A strategic viewpoint: The benefits of looking beyond the day to day

Have you heard the term “work on the business” but never had it explained?

I’d like to demystify this for the aspiring business owner and highlight the importance of a strategic viewpoint in any business.

Imagine you are a train driver and you’re sitting in the engine of the train, pulling the levers, adjusting speed, braking for each station, and opening the doors for passengers. This would be working “in the business” — even though you are controlling everything, you’re still actually doing the tasks.

Working “on the business” would be akin to being in the controller’s office, deciding the routes of the train for the next year, which line is it travelling on, what its destination is, and what type of passengers will it take.

That is working on the business, and perhaps the most important manifestation or result of working on the business is a strategic plan.

If I walk into a business and they don’t have a strategic plan, I know they are going to be stuck in the day-to-day, with problems and concerns, and no idea of what is going to happen next week, let alone next year.

A strategic plan isn’t a crystal ball, but it’s the best attempt at predicting the future that a business owner will have: it examines the market, the trends, the competition, and the customer to map out the potential journey, and the goals and aspirations of a business owner.

It doesn’t have to be a fifty-page document full of waffle, but every business should have a written plan that outlines their goals and strategies.

The best definition I have ever heard for strategy is “achieving desirable ends with available means”. A strategic plan outlines the means and the ends — it is the description of how a business owner intends to achieve their goals for any given time period.

With a good strategic plan, you’ll know that each activity you do on a daily basis is on the right track towards achieving your goals. You’ll know if you’ve been sidetracked, and how you are progressing towards the goal.

Suppose you have the goal of obtaining 104 new customers in a year. This averages out to two per week, so if you went six weeks without getting a new customer, you’d know you were behind on your goals. But if you hadn’t set the target of 104 in your plan and you didn’t have new business activities to generate say ten leads a week, knowing you only close two in ten leads, then you wouldn’t know where you were on the journey.

In my more than 17 years of experience, I have found that businesses that write and execute strategic plans have an easier time and a more successful outcome in running their business. Those that don’t, get off track and end up in trouble.

My advice to anyone starting a business is to ensure you have a strategic viewpoint. Aim high, and continue to work on and measure yourself against your “working on the business” plan.

The Silver & Wise Basics of Business Ownership Course has strategy as a central component of the course.

Share your thoughts or questions on having a strategic viewpoint for your business!

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