In our personal lives, we can often see where we want to go and even understand how to get there, but we sometimes struggle with execution.
For example, your New Year’s resolution is to run a marathon by the end of the year. You know you have to train frequently, progressively increase your miles and support yourself with good nutrition. Tying your running shoes and spending hours hitting the pavement could be the hard part.
In business, on the other hand, it’s more common to get stuck on the how. We might be standing at the starting line and visualizing the end, but getting a realistic picture of the steps that will get us there can be tough.
Knowing what you’re trying to achieve isn’t a strategy. Neither is compiling haphazard advice from fellow business owners who may not be familiar with your industry or challenges.
Let’s talk about:
Before attempting to derive one, you should know the high-level definition of a business strategy.
Michael D. Watkins, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at IMD Business School, defines business strategy as “a set of guiding principles that, when communicated and adopted in the organization, generates a desired pattern of decision making.”
That desired pattern is essentially a framework for every action your team takes, from completing client work to executing internal and external communication to managing finances and organizing documents.
Business strategy is not the same as a mission or vision statement, although those should be established first and can drive your strategy.
For each area of your business, you should start by answering all of the hows.
These might include, but are not limited to:
How will we ...
Even if you’ve been in business for a while, it’s worth revisiting each of these questions and being intentional about the answers. Like individuals, organizations can develop unconscious habits, but a true business strategy isn’t accidental.
As small business thought leader Michael Gerber famously said, you have to work on your business, not just in it. If you neglect operational foundations, you’ll find yourself pedaling up a hill that doesn’t seem to end.
Having a strong business strategy takes a lot of the daily decisions off your plate. Deciding on all of your hows up front helps your team build and adapt processes and, ideally, structured workflows. As your business steadily forges ahead toward its goals, you and your leadership team can direct effort to expanding services or scaling, as you see fit.
A practical strategy also enables you to pinpoint opportunities to streamline and achieve max efficiency.
Is your team wasting too many hours on non-billable work? With a business strategy that delineates how you will conduct time tracking and regular reporting, you’ll know when to shift resources and come closer to achieving your optimal employee utilization rate.
Should you be investing more in business intelligence? Data-driven organizations are more profitable than their less numbers-focused counterparts. If you don’t have the data and analytical capabilities to identify problems and brainstorm solutions, falling back on your strategy can help you prioritize tools and people that can help.
Are you spending too much on disjointed tech platforms? Comparing your current tech stack to the procedures and functions you’ve identified as part of your business strategy could help you avoid the negative effects of industry changes or an economic downturn by consolidating your software.
These operational moves become overwhelming when you don’t have a plan.
Business strategies are helpful for all industries, but we’d argue they’re especially critical in professional services because it’s easy to get distracted from your business goals by the wants and needs of clients. There will always be something immediate to attend to. But if you and your team spend all of your time putting out proverbial fires, those clients will suffer.
Turning to a business strategy can shift your focus to the long game and make your business appear more organized, consistent and dedicated.
Supported by a business strategy, your team is more capable of offering clients:
Relying on one centralized software platform for all of your client work can make it easier to align with your business strategy. Find out how when you attend a demo of Accelo.