The first step to avoiding a disappointing outcome when in the future you take a breath and look back is to take a breath and look forward now. Successful business leaders always have an idea in their head of how they want the organisation to look in the future, and they have a plan to get them there. Whether that’s two years, five years or twenty years away, you can’t lead a business well without a concept of where it’s going. Pausing and taking stock is not just something you should do looking in the rear-view mirror, you also need to pull out your map, plot your course and drive your business looking through the front windscreen.
So how do you start this process? Based on where you are now and on what you know are your own strengths, the strengths of your business and your team, what can you achieve?
How can you set yourself up so that your business has the best opportunity for success? What is your strategy for the next three to five years?
You’re not going to stumble into a million-dollar business. You’re not going to have Google sign you to a $200 million contract for the next 10 years if you haven’t earned it. You’re not going to wander around without a clear plan for your business and somehow end up number one in your industry.
These things are only achieved with forethought, planning and a deep and deliberate strategy. I’ve been in business for over 25 years and I’ve never – not once – seen great success achieved without a well-thought-out strategy. I’ve seen plenty of people try, but I’ve never seen it happen. It’s about building the base and having the clarity that are going to give you the best chance to achieve your dreams, whether you are on- or off-track right now. Taking a breath and developing a strategy for the next three to five years is the most important work you can do to achieve sustained and controlled growth.
Sustained and controlled growth
Many of us are always in a hurry. Our way of life right now is about getting there fast. We want everything yesterday, so sustained and controlled growth is not a familiar concept for many.
Whether you are a startup or a big business that has been around for decades, sustained and controlled growth has nothing to do with the maturity of the business. Achieving sustained and controlled growth is to do with your maturity and your ability to assess – accurately and honestly – not only where you are but where you are going. It’s being able to make a decision that you are going to do the work required – and a lot of work is required – to achieve your goals.
Sustained and controlled growth occurs when you have created a plan – a strategy – that takes you from here to there, without any shortcuts.
Strategy is an ongoing process
Planning is an ongoing process. Creating a strategy is not about coming up with a fancy-looking plan, putting it in the bottom drawer, then pulling it out in five years to see how close you came. Creating a good strategy is about assessing where you are every week, every month, every quarter and regularly answering questions such as:
• How are we going?
• Where are we now compared to last week/month/year?
• What is working and why?
• What is not working and why?
• What haven’t we thought of that could cause us problems?
Strategic planning requires reflecting on how you are travelling in a deep and meaningful way. If you understand where you are driving your organisation, when you look back and review your performance you will find that what you see is more often positive rather than negative. It’s an ongoing, iterative cycle.
The clearer you are the more productive you will be and the further you will go.
Many people start a business with all the determination in the world and all the best intentions. They believe they are going to get there, but they have given little or no thought to how. This is the path to well-intentioned oblivion. This is the path to looking back in 20 years and saying, ‘Hey, I worked really hard. Why am I here when I want to be over there? How did that happen?’ Lack of a strategic plan is how that happened. Enthusiasm without direction may seem like lots of fun and give the appearance of progress, but it’s a recipe for epic failure.
Power to you this week!
Stefan Kazakis on 29 July 2017
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