Actually Implementing Strategy, or Strategic Changes to a Small Business
How to Start USING or Actually IMPLEMENTING Strategy In Your Small Business
Does business strategy sound more theoretical, or academic than practical? Actually implementing strategy in your small business requires more than just devising or formulating, and then discussing it with your team, as you might find.
Do you constantly device business strategy only to find that it’s too cumbersome to actually implement? Is your small business just stubbornly refusing to pivot to a new way of doing things? Does implementation sound like a big challenge?
Does business strategy sound like something only big corporations actually get to use as a tool?
Today we’ll talk about what to do once you’ve actually formulated your strategy.
We’ll discuss how to begin using or implementing it. We’ll talk about ways to make it stick.
And we’ll discuss a couple of great case studies from our own clients… who slowly, but surely have made great headway… when it comes actually implementing their new strategy. And how they managed to keep it simple.
But first, a quick offer…
Download Westernston's six-point strategy checklist… a handy PDF reference guide that every small business owner needs… especially if you don’t have a concrete business strategy… or a re-evaluating your own.
Change is hard.
Strategy is HOW you achieve your business goals.
New strategy means new ways, new processes, new systems and new habits.
And this precisely why a total strategic overhaul is likely never going to succeed in any business with more than handful of employees. We are all creatures of habit, and changing habits takes time.
So first things first.
When you formulate, re-formulate or re-create your business strategy, and decide to implement it… you need a certain period of time for implementation to take place. Do not expect to just have a company meeting, snap your fingers, and witness a total 100% overhaul of the way things are done. It just doesn’t work that way.
Do not focus on making too many changes at once.
Sure, you might know deep down that a lot needs to change. But you also need to understand that all those changes can only take place over several months, if not years.
The biggest mistake I see small business owners making is trying to pivot too hard, too fast.
Think of your business as a little cruise ship. You can’t just change your heading in five minutes. The experienced captain understands that the cruise ship needs some time to change its direction. And the more experienced the captain, the smoother the transition will be… even if it takes a bit longer.
Time for a quick case study…
I am working with a client right now to help him pivot towards a business dashboard.
A business dashboard is exactly what it sounds like. A dashboard that lets you monitor the important KPI’s (or key performance indicators) in your business. Most small business owners don’t have one, but you really need to have it. Developing your business dashboard is a strategic move like no other. You wouldn’t drive a car without a dashboard that puts important information front and center. So why would you run a business blind?
So, back to the case study.
We had a call to discuss which KPI’s he should be focusing on.
Our one-year target is to have a separate monitor or TV hanging on his office wall in portrait mode with the important KPI’s being displayed graphically, updating in real time.
But the important thing is that we set a one-year target for that.
Not one week.
And while we did list several KPI’s the ideal dashboard would have… we can only commit so many resources to developing it right now… and we only have access to so much data right now.
In a few months, we’d like to track in real time how much time it takes for leads to convert into clients, and break that down by the source of traffic along with the conversion rate... measuring those KPI’s right now is impractical. So we’ve settled for this week to only track the number of new leads acquired altogether, and the number of unsubscribes… or attrition rate. And the overall subscriber list growth.
Then next week, we’ll start tracking the cost of acquiring a new lead. The following week, we’ll start tracking the cost of growing the list, which takes into account the attrition rate, not just new leads. And so on.
We aren’t going to spend more than a few minutes on developing the dashboard each week. Of the overall strategic overhaul we’ve planned, the business dashboard is a crucial component.
But neither is the overall strategic overhaul going to happen overnight, or even over one week or month… and nor is any component of it going to be developed overnight… or over a month for that matter.
It’ll take some time, and we understand.
The important thing is we’ll continue to pivot… and we’ll be consistent about it… And no matter how slow we are, being consistent guarantees that the forces of compounding are working in our favor.
Whether you are looking to implement strategic changes, or you are looking for a complete business strategy overhaul… start small, and be consistent. Understand that everybody in your company is busy… and that they have habits in place that will take time to change.
Another case study…
For a long time, it was not our objective to promote Westernston at all because we wanted to stay small, and the new business that came through referrals was more than enough to keep us occupied.
But now that our objective has changed, so has our strategy. At the heart of our new business strategy is content marketing and amplification. And yet, we’re only devoting about two hours of company time to it each day.
Better yet, we have broken it down to a template...
We have a system for the entire content marketing aspect of the new business strategy that we’re implementing. Here’s what it looks like.
The first step in this template is finding a relevant topic to create content about. We use several tools to do that. The second step is writing the article, which also doubles up as a script for the video. This very video is created using this same content marketing template.
The third step is to promote content using various social media channels using tools like Missinglettr that make all of the content posting and promotion a breeze.
The fourth step is to amplify the content promotion through paid advertising. Our entire three part paid-marketing philosophy can be found in our three-part series on the triangle of marketing.
It’s a simple, repeatable process that all of us here at Westernston can work.
Now all we have to do is to make a habit out of it… and ensure that we put two hours into it each day. And we’re set.
Strategy needs to be revisited from time to time. But new strategy can only be implemented if you break it down into simple and repeatable steps. New strategy can only be implemented if you tell John Doe what he now needs to do on a daily basis, and how.
And the final piece to this puzzle is inspection.
Whatever gets inspected gets respected.
If you simply tell john Doe to follow a new process, but then don’t ensure that John is actually working the system, he’ll soon revert to his old habits, and his old ways of doing things.
So make sure you inspect the changes until the new processes become ingrained habits.
So that brings up to the conclusion of this article.
To summarize, start with small changes. Overhauls just won’t happen overnight, and can only take place over a certain period of time. Secondly, break the new strategy down into actionable and repeatable processes that your staff… and even you yourself can work on a daily basis. And finally, whatever gets inspected gets respected… so ensure that the new processes are being followed until they become ingrained habits.
Lakshay Behl is the world's leading business systems architect. He engineers and deploys business systems that automatically operate, manage and grow companies. While he typically works with established companies in certain sectors, his strategies are universally applicable.