Let’s talk about strategy. This is the ability to assess a situation, decide on an approach, and then come up with a series of decisions that will lead to a successful outcome. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The main driver of a strong strategy is to consider multiple options and to choose the best one for your current situation, knowing that you may have to adjust in the future if conditions change, all in an effort to accomplish what you originally set out to do. Many top businesses and promising careers have been ruined because of poor strategy decisions.
We typically use strategy when we play a game, engaging in strategic thinking to outsmart our opponent, but strategic thinking can be applied to nearly every decision we face on any given day. Even better, the more we do it, the better we become at it.
Take my client. She owns a floral and landscaping business with her partner. It’s successful so she wanted to expand and grow the business. Her first step was to participate in a business development course. It was quite informative and she learned a lot. So much so that when she implemented what she learned, her business took off. Well, that’s great until a couple of her best employees left during the busy season and her business partner unexpectedly became ill. Suddenly she was faced with a growing business and no one available to help. She was overwhelmed and realized that she didn’t actually have a clear strategy for dealing with growth beyond getting more clients.
Here are four things to consider as you build a strategy for your career or business.
Do your research and keep your options open
For any effective strategy to work, you need to be able to analyze data. The more information you have available to you, the more likely you will be to make the best decisions for your situation. Conducting research can be anything from reviewing charts and spreadsheets looking for trends, to interviewing colleagues or competitors, to assessing processes and procedures. The more informed you are, the better your chances are of making the right decision from the beginning.
That being said, it’s also important to consider as many options as possible until you make a decision. My client would have saved herself a headache had she taken a moment to consider what a growth initiative for her business looked like. The purpose of a strategy is to help you move forward even when you hit a bump in the road. It’s about anticipating the unknowns and having options available should those unknowns suddenly materialize.
Focus on the most important thing in front of you
This can be tricky. Once business started to grow for my client, she was faced with a number of priorities. Some she anticipated and some she did not. She set about dealing with the most urgent problem first – lack of help – by rolling up her sleeves and doing it herself, but that wasn’t the most important issue. In fact, her partner’s illness and how it affected the business was her priority. From there she could set expectations with her clients, buy herself more time to fill orders and then look for part-time help to bridge the gap until she hired new staff. Find a mentor, coach or friend who will listen to you as you determine a clear roadmap forward.
Get a sense for how hard to push
Many of us have ambitious goals, and we want to achieve them fast. It’s validation for our hard-won efforts. My client really wanted to grow her business. It was an important goal and it represented a level of accomplishment that she had only dreamed about before. Because it was so important to her, she didn’t want to slow down, but that only caused more problems. An effective strategy works best when you realize that there will be times when pushing hard makes sense, and other times when hanging back will work in your favor. It’s a delicate balance and it requires patience, but mastering this skill will take you far.
When things go wrong, look for opportunities to build relationships
Sometimes you will end up where you don’t want to be. You will make all the right decisions, anticipate potential unknowns, and still end up on the losing end of the situation. When that happens take a step back. With a clear head you can assess where you went off course and ask yourself some hard questions about where you want to go next. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that nothing is a wasted effort. There’s value – and certainly a lesson – in every loss. Having the ability to potentially build an unexpected relationship can work in your favor down the line. I cannot emphasize enough to my business coaching clients that building a power network is important and fostering relationships, in good times as well as bad, is just good business.
My client made it through the busy season and is now working on a business development plan with her partner – one that includes systems and processes to address staffing needs, higher demand, and inventory control, as well as incremental growth objectives that won’t overwhelm her current business model.
If you’ve been wondering why you aren’t seeing the progress you hoped in your career or business, perhaps you’re ready to develop a strategy. As you progress through the new year, take the time to assess where you are today, where you want to be next year, and what changes you’re willing to make in order for that to happen.
For a free strategy session or more information on coaching packages that will help you grow your business or career in the New Year, contact me today.