Having a clear business direction is the most powerful business improvement tool you can use. There are many clichés about planning and business direction:
As worn as these clichés are the fact is that they are, by and large, true. Without a clear business direction your business will not go anywhere. It may survive on enthusiasm and energy in the short term but in the longer term it will fail.
Some people say they are not planners and it is true some of us are better at planning a direction, setting goals and achieving them than others. But saying you are not good at it is just an excuse, an admission that you don’t enjoy the discipline the process brings to your business and even less the fact that you end up with something by which you and others can measure your performance.
Setting a clear business direction doesn’t have to be a complicated process – in fact the less complicated the better. In its simplest terms it is a matter of deciding where you want to be at some point in the future (“Where”); critically assessing your current situation (“Now”); and setting in place strategies to get you from where you are now to where you want to be (“How”). Add a time frame (“When”) and a means of measuring how well you are actually doing against what you thought you would do (“Measuring”) and you have it – a clear business direction.
Depending on the complexity and size of your business your business direction might cover an A4 sheet or it might be a more significant document. This is one situation where size really doesn’t count but – clarity is paramount. Like any good process there are a number of steps to setting business direction that will bring clarity to your thinking. The key steps are summarised below:
Develop a vision for your business and personal life. A vision is a statement of where you want to be at some point in the future. What is it that you want your business to look like? What will it be doing? How well will it be doing it? What will it be providing for you? How will it feel to have the business where you want it. It is a view of an attractive future for you and your business. It is bold and exciting and importantly is in some way better that what exists now. Generally it is timeless and while it might change on the way it is something you are always aiming for. It is what you are aiming for in everything you do in business.
Clearly define what business you are in. In doing this you are also defining what business you aren’t in. Define the purpose of your business. Work it out from a customer’s perspective – what do you need to provide to your customers not what they are going to get. This is often called the Mission of your business. In a military context it states the overall target and how and when the target will be achieved. In a business context it defines the business you are in, the core purpose of the business, your target markets and how you are going to operate. It incorporates the culture you want in your business, its philosophy. It defines how your business is different from others. It is supported by your core values or guiding principles.
They are a benchmark on which you base a decision to proceed or not. If a core value is to be compromised in going down a particular track then you would make a decision not to proceed. Core values can include:
What are the specific goals you want to achieve? What do you want to achieve over the next 6 months, 1 year, 2 year, 5 years, 10 years? Make sure they are:
Specific – be clear and focussed on what you want to achieve
Measurable – how can you measure your progress?
Attainable – are the resources available or can be secured to enable you to do the job?
Realistic – be bold but be credible
Time framed – define when you want to achieve your goal
The more strategies you can implement the faster will be your growth. But remember growth needs to be balanced so make sure you are addressing each area of your business at the same time to keep all in balance.
This means that all the planning in the world won’t create change unless you act.
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