Big or small, every company needs a strategy. And not just one, actually. I believe every company need strategic goals in six key areas of their business if they want to succeed and grow.
What’s interesting to me is that it doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re a solo business owner or a Fortune 500 company, these same six key areas apply. Neglect any one of them and your business becomes stagnant or unbalanced and risks failure. Nurture all six, and success is much more likely.
Perhaps the most important strategy will revolve around your customers. This should encompass sales and marketing, but also customer retention and experience.
Your customer strategy should include who your customers are, where and how you’re likely to find them, what problems your business solves for them, what kind of marketing they tend to respond to, a sales funnel to convert them from prospects to sales, and a process to nurture those relationships for future sales.
Partnering is about the key relationships the business needs to build. Every business’ idea of a perfect partner will be different, but you must have a strategy to find, develop, and nurture these relationships to mutual benefit.
Companies might need to partner with suppliers, distributors or other companies that can refer them business. Event companies need to partner with sponsors. Non-profits need donors. Other companies might need partners in government or regulators that can help them navigate rules and regulations. The partnerships will differ based on your business.
What doesn’t change from business to business, however, is the need to find and grow these key partnerships. A strategy might include identifying needs, identifying potential partners, getting an introduction, making a proposal, and so on.
3. Operational Improvements
Every business needs to also have a strategy for making operational improvements: the business processes the business needs to improve. For a single-person consultancy, this might mean improving lead generation or follow-up. For a manufacturing business, it might have to do with efficiency or supply chain. Again: the details vary, but the strategy doesn’t.
As a CEO, is your time spent on high level decision making, or in-the-weeds daily tasks? Discovering inefficiencies in your operations can help boost productivity and sales. A good strategy for operational improvements might include regular process reviews, brainstorming ways to improve, outsourcing, applying lean management, etc.
4. New Product or Service Development / Innovation
The company that stands still is the company that will be left behind. Whether large or small, every company would be wise to look at the innovations that are required to ensure future success.
Regardless of size, innovations are often the factors that differentiate a company in a crowded marketplace. A small accounting firm might innovate by offering to support the latest and greatest online software. A product manufacturer might always be on the lookout for the new design or feature that will set it apart.
While it’s important to support the products and services you currently offer, this strategy might include a review of which offerings are working well and which aren’t, customer feedback, pet project ideas, development, testing, and launching.
5. Technology & Information Management
I can’t think of a single business sector these days that doesn’t heavily rely on information systems and technology. An technology and information management strategy should take into account what technology, systems and data are required to drive business performance. I always suggest starting from the question of what you want to achieve, and then asking how you can support that with the right technology and data.
Whether you run a huge corporation ready to implement AI, robotics and predictive analytics or a tiny one that just needs to know how long people stay on your website, information management is here to stay, and should be a part of your key business strategies.
6. People and Talent
For a company that wants to grow, this strategy might be the most important after customers. Your people and talent strategy should be to ensure the right people are in place and skills are developed in the right areas. For a very small business, it might include hiring an assistant or outsourcing tasks to contractors. For a very large company, it might include an entire human resources department, training, and recruiting programs.
Whatever your personnel needs, it’s a vital part of your business strategy that so often goes overlooked. Companies should be focused on finding the right talent for the right jobs, and then nurturing those people to grow within the company.
For my money, any company that could honestly say they had a solid strategy in each of these six areas would be one to watch, because they are the ones who will grow and succeed where others founder and fail.