Top Ten Challenges – Strategic Focus – Do You Know Your Vision and Have a Plan to Get There?
Strategic Focus – have you created your business plan to monitor progress and set deadlines and goals to ensure steady growth?
Does your staff buy in to your vision?
Do they even understand what your vision is?
Do YOU even know what it is?
For this challenge I’ve turned to Simon Whitbread. I’ve known Simon for a number of years and we’ve worked together in a number of projects such as Solent Business Growth Network of which he is a founder and Young Enterprise where we both sit on the Southern Hampshire board. We are both inveterate networkers…
Simon Whitbread is the Business Conversationalist. He has been helping people improve their business’ performance by changing their conversations for many years. Whether it is the everyday conversation that goes on inside our own heads or the ones we have with other people in our business by changing these we can dramatically raise our business success.
I’m going to let Simon say his piece:
“I often hear people say that they are unsure what to do next in their business. More often than not this isn’t to do with a lack of opportunities but with knowing which opportunities to choose. This tends to lead people to do one of two things. We try to do them all, normally not very well because we don’t have the resources to properly commit. Or we suffer from analysis paralysis, we can’t choose any of them in case we make the wrong choice. So we just keep doing what we’ve always done, we stick with the familiar, the comfortable, even though it’s not achieving the results we want. Whichever route we choose, we fail to do what we set out to do in the first place.
There’s a great story about the British Olympic 8-man rowing team. They hadn’t won an Olympic gold in the event since 1912, in fact, in the two previous Olympics they had finished 8th and 6th respectively. They were coming up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and they knew they needed to do something different, they knew they needed to change but deciding what to do was going to be difficult. So they settled on a simple strategy, something they could test every decision they made against. They came up with a question they could ask themselves each time.
They ensured that they had a laser-sharp focus on what was most important to them, winning.
With the Olympics, it’s easy to know what the goal is, the overall target is to win, to come first. When you’re running your own business you might think your overall goal is as simple as making more money but often that’s not what’s most important. We all start and run our businesses for very different reasons. For some it may be about a lifestyle, for others, it may be about making a difference. The important thing is to understand what is the most important thing for you. You need to come up with one, or maybe two, questions that you can ask yourself every time you come across a new opportunity or you need to make an important decision.
To do this you need to know what is it you actually want to achieve? You need to be really honest with yourself about what is most critical for you in your life and in your business. Keep asking yourself why you want a particular goal, keep drilling down to you get to the real heart of the issue. In most cases, money, bigger better-paying clients, notoriety are all means to an end. What you have to do is work out what that end truly is, only then will you actually be able to work out which opportunities you need to take and which ones will lead you down a rabbit hole.
The other change in their approach was to focus on the future and not on the past. To focus on what was coming next rather than what had happened in the past. A British men’s team hadn’t won for nearly a century, the last two Olympics saw them fail to reach a podium position. Looking at their past performance you would be forgiven for thinking that they had little chance of coming in the top three that year let alone winning. If you watch the race you can hear the commentators doubting that they were going to win almost up to the end of the race. They knew the team hadn’t won before and assumed that they weren’t going to win this time either. The commentators were fixated on the past performance and not looking at the current performance or thinking about what they could achieve this time.
It is easy for us to do the same. The number of people in business who will say ‘we tried it that way before and it didn’t work’ or ‘we’ve always done it that way’ is astounding. There are always people who find it easier to focus on the past rather than thinking about the future. The truth is there is always an opportunity to achieve more than we have in the past. Whether it is by making small changes or choosing new possibilities, we can always improve.
So the next time that you’re faced with a new opportunity or you have a decision to make about the direction of your business just ask yourself these questions:
- What is it that I am actually trying to achieve? And does this bring me closer to that goal?
- Am I truly focussing on future performance rather than worrying about the past?
Once you can do these honestly and comfortably each time then you will have a much better chance of reaching your goals and making your dreams a reality.”
I can relate to these questions, both in my own business and those of my clients. I have been known to suffer from analysis paralysis just as Simon has mentioned and I’ve seen it so many times in the actions of others.
My whole reanalysis of myself as The Outsourced Finance Director and not just another accountant (chartered or otherwise) is the result of asking myself where do I want to go and how do I get there.
Additionally, don’t forget your poor employees and contractors who may not have any idea of your goals – unless they are psychic or unless you tell them…communication is key and I shall cover this again in the section Efficiency and Staff Management.
If you would like to talk to Simon – and he might like to talk to you – please contact him at email@example.com
Strategic Focus is one of the challenges identified in our Top Ten for Businesses as they Grow – please subscribe (using the form, below) if you’d like to be notified of new posts from small business owners facing these challenges;