How do you create a winning business strategy to help you through difficult times, such as during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak or the Brexit transition period, and achieve your goals?
The most important things to remember are don’t panic and have a plan. Read this article for tips on how to create your business strategy.
What needs to feature in your business strategy?
The future direction of your business needs to be clearly defined. If it isn’t, with specific goals that can be measured, it will become more difficult for your business to hit any targets and ultimately grow as required.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Think about what needs to be done to meet your business goals, and how using your business plan can help you focus on your goals so your company can meet its targets.
- Consider business performance over your chosen time frame.
- Identify investment opportunities, business strengths and weaknesses, potential customers, and gaps in the market for your product or service.
- Clearly define opportunities for development and growth, identify trends, and look at growing markets.
- Develop specific and measurable outcomes (which you can work towards and revise where necessary).
- Create a marketing plan. Planning considerations should be made about marketing the business as a whole as well as the individual products and services offered.
- Plan for future growth. Project your guaranteed income and costs month-on-month and overlay them with customer growth and new business opportunities.
Plan for the short term
If you’re planning for the short term, you might be looking at a 12-month time frame (planning for the medium term tends to be around two to three years). Rather than implementing a scatter-gun approach, it’s best to prepare – and that’s where you plan will come in.
Taking the Brexit transition period the UK is going through, for example: “A business should think about exploring new markets as part of their business strategy [if pertinent to their business],” says Gary Lee, Chartered Accountant and Partner at BrooksCity.
He adds: “Businesses should consider stocking up on goods imported from the EU [European Union] until the issue of tariffs is resolved.
“Exploring new markets for both imports and exports should be made with a vengeance in the Brexit period.
“You might need to expand your markets and products but at the same time identify where cost reductions can be made if margins and sales decrease.”
And if you’re looking at things from the perspective of the coronavirus outbreak and the effect it’s having on your business, part of your planning may involve focusing on what’s happening with your cash flow management.
If you need to apply for government support, in the form of loans and grants, for example, it’s worth adding these to your plan, especially if you need to factor in dealing with loan repayments as part of your future financial planning.
Plan for the long term
When considering the long term, you may be looking at a time frame of around four or five years (but could be longer than this).
It’s hard to plan for ‘black swan’ occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak, but what you can plan for are known events. The Brexit transition period is an example of one.
There are numerous questions you could ask yourself; here are two to consider:
- Will trading with Europe affect my business or should I just trade with local UK markets?
- Where do I see my business in four, five and even up to 10 years’ time?
Once you’ve decided upon your timescale and the questions you want to tackle, make them an integral part of your business strategy.
Focus on your product or service
Jamie Bell, is the CEO of mirror specialists Illuminated Mirrors. He believes focusing on a niche product is key to reaching your target market.
He adds: “Alongside the niche, there should also be a focus on the product. Does it serve the intended audience?
“What benefits does it provide them? How competitive can you be on price? How can you stand out from your competitors in the market?
“Everything beyond this point is about measurable activity from forecasts to marketing plans; everything should be measured and reported on regularly.”
Understand your customers
There is nothing worse than being out of touch with your customers and prospects.
So, as part of a winning business strategy, it’s important to canvas opinion about your product or service, then analyse this customer data to make improvements or changes if need be.
Guy Redwood, founder and managing director of UX and behavioural consultancy SimpleUsability, says: “In uncertain times, putting customer data and behavioural evidence behind decisions made in your business helps to bring clarity and focus to your long-term strategy.
“It has a much clearer return on investment than doing things because that’s the way you’ve always done them.
“Regular research with your customers lets you stay aligned with them.
“They will tell you about new things they have just started to use, or you’ll see shifts in attitude that are driven from external influences to help make measurable changes to their experience with your business.”
Measure your business performance
Measuring how well your company is performing, no matter whether you are just starting out or scaling up, is essential for any business strategy. You need to know how well your business is doing.
Metrics around engagement, both for customers and employees, are key. Also essential are the use of key performance indicators (KPIs). Staying focused on them and identifying what is and isn’t working will help you to make smarter business decisions.
Creating a winning plan
Carlene Jackson is the CEO of Brighton-based tech company Cloud9 Insight, a Microsoft Gold Partner that has provided more than 700 UK businesses with cloud-based CRM software systems.
She says: “It’s often said that companies that continue to invest during uncertain business times benefit in the long run.
“A winning business model is based on a monthly recurring revenue, which gives stability to a growing business and allows additional capacity to be built in all areas of the business as this pot of recurring revenue grows.”
“At Cloud9, we have invested in building a brand within our target markets and developing our partner referral programme.
“This has paid off, with 60% growth in past year, a growth trajectory that’s expected to continue. I would recommend taking advantage of this gig economy we find ourselves in.
“Take the most expensive resources you use and use those to leverage well-vetted external resources, so you can scale up or down easily, to ensure you don’t have unnecessary costs to your bottom line.
“It’s also important to factor branding into your business growth strategy. Make sure the customer experience is consistent with your brand. If, all of the touch points aren’t as consistent as they can be then your brand image is at risk.”
Conclusion on business strategy
If you don’t have a winning business strategy, your company is going to struggle to survive, particularly in times of uncertainty.
Simon Paine, co-founder and CEO of the PopUp Business School, which helps people to start their own businesses, says: “When it comes to making a growth plan for your business, I’d recommend involving your team.
“Most people see entrepreneurs as visionaries, but the reality is that the real success stories talk about the incredible people they surround themselves with, so hiring the right people is crucial for your company’s future.
“You have to be able to engage people at different levels to ensure you get things over the line together, rather than just being an individual with a cracking idea and loads of drive.
“Creating an environment of ownership and encouraging a teamwork approach are the only way to get high growth, so it’s about an inclusive form of leadership.
“This means role modelling to show people they don’t need to be afraid of getting things wrong, allowing others to take the lead and ensuring everyone has a voice in how the company grows.”
Business plan template
Thinking of starting a business or looking for investment but need help putting a plan together? Get our free, easy-to-use business plan template.