Many business owners struggle with short and midterm decision making. In most cases they do not have a Strategic Plan to guide the direction of their business. Without a clear and concise vision and direction, decisions can become clouded and confusing causing undue stress for the business owner and their staff. Companies ending up floating like a ship without a rudder.
When a business has a clear long term strategy decisions become simpler and more concise for the owner and employees. When in doubt just refer to the Strategic Plan.
In his book FocalPoint , Brian Tracy identifies 7 keys questions to help guide you in developing a powerful strategic plan.
The following 7 Key Questions are excerpts from his book .
1. What business are you in? What business are you really in? Define your business in terms of what you do for your customer or for your company. Keep expanding the definition of your business so that it is as broad as possible. Never be satisfied with the first answer.
For example, railroads defined themselves as being in the business of moving people and freight by rail. In reality, they were in the transportation business. By ignoring the other avenues of transportation that were developing, such as trucks, buses, ships and airplanes, many railroads went out of business.
Many Internet companies defined themselves as providers of free information geared toward attracting as many eyeballs as possible. In reality, the Internet is a communication and distribution channel that must be focused on selling products or services and making a profit, like any other business.
The failure to accurately define the business has led to the loss of many billions of investment dollars and market capitalization.
2. What business will we be in if things continue the way they are today?”
“If I do not change, what will I be doing one year, two years, and five years from today? Is it an intelligent strategy to continue in my current line of business or should I be looking at changing in some way?”
What business should you be in? Look at yourself, your talents, your abilities, your ambitions, your energies and especially, your heart’s desire, to determine the business you should be in, the work you should be doing sometime in the future.
What business could you be in? If you were to dramatically change your level of knowledge or skills, your products or services, your industries or markets, what business could you be in if you really wanted to be? What changes would you have to make today to create the business of the future? What changes will you have to make personally to become the kind of person who can live the life and do the work you would really like to be doing sometime in the future?
3. Who is my customer? Who do you have to satisfy in order to survive and thrive in your career? Of course, your first customer is your boss, the person who signs your paycheck. Your primary job at work is to make sure that you are satisfying his or her essential requirements. Do you know what they are?
You can define a customer as anyone who depends on you for their success, and anyone who you depend upon for your success. With this definition, your colleagues and your staff are also your customers. Everyone around you who you help, or who helps you, is a customer in some way.
Who is your external customer, the customer who uses what you produce? This is the focal point of business success. Your ability to accurately identify the external customer whose satisfaction determines your success in your career is critical to every element of strategic planning.
What does your customer consider value? What specific benefits does your customer get from using your products or services? What does your customer really want and need from you in order to be completely satisfied? How does your product change or improve his or her life and work?
4. What is it that you do especially well? What is your area of excellence, your area of superiority? What is your personal competitive advantage relative to the other people in your field?
This is a vital focal point question in personal strategic planning. You will only be truly successful to the degree to which you become absolutely excellent at the most important part of your work. One of your chief responsibilities is life is to select the area of excellence that can have the greatest positive impact on your career and your income, and then throw your whole heart into becoming very, very good in that one area.
You should follow this strategy as well. What are the core competencies that you will need to be in the top 10% of your field three to five years from now? How do they differ from your key skills today? What can you do today to begin developing those additional skills and abilities? Whatever competencies you will require to be the best, set them as a goal, make a plan and begin working on developing them every day.
5. What are the 10% to 20% of your activities that could account for 80% to 90% of your results?What are the tasks that you do today that yield the very highest returns and rewards relative to the cost and effort of performing those activities? How could you organize your work life so that you are doing more and more of these tasks of higher value?
6. What are the critical constraints on your ability to achieve your goals?
In every work or production process, there are a series of steps between where you are today and the result that you want to achieve tomorrow. Invariably, one of these steps is the constraint or chokepoint that determines the speed at which you complete the entire process and achieve your goal.
For example, in getting from home to work, there is often a stretch of road or freeway that can be extremely crowded. Prior to that stretch, and after that stretch, the traffic is light. But if that stretch is jammed, this can be the major constraint or bottleneck that determines how fast you cover the entire distance.
7. What specific action or actions am I going to take immediately based on my answers to these questions? Only action is action. The purpose of strategic thinking and planning is to decide upon the actions you are going to take to bring about different results from what you are achieving today. What are they?