How to Create a Strategy: A Case Study

Some people don’t understand the concept of Strategy. It’s a lot easier than you might think. Strategy fits into the process of going from the most abstract (your Business Vision) to the most concrete (your Financial Statements),

The steps are Vision, Mission, Goals, Strategy. The reason for the sequence is that you want to base your Strategy on your Goals. Having used your Vision and Mission to develop long and short term Goals, you now need a Strategy to lead you toward your Goals.

Strategy asks the question, “how do you plan to reach your goals?” We’re looking for the big perspective to provide answers like:

– identify and develop an untapped market (based on observed trends);
– provide staff training and coaching (to strengthen customer service)
– redefine our brand (to fit our revised market)

Developing a clear Strategy is critical because you’re going to base your Plan on your Strategy. As you know, it’s the activities you carry out in your day-to-day operations that produce the results you see at the end of the month. It is likely that you will have more than one Strategy because you’ll have several Goals. There may be more than one Strategy for each Goal. An example might be to “create a contact database” and “hire a part-time assistant to manage your database”. You’re not actually at the Plan level until you determine the steps you’re going to take to hire that assistant (employee referrals, network word of mouth*).

*By the way, word of mouth hiring is also a good way to get the word out about what your business is doing.

Bill Sipes, CPA, is founder and CEO of a community-based Accounting Business, which provides Tax Management, Write-up, Financial Services, Financial Support Systems and Business Valuation. He sees opportunities to add even more services and products and has decided to take on the persona of a Financial Advisor. I’d like to share the story of how he recently developed his Strategy for this business because it clearly exemplifies the process.

Bill’s business has started to really feel the results of local economic problems. So Bill decided he needed a new Strategy that would “turn his clients into cheerleaders” and boost his bottom line. He decided to find out where his business had been coming from in the recent past. He grouped his new business sources into 8 categories and found out he got most business from 3 sources: mailing to professionals, new business/product mailing, and new sales to existing clients.

He called together his staff to discuss his findings and to ask for their help in determining a new Strategy. Following the meeting he sent out a summary of “what he heard” and asked for their continued thoughts. The staff were acknowledged and given a role in the process.

Here’s Bill’s memo to staff.

“Thanks to all. I think this is the most important meeting we have ever had. This is what I heard.

1. We need to separate ourselves from the other CPA firms.

2. Several ways to do this were mentioned. Speed of service was one. Another was building relationships.

3. We are going to develop a system of building relationships with our clients. Jane is going to write a rough script to follow whenever we get with a client…..The Moment of Truth.

4. I am going to ask Annette to print a few banners that say…..The Moment of Truth.

5. Jeff is going to check with the software people about Telemagic and Act.

6. We are going to spend more time “showing our face” in the community and to our clients.

7. When with a client always ask……How are we doing?

Thanks again for a great meeting……which I am sure will lead to a great system that will turn our clients into cheerleaders.”

Bill thinks in systems mode, so he calls it a system. It may help you, also, to think of Strategy as a system or a framework or matrix. Every business activity can be classified into one of the many segments of the whole system.

Here’s Bill’s Strategy.

– Offer new services and continue to cross-sell existing clients
– Continue to use Marketing Assistant to carry out marketing campaign
– Make Customer Service visits with our commissioned software salesman to cement relationships and try to cross-sell.
– Hire a commissioned insurance sales rep with a benefits background to sell Long Term Care Insurance.
– Redefine our “brand”. Develop our new image to support our updated profile.

He’s building his new brand on “trusted relationships”. The staff is very enthusiastic and willing to support each other’s efforts. He also plans to have “Moment of Truth” banners made up to keep the staff focused on what’s important.

Bill is utilizing a Strategy that’s based on research into information about his own business and he has buy-in from his staff. He not only knows where he’s going, he knows how he’s going to get there.