Editor’s note: Lea Strickland is president and chief executive officer of Focus Resources.
CARY, N.C. – All too often we hear familiar justifications as to why things don’t change. One which seems to be recurring more frequently is "my hands are tied". Undoubtedly you are familiar with the refrain – things need to change BUT "my hands are tied!". Performance needs to improve, BUT we can’t do anything differently – going for the plural here – BECAUSE "our hands are tied".
Let’s all say it together “We’d like things to be different, BUT OUR HANDS ARE TIED!” Okay maybe your hands are tied, BUT USE YOUR HEAD!
When performance is lacking and money is tight, when sales are declining and markets are moving, it is time to change. How you do things will change, it is inevitable – because whether you are proactive, reactive, or inactive – the business will be changed. For the good, for the better, or for the final time, your business will change.
Inside Out or Outside In
Recognizing that change is inevitable, the question becomes whether you are going to take control and make the changes or allow external forces to decide what changes will take place. Are you going to set a direction (forward and upward) or have a course set for you (down and out)?
A business which resists and even tries to deny change will face more change than can be imagined. Whether you are a one-hundred-year-old multinational company or a local “mom and pop”, making the decision to take control of your destiny means changing from the inside to adapt to outside factors. Where do you start? How do you remove the constraints which seem to be tying your hands?
Change – Intentional, Continuous, Necessary, and Controlled
Understand and accept this: change is part of everything. It is much more advantageous to be the agent of change – the catalyst and the master of ceremonies – than to be susceptible to the whims of change created by others. When others create the change you must adapt to survive. When you create change, you are able to position your organization to ride the wave of success.
Change without a plan, an objective, or a strategy for the new way of doing business can be as damaging to the organization as doing things the “way we’ve always done it”. So what do you do to take control of change?
The Process of Change: 12 Steps toward Recovery
1. Understand current business and economic conditions
2. Analyze your industry
3. Understand your customers and markets
4. Know your competition
5. Know yourself better than you know the competition or the competition know you
6. Categorize your products, services, and technology the way a customer does
7. Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the “wishful thinking”
8. Talk to your customers, employees, vendors, and other stakeholders
9. Listen to and understand what you hear in item 8
10. Compile the information you have gathered.
11. Identify gaps between what the market wants and what the market (and your customers) have been getting – from you and your competition
12. Develop a strategic plan to get you from where you are today to the business you want to BE
Developing the Strategic Plan
The strategic plan must be realistic and challenging to the organization. It must combine business, market, sales, operations, and all of the other elements of your business into a cohesive structure your business is capable of executing. Resources you already have and those you need must be identified – timelines, requirements, cost – all must be identified and incorporated into financial projections. This will enable you to quantify what the business needs in terms of funding, the source(s) of the funding, and the timeline for the returns on those resources. The strategic business plan is an action document, not a theoretical exercise which goes in the desk drawer or on a shelf.
The strategic business plan contains the following elements:
1. Executive Summary (written or extracted after the full strategic plan is developed)
2. Company information
3. Market, industry, and competitive analysis
4. Competitive advantage
5. Product/technology/service offerings
6. How you will make money – The Business Model
8. The Team – Key Management and Advisors
10. Growth/Exit Strategy
From concept through all the stages of establishing a successful business, use your head. Having a plan, working the plan, and adapting the plan and the business to an ever changing environment keeps your hands from being tied.