related calculations.

For a business plan to achieve the goals of the company, it must give due consideration to the following:

  1. Individual business profile
  2. The economic environment in which the business will be conducted
  3. The objectives proposed during the business development
  4. The purpose for which it was designed (presentation of the company, attracting partners or financiers for an already existing business or launching a new business).

The operating plan is a document designed to determine the development of an enterprise during a certain period of time. It is used to establish the mission, objectives, and strategies for the effective implementation of specific activities during a specified future interval. The utility of the plan is both internal (as a tool for managers) and external (to obtain financing or to achieve a strategic partnership with another company).

This organizational plan is the preferred method of communication between entrepreneurs, potential financiers, and investors. It is used toarticulate the business strategy, explain the meaning of all the established attributes of the employees, and the role they play in the company. The business plan is, on one hand, a tool to control the entire process of starting and supporting a business. On the other hand, the business strategic plan is an important indicator of the maturity of the business in relation to its operating environment.

Strategy – Probably the Most Overused and Misunderstood Word in Business

How many times have you heard someone talk about successful business strategies or ‘taking a strategic approach’? What do you think they actually mean by the use of the word strategy? Most often the people using it are trying to convey the fact that they have given the subject a bit more thought than usual, that they have looked a little further ahead than normal. If a consultant uses it be very wary. Strategy costs more than mere ideas or tactics. How much would you pay for consultants who have’ kicked around a few ideas’ or ‘come up with some tactics they think might work’. Depends how good they are. But if they come back with ‘strategic business advice’ you expect it to be very good and of course very expensive.

Why expensive? Because you would hope that a consultant or colleague would have used some kind of intellectually robust framework, that they would have tested their assumptions and developed more than one solution which they evaluate rigorously before making their strategic recommendation. This takes time and expertise and both are expensive. Let’s assume they have done all of this – does that make it strategic business advice rather than tactical advice?

Not according the dictionary. The dictionary definition of strategy is very clear and military. It defines strategy as “the art of war – disposing troops etc in such a way as to impose upon the enemy the conditions for fighting (time and place) preferred by oneself”. If we accept business is in effect a war – you develop successful business strategies because you define success as beating the competition – there is no reason why this definition of the overused word, strategy, is not appropriate for business strategy. It requires all that planning and testing of assumptions discussed already. Some kind of robust intellectual and very honest framework will certainly help to develop and evaluate options. Even the lazy use of the word strategy – giving it a bit more thought and thinking ahead – would be implied by the military, dictionary definition. But there is an extra dimension to real strategy. It requires you to do all this and come up with something that changes the rules in your favour – in other words it requires creativity.

And there is one other aspect to this more demanding kind of strategic thinking. It is about people and their behaviour. In order to ‘deploy the troops’ and change the rules you have to understand how people tick. If being creative involves changing behaviours then you have understand how those behaviours were formed in the first place and how they might be changed if you want a successful business strategy.

Before putting the dictionary away (the definition of strategy above was taken from the Oxford English Dictionary) just go forward to tactics. You will discover that the definition is exactly the same as for strategy with one addition. Tactics involves the all-important stage of implementation, putting the strategy into practice. So it turns out that far from tactics being less weighty and valuable than strategy they are actually the most valuable thing of all. A sound strategic plan that is successfully implemented includes, indeed demands, tactics.

The use, and overuse, of strategy in business is more often than not pretentious over-claim by people who do not really understand what they are talking about. It certainly does not mean giving something a bit more thought or thinking a bit more long term. It absolutely demands a thorough and honest assessment of your assumptions and your options. At the risk of being melodramatic, sloppy thinking in military strategy costs people their lives. In business it just wastes time and money. Strategic thinkers will of course use frameworks based on their experience. They will break a problem down so they can think about each component of it but they will look to change the rules not just apply them. And the true strategist understands that strategies are aimed at people and changing their behaviour. Their strategic business advice will be based on an understanding of human behaviour. Just as in war, a strategy does not just get the job done, it enables you to beat the competition, to deliver higher returns than ever before, to win and win big for the least expenditure of resources.

So whether you are undertaking a brand planning strategy, a new business launch strategy or any other kind of strategy remember what this really means and remember to include the tactics which are just if not more important. Then you can charge accordingly.