Without a clearly defined business strategy, your business is destined for decline and failure. By business strategy, I am not referring to the behemoth, 10,000 page business strategy document that takes years to write and now just collects dust on a shelf in your office. I am talking about a simple, concise, focused, nimble plan that you constantly refer to and measure progress against.
When I first moved from a technical role into a business leadership role, I created a strategic business plan masterpiece that covered all areas of our business including marketing, sales, proposals, project execution, competitive analysis and even customer analysis. This document took quite a few months to put together and was very impressive. I still keep a copy of it in my office as a reminder . . . of its futility!
About ten minutes after I was finished presenting the document to the rest of the business leadership group, the document was put on the shelf and never used again. I was stunned! It contained a treasure trove of information but what I didn’t understand at the time was that the information it contained was overwhelming and presented in a way that was almost impossible to use effectively.
Shortly after this deflating event, I was introduced to Rich Horwath and his business strategy book Deep Dive: The Proven Method for Building Strategy, Focusing Your Resources, and Taking Smart Action. He introduces many excellent techniques and tools in this book but the one that really made a difference for me was the simple SWOT analysis. I had used SWOTs before but Horwath introduced the SWOT in a way that it could be used on its own to form a very effective business strategy that was simple, concise, focused, and nimble.
For those that are not familiar with the SWOT tool, it is an acronym for;
- Strengths – what are the strengths of your business
- Weaknesses – what are the weaknesses of your business
- Opportunities – what opportunities exist in the marketplace that your business could benefit from or take advantage of
- Threats – what marketplace threats could negatively impact your business
Essentially, list everything you can think of for your business into each of these four categories. The process of doing this can be extremely valuable by itself but the real value in the SWOT comes when you look at it in a matrix format and develop strategies for maximizing the opportunities and minimizing the threats.
- What Strengths can you use to take advantage of an Opportunity?
- What Strengths can you use to overcome a Threat?
- What Opportunities do you have that may be in jeopardy because of a Weakness?
- What Threats do you have that may be made worse due to your Weaknesses?
- What Strengths do you have that are not being leveraged that should be leveraged further?
Take these strategic insights one step further and make them SMART goals. Once this is done, you will have a concisely defined business strategy and implementation plan. Document it in a simple MS Excel format and now your plan is easy to share and ready to roll out to your organization.
Don’t spend countless hours and dollars creating a business plan masterpiece that doesn’t add value and will never be used. Instead, spend your time creating a simple but powerful strategy and implementation plan that will propel your business forward in a strategic and measurable way.
Download the SWOT Excel template from the Business Tools page on this site and get started today!