Are You Strategic? 5 Steps to Help Build Your Strategy
It happens all the time — you attend a seminar and hear the speaker say, “You need a good business strategy if you’re going to be successful.” You leave the meeting with the very best intentions, but the concept of re-evaluating your strategic business plan often gets pushed to the wayside as you get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business.
A while back, I read Erika Andersen’s book titled "Being Strategic," which provides a simple step-by-step model for business owners and entrepreneurs. The book starts by providing an explanation of what being strategic actually means. According to Andersen, “Being strategic means consistently making those core directional choices that will best move your business toward its hoped-for future. Ask yourself if this is what you are doing.”
Five Steps for Building Your Strategy
Andersen’s book lays out five steps that are critical to building out your strategy, regardless of the size of your business.
1. Decide What You’re Solving For
Albert Einstein once said, "If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” This is actually good advice — when developing new products and services or entering new markets, most companies aren’t sufficiently rigorous in defining the problems they’re attempting to solve and articulating why the issues are important. Before you can realistically address your core challenges, you must first identify and understand them. Andersen’s book suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- Is your business growth less than desirable? What are your options to accelerate growth?
- Are your manufacturing costs too high? How can they be streamlined?
- Are you losing business to competitors? What are they offering that your business doesn’t?
- Are new media options causing your print revenues to decline? How can you build out your services?
2. Know Where You’re Starting From
Once you’re clear on the business challenge, you need to assess your current state. This involves taking a realistic look at all facets of your business, and there may be some aspects of this that are quite unpleasant. Andersen notes, “Being a fair witness of your own business is an essential and underutilized skill.” Consider the following scenarios:
- You just lost a major client. What did the competitor do to get the business? Keep in mind that it isn’t always about price!
- Sales are down versus other years. Is this an anomaly or part of a larger trend?
- How are your customers changing the way that they purchase?
- Which decision-makers should you be calling on? Do you have the right resources in place?
3. Get Clear about Your Hoped-For Future
The printing industry has been through some difficult times, and a number of firms have since retreated into survival mode. Today’s leaders have a well-articulated “hoped-for future.” This is critical so that you and your staff members can have a positive frame for action. Andersen explains, “This frame for action offers an antidote to fear.” If your people know that your objective is business expansion and planned investments in technologies, people, or processes, the result will be improved morale and productivity.
4. Face the Obstacles
Once you’ve decided on and articulated the future that you want to create, you must be very accurate about the obstacles that you’ll need to overcome to make it happen. Andersen states, “Executives — and human beings in general — tend to either over- or underestimate the importance and impact of obstacles. It’s critical that you be a fair witness.” Ask yourself:
- Do you have the right technologies? What types of investments do you need to make?
- Even if you have the right technologies, do you have the right staff members for implementation?
- What are the sales and marketing challenges for delivering a new offering?
- Have you tested the market? Will customers buy?
5. Make Core Directional Choices, then Get Specific
Strategies are clearly-defined pathways that will lead to your hoped-for future. They are the core decisions that you must make to ensure that your time and energy are properly focused. Andersen elaborates, “Businesspeople often move straight from vision to tactics without establishing clear strategies, and they end up with uncoordinated efforts that don’t make the best use of important resources.”
As an example, if your strategy is to move into large-format printing, it’s important to be realistic. Consider your target market, evaluate marketing requirements for these services, and develop a path for product delivery, pricing, sales, and promotion. The process is no different if your strategy is to get into cross-media services or to web-enable your business and offer marketing supply chain management.
The Bottom Line
Within the printing industry, navigating in challenging times has become the rule rather than the exception. You must be strategic in the decisions that you make to position yourself for success. This week, I am headed to the Canon thINK event, where I will be moderating a series of panel discussions with companies that are strategic in their approach to business and over the next few weeks will share strategies they deployed to make their businesses strategic.
A digital printing and publishing pioneer and marketing expert, Barbara Pellow helps companies develop multi-media strategies that ride the information wave whether it is developing a strategy to launch a new product, building a strategic marketing plan or educating your sales force on how to deliver an effective value proposition. She brings the knowledge and skills to help companies expand and grow business opportunity. Barb has had a number of high-profile marketing and sales positions including Chief Marketing Officer for the Kodak Graphic Communications Group, Corporate Vice President of Marketing for IKON Office Solutions, and Vice President and General Manager for the Xerox Document Production Systems Group. She also served as the Gannett chair in integrated publishing sciences in Rochester Institute of Technology's (RIT) School of Printing Management and Sciences (SPMS). Most recently, Barb was the Group Director for Business Development at InfoTrends. She is currently the Manager of Pellow and Partners, LLC.
Barb can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org (Mobile, 585-734-2228)