Insights | By Howard Tiersky

6 Steps to Planning a Winning Annual Business Strategy

Many companies develop annual strategies to accomplish their goals through a freewheeling process of brainstorming and team consensus. While this approach can lead to successful results, it can also lead to many overlooked opportunities.

A structured approach to business strategy can still allow for creativity and spontaneous ideation but also provides a framework to massively reduce the risk that some of the best opportunity areas go unconsidered because the team’s natural inclinations go another way.

Here are six key basic steps to work through when creating or updating your company’s strategy.

1) ASSESS

Start by building on your strengths. What are you doing great right now?

For example, if you have exceeded your goals in sales and are really great at bringing in new leads, recognize that and seek to identify why you are so successful in that area. We want to be sure we keep doing the things that are working successfully.

Then as part of your assessment, move on to identifying the areas where you know you can improve.

For example, once you get the leads, maybe your close rate on those leads could be better. Perhaps you lost a few big deals that you should have won.

The goal in this step is not to point fingers or even to determine root cause but only to assess where the company is strong and where it is weaker.

2) DECIDE

The thing that really drives your company forward is when you make a decision. Take a look at the results of your assessment. That reflects where you are now, in all areas. So where should you be? And what is most valuable to focus on?

For example, you may decide to commit to a 40% close rate from all your leads or to bringing out three new products in the coming year that contribute 30% to sales revenue.

It's not just a question of trying to identify an area where you like to improve, but  setting a goal that you’re committed to deliver on. It’s a decision about what you're going to do.

3) BARRIERS

There are probably some reasons why you're not where you want to be. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Business is a journey to try to get better. Very often there's going to be something that keeps you from achieving your goals.

So, when you’re not converting at your target rate, or when your customer satisfaction rating is not quite as high as you want it to be, what are the barriers? What are the things that have been holding you back in that area? Focus first and most intensely on those areas you have decided are goals for the year.

4) PLAN

Once you’ve decided what you want to accomplish, you're going to have to draw a plan to overcome the barriers that stand in your way. 

Take it barrier by barrier and use the diverse thinking of the group to ideally identify multiple approaches to overcome each barrier and then choose which ones to try.

5) IMPLEMENT

Now you will need to implement the plan. Assign owners for each component or process and schedule periodic checkpoints where those owners can report against goals and ask for help in areas that they may be facing challenges.

6) ITERATE

Your plan may not be perfect the first time out. In fact if it is, it’s a miracle. Continue to evaluate what is working and what is falling short. If the chosen plan to overcome a given barrier is not working, consider going back to some of the other approaches to that barrier you identified in step 4 and trying one of those alternatives, or making up a new one based on the feedback you have gained from your efforts to that point.

Success is almost always achieved through iteration, not through shooting the arrow and hitting the center of the bull's eye the first time.

These are the seven business areas to think about when you’re going through the six-step process for planning your strategy.

Now, not every business is exactly the same. But, here’s a model consisting of seven business domains to which you can apply these six steps that we just talked about. This model is going to work for most companies, although you may find that not all areas are relevant in your organization.

MARKETING: telling your story of differentiation and driving interest

SALES: engaging with customers who show interest

OPERATIONS: fulfilling your promise to customers through delivery, services and support

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: the overall journey customers have as they engage with all parts of your business

FINANCE: how money is handled, from debt to taxes to reporting

PEOPLE: how engaged, effective and collaborative your team member are

INNOVATION: driving improvements to  your products, services and customer experience large and small to remain a preferred choice for your customers during the rapidly changing times we live in.

There's no way you can stay the same and continue to have the same level of relevance to the world. You can't win without keeping up with the times.

Making the journey necessary to achieve business goals in a rapidly changing and increasingly digital world is a main theme of my Wall Street Journal bestselling book, Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance, which outlines a proven 5-step formula for driving the digital transformation that’s key to the future success of your business. You can download the first chapter for free when you go to https://WinningDigitalCustomers.com.

Get FREE access to the first chapter of FROM`s
Wall Street Journal Best Selling Book

WINNING DIGITAL CUSTOMERS


  • Learn the three patterns of all successful digital brands (including companies like Apple, Netflix and Uber).
  • Understand why many great new products fail, and the formula for building products that won’t.
  • Discover the key reasons companies resist change and how to overcome them.
Get FREE access to the first chapter of FROM's
Wall Street Journal Best Selling Book

WINNING DIGITAL CUSTOMERS


  • Learn the three patterns of all successful digital brands (including companies like Apple, Netflix and Uber).
  • Understand why many great new products fail, and the formula for building products that won’t.
  • Discover the key reasons companies resist change and how to overcome them.