The Sixth Commandment Of Strategic Planning: Strategize Effectively
Jacob M. Engel - Forbes Councils Member Forbes Coaches Counci Leadership
Jacob M Engel (Yeda LLC) | CEO, author, Amazon bestseller, family business & entrepreneur consultant, leadership coach & online course creator A planning strategy used by many is called SWOT, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Strengths First, you look at the strengths of your company and what its unique selling points, or USPs, are. What differentiates you from your competition? How are you delivering that value to the market?
I once heard from a very creative marketing guru that if your ad can be used by your competition, it’s not unique enough.
In a sales course I attended with a client, the instructor asked us to name the three most important reasons our clients should buy from us. Most said some combination of quality, service and competitive price.
He then asked what would happen if I, as the business owner, were to tell the sales staff that I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we are closing down the company/division or getting out of the market, and the good news is that we have arranged that the competition will employ the whole team as of Monday morning! Come Monday morning, what will you be telling your clients are the three most important reasons they should be doing business with you? Most said the same three. In order to differentiate, we need to have a unique message, such as saying that we are the only ones or one of the only ones who does this type of service, or what we do other companies do not do, or those that do charge way more.
Many, if not most, companies are not willing or able to look really hard at what’s working and what’s not. But unless you’re willing to do that, you will never know the issues that are holding you back.
I have found that asking your key employees on a weekly basis to share what they have accomplished and the roadblocks that didn’t allow them to accomplish more will bring out what’s not working.
Many of my clients use what we call a 15/5 report — 15 minutes for each manager to prepare, and five minutes for you to review. The report asks workers to share the five biggest priorities they worked on this week, what the obstacles were, if any, and the next week’s priorities that need to be submitted by the end of the week.
I’ve often said that a leader’s job is to create the vision, implement the vision and get rid of the roadblocks that hold people back from accomplishing the vision.
Many companies have great ideas for growth, but when asked to enumerate them, people just do it from the top of their heads —nothing is written down and shared with the team. Having meetings focused just on growth or opportunities is a very good way to utilize these strategies when needed.
Allow the team to brainstorm growth — you never know who might come up with that next great idea.
This is different than weaknesses. These are the things that can come out of nowhere and bring down a company.
It can be new technology, new competitors that previously were not considered a threat, or even people within your company leaving and either becoming competitors (which is why I always recommend having a noncompete agreement) or just leading you to lose serious talent.
A hallmark of great leaders is their ability to see “around the corner,” meaning they have this uncanny insight into where the market is going, and they get there first, or they have the insight to avoid that market or strategy.
Years ago, when I was working in the family business, we decided that while one of our competitive strengths was having the direct sourcing and the financial wherewithal to purchase in large quantities, that was going to change as the world got “flatter,” communication got easier and our source was more willing to sell smaller quantities directly to smaller customers. Therefore, we made some very strategic and costly decisions in terms of where we wanted to focus.
We understood that in order to stay relevant, we needed to be in the markets we weren't yet in, and we needed to be willing to drop some of the markets we were in. It's an example of what they call "eating your breakfast," meaning giving up a certain market share for a greater market share.
In our case, those predictions came true, and we were able to grow the business many times over while others in the same space stayed where they were and lost market share. It takes guts, commitment, money and focus to make these changes. However, as I mentioned in an earlier article, many companies (such as Kodak or Blockbuster) procrastinate when it comes to this and lose their market dominance. By strategizing effectively, you can ensure that this won’t happen to you.
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