What is strategy? Google it (About 4,260,000,000 results – 0.54 seconds) and then be prepared to come back with your own PHD on what you believe it is.  In simple terms, it’s a plan but there are a couple of generally acceptable actions that you need to address to have a credible strategy.

Firstly you need a picture (vision) of where you want to be in the future (5 to 15 years) and most importantly you need to understand WHY you are doing it.

While it is tempting to define the vision in numbers. E.g. We could say we want to have 100 locations by 2030 and that will have a Turnover of €150M and Profit of €30M. This is easy to say but difficult to back up and impossible to communicate to the team at large. Just in case you’re wondering nobody else cares about your business being bigger and making more money.

The vision needs to be something that you can communicate to your team and customers. But before you try and do this, you need to understand WHY you are doing it. Without understanding this you won’t be able to communicate where you want your business to go.

Most small businesses are simply there to make money, to give the owner and team at large a living. The owner/team may be exceptional at what they do and the reason they do it (THE WHY) is for the return and the pleasure they get from the activity. When a business grows to become a medium to large business then the reason for doing it can become more difficult to understand, even by the founders/owners. Also, all team members are going to have different reasons for being with the team (have different WHY’s). However, the business can only have one reason for existing (One WHY) and this must be something that everyone can buy into.

For more on understanding your WHY view this Ted Talk by Simon Sinek

Then you need to spend some time with a pen and talking to the people close to you to understand your WHY. I often Joke that all our customers want to be bigger and make more profit but few of them are prepared to do what is required to do it and none of them really know WHY they are doing it. In my case, as a finance professional, to earn more and be exposed to more challenging opportunities I should move to London but I know my WHY doesn’t allow for that. Clearly, this has a significant impact on the WHY of our business.

When you know WHY the business is doing what it does then you are ready to imagine the future, to develop a picture of what the future looks like. This is the VISION for the business. This can be written down as a vision statement but this can be difficult and let’s be honest and academic exercise that can alienate your team.  I would avoid the short snappy statement.

I would urge you to prepare a presentation on your Why and what your Vison is for your business over a number of slides and present it to your team. This will focus your attention and putting it out there will force it to be realistic.

No need for the short sharp statement but here are a few Vision Statements to get you in the mood:

“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products” – Apple

“We are in business to save our home planet” – Pategonia

“to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” – Nike

“Our vision is to be the most desirable premium fashion & lifestyle brand, and therefore we
put our customers at the heart of everything we do” – Hugo Boss

“to make this world a mobile, sustainable place with access to all the citizens.” – Volkswagen

“AIB’s goal is to be at the heart of our personal customers’ financial lives while delivering
exceptional customer experience.”

“We will convert our deep understanding of adult tobacco consumer needs into better, more creative and more satisfying products; Create Substantial Value for Shareholders: We will
execute our business plans to create sustainable growth and generate substantial return for shareholders.” – Marlboro Cigarettes (Philip Morris)

I included a couple of vision statements to test your sense of whether they deliver on it or not!
Words can be easy. Perfecting a Vision Statement is not important but understanding Why you are doing what you are doing and what you want your business to achieve is crucial to the development of a strategy.

When you have a vision for what you want to achieve then you can think about how you might achieve it. As Simon Sinek points out, most people know WHAT they do and some know HOW they do it but few know WHY they do it.

In the business world, HOW you do it is the Mission of the business and again large corporates try and encapsulate their mission in a Mission Statement. I’ll address Mission in our next Blog.

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