Does the idea of writing a business strategy terrify you?
Don’t worry, I get it.
‘Strategy’ sounds technical and serious, and for many of us, it’s difficult to imagine where we’d even find the time.
Sometimes it can feel easier to keep drifting along, doing the things we’ve always done, hoping that we’ll somehow end up where we want to be.
Because setting specific goals can feel scary, can’t it? What if we fail?
If I’ve learned one thing during my time in business, it’s that there will always be bumps in the road. We won’t always be able to avoid or prevent them, so the trick is to build resilience and keep picking ourselves back up after every low.
With a business strategy down on paper, you’ll know exactly where to focus that energy to get yourself back in the driving seat.
Because you are in the driving seat. When you work for yourself, you’re the one who gets to decide what happens and when. That can feel scary at times, but it’s exciting too!
What is a business strategy?
A business strategy is different to a plan. Where planning gives us the opportunity to map out what we’re going to do and when, strategy looks at the bigger picture. If your plan is what you’re going to do to take your business up a level, your strategy is the why and the how.
During a business strategy session, you might look at some or all of the following things:
- Your long-term goals
- The essential things you’d need to do to achieve those goals
- The options or alternative things you could do to work towards those goals, and the pros and cons of each
- The market and your competition, and where you fit in
- The potential challenges or obstacles you might come up against, and how you could overcome them
- The opportunities you have, and how you could make the most of them
- The metrics or review process you’ll use to measure your progress
- A roadmap that breaks down where you’re heading and when you hope to get to each stage
Many of us carry this information around in our heads, not finding the time or the confidence to sit down and put pen to paper. But when we’re as busy as we are and the landscape is always changing, it’s easy for those thoughts and ideas to become muddled.
So how can a business strategy help you?
How you can benefit from a business strategy
We can lose sight of what it is we really want for all sorts of reasons.
Comparisonitis might come knocking, leaving us filled with ideas about what we “should” be doing. We might lose a pitch or miss out on a big opportunity, which leads to self-doubt and insecurity; or our personal circumstances might change and throw us off track.
By creating the time and space to write a well-thought-out business strategy (and to check in with it regularly), we’re giving ourselves a gift. That gift is a roadmap that will help us through all the uncertainties of life as a business owner.
With a business strategy, you’ll have:
- Clarity around what it is you want from your business
- A deeper understanding of what success could look and feel like for you
- A clear idea of what you’ll need to do to make things happen
- Knowledge about the market and your competition, with insight into how your offering fits in
- The foresight to plan for and overcome any obstacles that will undoubtedly come up
- A steady focus on the opportunities that will really serve you, and a plan for getting the most out of them
- A method for measuring where you’re at and how you’re progressing, which will help you to celebrate the wins and recognise the areas in which you’re falling short
- Accountability, so you can finally learn to move past all those sticking points that have held you back in the past
With all of that will come the confidence and determination you need to start taking action. And when challenges arise or you can feel your confidence slipping again, you’ll have something to return to get you back on track.
How to get the most out of your business strategy session
Now that you understand what a business strategy is and how one could benefit you, let’s talk about how to create one effectively.
1. Set a plan for the day/session
Avoid the horror of a blank page by setting an agenda for the day before you begin. Ask yourself what you want to come away from the session with. Next, work backwards to list each of the things you’ll need to look at to get you there.
Prepare everything you’ll need in advance so you can hit the ground running once your session starts. Will you need your financial records? Marketing statistics? Some research on your industry that you can analyse on the day?
2. Choose your location carefully
I think it’s really important to get away from your normal working space and find a calming, comfortable location. Not only to avoid those inevitable interruptions and distractions, but to help you find a different perspective and feel a sense of significance about what you’re doing.
When I’m focusing on strategy in my own business, I take myself off for a spa day. I want to feel relaxed and at ease, and I know I need the space and freedom to be able to give the work my full attention.
If a spa day isn’t your thing, perhaps try a favourite cafe or restaurant, book a private room in a co-working space, or even treat yourself to an overnight in a local hotel or Airbnb.
3. Find some accountability
A written strategy on its own is a great tool for holding yourself accountable. Can you take it even further by arranging check-ins with a business buddy or co-mentor?
If you know you’re likely to make excuses or put things off, having someone else in the picture to give gentle reminders and encouragement can really help.
Perhaps you can have a joint strategy day, where you work side by side and then chat through your thoughts as you’re going along? Or work on your strategy alone, and then set up accountability sessions afterwards?
4. Ask for help from a professional
If you’re not sure where to start or how to turn your ideas into an effective business strategy, seek support from someone with experience.
Perhaps a business coach could you give you the guidance and encouragement you need? I work with the lovely Rebecca Morley, who’s an executive coach and mentor working with business owners as they’re scaling up.
If you’re not ready for a long-term commitment, a one-off strategy session could be just the thing you need. I offer this service myself, and it consists of a 3-hour in-person session, where we’ll work together to reverse engineer your goals and break everything down into manageable chunks.
Another alternative is to join a membership group, where you’d get plenty of support and accountability from the host and the other members. I belong to two myself and I’d thoroughly recommend them. The first is with PR expert Janet Murray, and the second is Atomic*, from marketing legends Andrew and Pete.
(That link to Atomic is an affiliate link, but I’m a fully-paid-up member myself and I love it.)