Strategy for most new business owners is nothing more than ‘making money.’ Business strategy is much more than just making money. It is identifying and implementing the power of a business mission. As Christians, we understand that there is a plan and purpose to what we do in business. Strategy is just aligning with God to accomplish great things.
I was a teen when I first got into business. I saw others selling candy at school for various activities. I noticed that they all sold candy for a short period of time leaving a hungry market between fundraisers. I capitalized on that hungry market buying in bulk and selling for prices slightly cheaper than the fund raisers. I told people I was just helping deliver snacks and not fundraising, so there was no animosity. I went from suckers, to candy bars.
My strategy was to fill the gap left by fundraising activities. The only problem, I got ahead of myself and tried to sell everything from chips to sodas. I forgot the main market of sugar laden snacks. My strategy was simply to make money and I had no business thoughts beyond that.
Making money is not a bad thing. However, our strategy must be more than making money. We must understand what we are actually doing and why we are doing it. We must understand our mission and vision before we get into our goals of making money.
Strategy is the action taken by accomplishing your goals that align with your vision and mission. Let’s define strategy with a simple equation.
Strategy = Mission + Vision + Goals
Start with a Central MISSION
We must start with the Mission, the ‘what’ of our business. What problem do we actually solve for the consumer that they will pay for? I was selling candy, right? Nope. I was selling convenience. I sold sugary snacks in an environment where sugar was not easily found.
This is the strategy that every corner store starts with. Why do you think the same bread costs more at the corner market than it does at the large supermarket? I understood my mission was to provide convenience and I kept my products where they could be easily found.
Add a Motivating VISION
In my example of selling candy had no vision. I did not want to start a convenience store. I didn’t want to save the world. I simply wanted to pay for my gas to and from school and pay for graduation. And I did. That was a goal, not a vision.
Vision moves beyond goals. It is purpose. The vision is a rallying cry that all the employees and owners can align. A vision is something that rarely changes. It is the core ‘why’ a business exists.
I know a lot of people get mission and vision confused. There is a great article about business strategy in Harvard Business Review. They have a diagram that shows mission is the ‘what’ and vision as the ‘why.’ I other words, mission is what you do and vision is why you do what you do.
Mission keeps us on track as we develop our business. Vision, on the other hand, motivates us to do the best we can because we believe in what we are accomplishing. These two go hand in hand when developing a strategy.
Coca-cola is a great company to review mission and values. Their product is beverages. Their mission is to ‘refresh the world.’ ‘Refresh the world’ is what they do, they don’t just sell beverages. They even have a multi-level vision that encompasses the internal and external motivations. Their vision gets into having a great place to work, a growing product line, mutually winning partnership, responsible ecology, long-term profits and an effective organization.
You don’t have to get that detailed, but what if you had a vision for each part of your organization? Depending on how big your company is, vision can be a powerful tool, when aligned with the overall mission.
Add Solid Goals
Last part of strategy is to talk about goals. Goals are like headlights on a car. You can put the high beams on and see far ahead, but as you move your goals moves with you. They are always being tracked to make sure you are on the right road going the right direction.
Goals are steps you take to implement your vision and mission. We should have monthly, yearly and long term (five to ten year) goals. The easiest way to set up business goals is to look at your long-term goals. Divide it into sections and practical steps.
Let’s say I am just getting started and I want to have 100 consistent customers in five years. That means I need to have 20 customers each year or approximately 2 customers each month considering some customers may not be a good fit. Now all I need to do is set a goal to attain two customers in a month.
Goals need to be broken down into bite sized chunks, like 2 customers a month. Then, they must be aligned with our mission and make sure we are on track with our vision.
If you are a visual person, think of a tree. The trunk is where the strength is. It is our mission. Our mission is founded by the roots, our vision. They are what hold us solid and keep us growing. Out of the top grows branches, our goals. They need to be pruned, trimmed and eventually they bear fruit.
Putting a Strategy in Place
So how do you get all of these things lined up for your business? Start with prayer. Start with centering yourself in the presence He who created the entire universe. Decide on a definite mission for your company based on your prayer, wisdom, experience and counsel.
Once Mission is nailed down, look to your vision. Why do you want to accomplish your mission? What impact will you have? What values will you bring into your mission? Create a vision that motivates and keeps your business on track to accomplish its mission.
Now take your vision and put some work to it. What action needs to happen in order for you to accomplish your vision and mission? What steps do you need to take today to accomplish your one year and five year goals? What do you need to do this month, this week and today to accomplish your goals?
You can type these up, make a poster, create a mantra, or whatever, but put them where you can see them daily. A long business plan won’t help if you have to shuffle through twenty pages to find out what you need to do today. Keep it simple and make it visual.