By Theresa Schwab, President of Theresa Schwab Consulting
Who really wants to take the long, slow, arduous journey to success when you have the option to take a more thoughtful, deliberate approach? The time to praise the journey is when it’s in your rear-view mirror not when you’re facing it head-on through the windshield. Life may be about the journey, but business is all about the destination.
When I ask owners and leaders “what’s the overarching strategy for your organization?” I get a multitude of responses ranging from “sell more,” “make more money,” “serve my clients,” to blank stares and “good question.” When your business was its infancy phase it is a perfectly legitimate strategy to sell anything in your bag of tricks to anyone. As your business grows and matures, this Mass-Omnibus Sales Strategy no longer serves you well. You need a strategy to drive rapid profitable growth.
The thought of formulating a strategy may be overwhelming to you or your leadership team. Many leaders do not know where to start. The most vital element of strategy development is that it’s a top-down process driven by you, the President or CEO. Think of it this way: You decide where your family goes on vacation. That’s strategy. Your leadership team will help you decide and navigate the route to get there. Your team will determine whether you book a direct flight, charter your own plane, or take your own car where you can stop when you want and take as long as you want. That’s planning.
One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders make is engaging their team prematurely, allowing the team to create the vision. Imagine if Kennedy had asked NASA and the American public “Hey, what do you think about landing a man on the moon?” Everyone from the pundits in the media to your coworkers at the office would be debating the pros and cons of a moon landing paralyzing the effort. Instead, he stated “We choose to go the moon.”
Which leads us to creating your “to the moon” strategy. Let’s design your destination beginning with some wishful thinking.
Step away from all your gadgets and disconnect from everything and everyone. Pull out your Big Chief Tablet from first grade or your composition notebook from high school and write. Spend at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted silence simply dreaming about what you could accomplish if you had access to unlimited talent, financing, and time. Anything goes in this phase of formulating your strategy. I want you to be completely unrealistic. If you need some thought provoking questions, download this executive assessment. If this is still hard for you, connect with your inner Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs and imagine what these leaders would do with your business if they had the reigns. Let all those crazy, insane, potentially scary, or overwhelming ideas flow onto the paper.
This becomes your destination. No need to fret about the how at this point. What matters is that the target has been set. I’ve seen targets set at doubling monthly recurring revenue, improving profitability, improving client’s profitability, growing regionally, or providing impeccable client service to name a few. One owner in the launch phase of her business wasn’t hitting her revenue targets. After working together for two days we designed the path where she quadrupled her revenues and reduced her losses to one-sixth in just 7 months. Another business owner I worked with wanted to reconnect with her passion for her business. As a result of our work together she designed an ideal work week doing exactly what she loves and could take a vacation for the first time in two years. Who doesn’t want to do what you love and take more vacations?
Once your destination is clearly in focus, you may be tempted to engage your team but it is still too early in the process. We must evaluate the team first. Most people want to skip over this critical step in formulating your strategy. Do you have the right team to drive your organization where you want it? Many CEOs find this is one of the most difficult steps. Having to face the potential reality that someone who got you where you are today may not help you get to where you need to be tomorrow. For example, one business owner I worked with had a gut feeling that a managed service technician on his team didn’t truly believe in the value of managed services. After a brief discussion with the tech, I confirmed his beliefs were contradictory to the owner’s strategy of aggressively growing the managed services side of his business. Luckily this technician came around and now shares the owner’s vision.
It is quite possible that some team members are mismatched. Perhaps the company has outgrown them or their skillsets are no longer relevant in the new strategy. And some just don’t respond well to change. Having a Negative Nancy or a Told-You-So Ted on your team can kill your vision in lightning speed. Neither of us wants that for you. Swiftly resolving these disconnects now before engaging the team will save you significant time and energy selling your ideas, enable your organization to start quickly and maintain momentum down the road. With the right leadership team in place, share your vision and together create the roadmap to get there.
What’s your destination? Do you have the right team to get you there?
Stay tuned! Strategy rarely fails in the formulation phase, but typically does during the implementation of the plan. Be on the lookout for Theresa’s follow-up piece on how to effectively communicate and implement your newly developed strategy.
Theresa Schwab crafted a successful exit from her Austin based MSP three years ago. As president of Theresa Schwab Consulting, Theresa advises MSPs in all phases including launch, growth, and succession. Theresa has a long history of transforming teams from average to highly impactful. You can reach her at www.TheresaSchwab.com and get more on her Schwab Success Strategies blog.