Many small business owners are too busy getting their hands dirty in the day-to-day operations to take a longer-term strategic view.
Small business owners are very busy people, always doing something – dealing with customers, dealing with staff, and reacting to the myriad daily requirements of a small business owner.
At the end of each day they go home, maybe work some more and then get ready to do exactly the same thing the next day, and the day after, and the day after that.
If all this work isn’t leading to results, however, what is the first step they need to make to activate change?
Strategy is something some of these small business owners believe belongs to the corporate world, but this is far from true. To develop a clear strategy, small business owners need to face a few tough questions.
• What might we do differently to attract more customers?
• What is likely to appeal to customers to get them coming back, more often?
• What can we do differently to save us time?
• Are there any additional services and/ or products we can deliver?
• Are we doing anything that offends or irritates customers?
These are all strategic questions that require a strategic approach, and answers that might involve a change in strategy.
While strategic thinking is often assumed by the business owner to be their domain and should not involve others, this too, is a fallacy. There is a collective intelligence among other people within the business that will remain untouched as long as action is not taken to tap into it. And there will be add-on benefits – such as the self-esteem, satisfaction and motivation that people will feel once they know their opinions are valued.
The most successful business owners apply disciplined focus to allocating a percentage of their week to strategic thinking. Once a change in strategy has been decided upon, they ensure that there is a team dedicated to the ‘execution planning’ of the proposed change.
A business without strategic thinking gets lost or possibly forgotten, as the competition takes advantage of new ways of doing things. They are so busy doing it, doing it that they don’t see the world racing past them. A business whose owner spends all day dreaming up new ways to get ahead, but never executing anything new, will also be left behind as staff leave in frustration and customers leave in disillusionment.
What’s required is a balanced approach to strategic thinking, execution planning and the daily demands of the business.
The demands of the business will always take preference, so it’s not suggested that these demands be ignored; to do so would be irresponsible.
However, what does need to change is the neglect of strategic thinking. At the end of each day or week, dedicating an hour to answering the earlier questions will be a good starting point. Getting people involved in this process, throwing ideas around can be great for team building and for developing a positive workplace culture.
The greatest challenge for the small business owner is changing from being busy ‘doing it’ to being busy ‘thinking about it’ … and then doing it. Business owners are great technicians; they’re great at delivering on the product and/or services the business provides. However, as soon as they take on the role as business owner, they also take on a responsibility for developing its direction and driving the business in that direction.
The question most often asked is: ‘I’ve told you I’m so busy, where am I going to find the time?’
Most often, the answer lies in where time is currently being spent. Very rarely are there instances where business owners do not spend time (often quite large chunks of it) in activities that could be completed by others on a far lower pay rate (ideally) than the owner.
To identify where these chunks of time are requires the business owner to log their time for a few weeks. The results are frequently very revealing and show much about the wasteful habits of the principals involved. However, the great benefit is demonstrating that there is, in fact, available time to devote to the great pillar of business growth: strategy.
The failure to develop a coherent strategy could cost – big time.