Business Strategy 101
Let's start today off with a fairly simple question: What's a business strategy and how do I implement one?
Just kidding. It's not simple.
Business strategy is kind of a big deal and putting it into practice is even bigger. It's definitely not something you can just think of as you walk into your first pitch meeting. It's not just a mission statement that talks about who you are as a business. It's so much more than "Our business exists to serve _______ so that they can ______." Your vision and mission statement are uber important, but they're simply the lane lines in which your strategy is formed.
Your strategy is the HOW.
HOW are we as a business going to get from Point A to Point B? It's the all-encompassing bucket from which you pull all of the components you're going to use to make that happen.
And as you grow, your strategy always points to different benchmarks.
HOW do we... ...get to launch? ...become profitable? ...become sustainable? ...get to what's next?
In an ideal world full of unicorns and rainbows, entrepreneurs would sit down and map out their strategy BEFORE they launch. But the reality is that everyone is jumping in as an entrepreneur these days and most people are uninformed on the best practices and crucial steps. Unfortunately, those HOW questions usually get skipped.
Now, if you aren't living in the land of leprechauns and Fairy God Mothers, and you've skipped that "ideal" window and didn't create a business plan before you launched, don't panic. You just need to commit to doing it now, whatever "now" looks like for you.
For every single entrepreneur who builds a business, there's a very important question to ask even before you get to the HOWs.
Why are you doing this? Why this business? Why now?
Entrepreneurship isn't for the faint of heart. And if you're in it just for making more money, you're going to be hard pressed to keep going when it gets tough. Which it will. Now, that's not to say you shouldn't get into business to make money (because, that's kinda the point) or that it has to be some altruistic motivation where you give away all your profits to build wells in Africa (which is also awesome). But money can't be THE thing that drives your WHY. It just isn't sustainable. So, why are you doing this...really?
After you've defined your WHY, you get to take a look at WHERE. Where are you now and where are you headed? That's when the HOW comes into play. If you've got a great product you want to sell but people have no idea how to find you or where to buy it, then you need to map out the steps to get you there. That's your business strategy. It takes a look at everything that will get you from Point A (great product) to Point B (people can find you, learn about you, and process orders) and all the things that it will take for that to happen.
The tricky part (okay, one of the tricky parts) about building a business strategy is that it's not a one-size-fits-all situation, and just because you've got your strategy in place, doesn't mean everything will work exactly as you've designed it. After every launch, there will be things that land and things that don't.
Every good strategy has measurement. Quantifiable results tell us what works and what doesn't. And in taking a look at those measurements or Key Performance Indicators, we can reevaluate our business strategy based on those things. We call these pivot points.
Pivot points come up in ANY business. I was chatting with Elizabeth Mead this week (AKA The Business Strategy Queen) and she said, "If you set a strategy and you don't have any pivot moments, then it's probably just a really pretty looking piece of paper." Meaning, if everything is always working, you're either not visioning out far enough or you're not sticking to a strategy. Maybe your whole day is full of pivots (insert awkward toothy smile emoji--you guys know the one I'm talking about.) If you're just throwing spaghetti up on a wall to see what sticks, you won't actually know what pivots look like.
So how do you know when to pivot? (Also, if you're not yelling "PIVOT" in your best Ross Gellar voice right now, I'm not sure we can be friends.) It comes back to those Key Performance Indicators (or KPIs) and the things you can measure. If you started a campaign with the goal to have your click rate at 35% and you're only hitting 22%, time for a pivot. And you can comb through parts of your strategy to see where the breakdown is.
Here at Tandem, we have a feedback formula where we ask 3 questions: 1. What's working? 2. What's not? 3. What's next?
It keeps us constantly looking back on those KPIs while also looking forward to see what's up next for us.
Now, what happens if you've been in business for awhile and either need a strategy reset, or perhaps you've (gasp!) never created one in the first place? Well, we start in the same place. Your WHY. At this stage of the game, we really try to look at not just what your WHY is, but are you even still connected to it? Is it still integral to how you run your business? Do you still have the passion behind it that you did when you started?
The WHERE looks a little bit different for a seasoned business as well. Where are you now, where do you want to be, and why aren't you there yet? What's been standing in your way to keep you from getting there?
That's when you kick it into HOW-gear and strategize the crap out of it.
Whew. I know. That was a lot. Before you jump in feet first, let me give you one final tip: a lone wolf serves no one. Like I said earlier, entrepreneurship isn't for everyone. It's hard. And if you think you're going to make it out of this thing forging ahead all by yourself--well, I hate to break it to you, but that's a sure fire way to fail. There are always people around you (if you look for them!) who are in the same situation as you. Doesn't mean their business is a mirror image of yours. But they're in the same stage, going through the same struggles as you are. It's a powerful gift to surround yourself with likeminded people doing likeminded things. Find your people.
Then you need to find your person. There's so much value in finding a mentor that's years ahead of you. Someone who can not only see where you're headed, but has been there themselves. Who's already been where you want to go.
Lastly, find your place. Get yourself a consultant. This is different than a mentor because they're not simply telling you where to go, but they're guiding you on the tools, tactics, and pathways to get you there.
Tandem is a little bit outside the norm (okay, way outside) as far as consultants go. Yes, we're a consulting firm. But then we actually do the do. If we come up with a social media strategy, we can actually write, post, and monitor the social media. If you've got a new website as a part of your new web presence, we have in-house designers who work with you to make your vision come to life.
We LOVE what we do and we love who we do it for.