How to Create a Strategy: a Case Study
By: Marian Banker
Marian Banker, MBA, is President of Prime Strategies, offering individual, group, and virtual programs designed to help clients take command of their business. Marian's mission is to help small business owners be the leader of a strong and profitable business. Read more articles like this one at www.primestrategies.com.
Clients often tell me they're not really clear about the concept of Strategy. It's a lot easier than you might think. Strategy is one of the steps in the planning process and cycle. The sequence in the business planning process is Vision, Mission, Goals, Strategy.
Vision is where you start and is the most abstract. Once clarified it become the guiding light toward which all your activities will be directed. Your Mission is what you do in your business to carry out your Vision. Goals are specific measurables that define what will exist when you've realized your Vision. The Strategy step is the thinking through of how you will achieve those Goals.
Start by considering the resources you have and the direction you want to go. Evaluate various scenarios and steps and predict how they will turn out. An analogy that makes it easier to understand is the game of chess. Various moves are considered with predicted outcomes BEFORE the actions are taken.
Some examples of Strategy might be:
- identify and develop an untapped market (based on observed trends);
- provide staff training and coaching (to strengthen customer service)
- redefine our brand (to fit our updated target market)
Developing a clear Strategy is critical because you're going to base your Plan on your Strategy. As you know, it's the activities you carry out in your day-to-day operations that produce the results you see at the end of the month. It is likely that you will have more than one Strategy because you'll probably have several Goals.
There may be more than one Strategy for each Goal. An example might be to "create a contact database" and "hire a part-time assistant to manage your database". You're not actually at the Plan level until you determine the steps you're going to take to hire that assistant (seek employee referrals, network word of mouth).
Bill Sipes, CPA, is founder and CEO of a community-based Accounting Business, which provides Tax Management, Write-up, Financial Services, Financial Support Systems and Business Valuation. He sees opportunities to add even more services and products and has decided to take on the persona of a Financial Advisor. I'd like to share the story of how he recently developed his Strategy for this business because it clearly exemplifies the process.
When there was an economic downturn in his local community, Bill realized he needed a new Strategy that would "turn his clients into cheerleaders" and turn around his bottom line. He decided to find out where his business had been coming from in the recent past.
He found out he got most business from 3 sources: mailing to professionals, new business/product mailing, and new sales to existing clients.
He called together his staff to discuss his findings and to ask for their help in determining a new Strategy. Following the meeting he sent out a summary of "what he heard" and asked for their continued thoughts. The staff were acknowledged and given a role in the process.
Here's Bill's memo to staff.
"Thanks to all. I think this is the most important meeting we have ever had. This is what I heard.
- We need to separate ourselves from the other CPA firms.
- Several ways to do this were mentioned. Speed of service was one. Another was building relationships.
- We are going to develop a system of building relationships with our clients. Jane is going to write a rough script to follow whenever we get with a client.....The Moment of Truth.
- I am going to ask Annette to print a few banners that say.....The Moment of Truth.
- Jeff is going to check with the software people about Telemagic and Act.
- We are going to spend more time "showing our face" in the community and to our clients.
- When with a client always ask......How are we doing?
Thanks again for a great meeting......which I am sure will lead to a great system that will turn our clients into cheerleaders."
Here's Bill's Strategy.
- Develop a plan to cross-sell existing clients.
- Continue to use Marketing Assistant to carry out marketing campaign to targeted list.
- Make Customer Service visits with our commissioned software salesman to cement relationships and try to cross-sell.
- Hire a commissioned insurance sales rep with a benefits background to sell Long Term Care Insurance as a new service (to cross-sell).
- Redefine our "brand". Develop our new image to support our updated profile.
He's building his redefined brand on "trusted relationships". The staff is very enthusiastic and willing to support each other's efforts. He also plans to have "Moment of Truth" banners made up to keep the staff focused on what's important.
Bill is utilizing a Strategy that's based on research into information about his own business and he has buy-in from his staff. He not only knows where he's going, he has a Strategy to get there.
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