How to Create a Strategy: A Case Study

Clients often tell me they’re not really clear about the concept of Strategy. It’s a lot easier than you might think. Strategy is one of the steps in the planning process and cycle. The sequence in the business planning process is Vision, Mission, Goals, Strategy.

Vision is where you start and is the most abstract. Once clarified it become the guiding light toward which all your activities will be directed. Your Mission is what you do in your business to carry out your Vision. Goals are specific measurables that define what will exist when you’ve realized your Vision. The Strategy step is the thinking through of how you will achieve those Goals.

Start by considering the resources you have and the direction you want to go. Evaluate various scenarios and steps and predict how they will turn out. An analogy that makes it easier to understand is the game of chess. Various moves are considered with predicted outcomes BEFORE the actions are taken.

Some examples of Strategy might be:

– 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 updated target 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 probably 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 (seek employee referrals, network word of mouth).

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.

When there was an economic downturn in his local community, Bill realized he needed a new Strategy that would “turn his clients into cheerleaders” and turn around his bottom line. He decided to find out where his business had been coming from in the recent past.

He 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.”

Here’s Bill’s Strategy.

– Develop a plan to cross-sell existing clients.
– Continue to use Marketing Assistant to carry out marketing campaign to targeted list.
– 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 as a new service (to cross-sell).
– Redefine our “brand”. Develop our new image to support our updated profile.

He’s building his redefined 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 has a Strategy to get there.

Negative Relationships: Yes or No?

Like you, I’m a small business owner, blessed (or cursed) by the entrepreneurial spirit. Relationships are the backbone of my business.

Positive relationships benefit me. Negative relationships steal my precious resources. Recently I’ve had more than my share of the negative. As a result, I’ve had to look more carefully at all my relationships. One thing for sure: I will no longer put up with long term negative relationships.

We all face having to manage relationships. Relationships are what keep our business moving. They are the energy and life force of our business. Relationships are based on communication, of course. All kinds of communication: verbal, written, telephone, e-mail, web, operating systems, etc. I consider Relationships to be one of the key operating systems of a business. We need a way to deal with them so this important system doesn’t become disrupted.

Clearly we want to lay the groundwork for each relationship very clearly so expectations are known and agreed upon at the beginning. I have just had to apply my own criteria to a negative relationship I am currently facing personally. [Read more…]

How to Attract and Keep Productive Employees

Productive employees are a satisfied employees. Productive, satisfied employees create successful businesses. It’s your job to create the environment that enables employees to feel satisfied on a consistent basis.

What do people want from a job? The consensus reached from my reading and my personal experience in working with clients is that, regardless of the job title and duties, an employee in any business wants the following – in descending order of importance or weight.

Pleasure – Job pleasure includes looking forward to going to work and feeling satisfied when the day is done. What that means will be different for each employee. It may come from being creative, successfully carrying out an assignment or task, seeing a positive result from their actions, knowing they’ve contributed to someone else’s good or receiving respect and recognition from others.

A creative person will be most productive being creative. A detail oriented person will enjoy digging into the minutia. Moving a technical genius into an administrative position probably isn’t going to be productive – anywhere. Job duties and individual personal qualities need to come together in order to maximize productivity. [Read more…]

4 Ways to Boost Your Accountability and Productivity

Many clients come to me with the story of how they are struggling because they can’t get it all done, even though many of them have staff or subcontracted services in place. Not only isn’t the business moving forward as desired, but they are feeling overwhelmed, out of control and frustrated because their business isn’t performing; and neither are they. They feel stuck; up against a brick wall.

Sound familiar? Then listen up. There are actions you can take that will greatly improve your accountability and productivity, and consequently, that of your business. More importantly, there are simple tools you can use to help you provide structure and focus to your actions, so your efforts produce more of what you want.

Here are four ways you can boost your accountability and productivity.

1 – Have a Plan
If you have a plan in your head, it’s much too abstract to be of help when decisions need to be made. [Read more…]

Five Simple Steps to a Thriving Business

Sometimes I think we make having a thriving business much more difficult than it needs to be. I’ve found the sec.ret is to step back from your business and look at the process in its simplest f0rm. As I see it there are five simple steps to attracting, selling and keeping customers or clients. Get these working for you and building a thriving business will become much easier.

Step 1 – Connect

Once you determine who is most likely to value your product or service, you must connect with those people. It’s critical to identify your niche and have all your materials reinforcing the message to your target market. Find out where you’re most likely to reach these people and what will motivate their interest.

Then reach out using a strategy that will take advantage of networking, online and offline marketing, unfulfilled market needs, and the strengths you bring to the business.

Step 2 – Follow up

We know it’s important to follow up with new connections wherever they come from. The problem is [Read more…]

How to Attract and Keep Productive Employees

A productive employee is a satisfied employee. Productive, satisfied employees create successful businesses. It’s your job to create the environment that enables employees to feel satisfied on a consistent basis.

What do people want from a job? The consensus reached from my reading and my personal experience in working with clients is that, regardless of the job title and duties, an employee in any business wants the following – in descending order of importance or weight.

Pleasure – Job pleasure includes looking forward to going to work and feeling satisfied when the day is done. What that means will be different for each employee. It may come from being creative, successfully carrying out an assignment or task, seeing a positive result from their actions, knowing they’ve contributed to someone else’s good or receiving respect and recognition from others.

A creative person will be most productive being creative. A detail oriented person will enjoy digging into the minutia. Moving a technical genius into an administrative position probably isn’t going to be productive – anywhere. Job duties and individual personal qualities need to come together in order to maximize productivity.

Money – For most employees, money is only important when [Read more…]