Get Your Business to the Next Level in 8 Strategic Steps

Minding the day-to-day will only get you so far. To really grow your small business, you need a strategic management process in place.
November 01, 2012 You've decided that the way to make your small business bigger and better is to employ the strategic management process. You've evaluated your company's vision and goals. You've looked inside to find strengths and weaknesses and you've looked outside at the industry to see where you stand. You've put together a clearly defined strategy for getting ahead and how you'll measure success so you know when you are there.

So how do you take the plan that you've written on a sheet of paper and turn it into a strategic direction for your business?

1. Envision Where You Want to Be

Your strategic plan for success probably includes a BHAG or two. BHAG (pronounced BEE-hag) is an acronym for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. Those are the goals that dreams are made of.

The BHAG idea was introduced by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book, "Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies."

"A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines," the authors described for The Harvard Business Review. "A BHAG engages people—it reaches out and grabs them. It is tangible, energizing, highly focused."

The authors say achieving that BHAG may be a 10 to 30 year effort that takes both effort and luck.

2. Picture Where You're Going

You won't get there if you can't see where you're going.

Everyone in the organization should have a clear picture to hold onto of where the company will be after it heads in a strategic direction.

Collins and Porras cite Henry Ford as an example. Ford could picture a world where families were able to afford and enjoy the automobile, and the horse was no longer king of the road. 

3. Keep the Journey Exciting

To work toward the future you have to be excited about the future.

Once you and your stakeholders can see where you are headed the journey itself should be so exciting that it would continue to keep the organization motivated even if the leaders who set the goal disappeared.

Collins and Porras describe NASA's 1960s quest to reach the moon as an example of a goal that was just so exciting it kept the team focused even though the chief cheerleader, President John F. Kennedy, died before the BHAG was met.

4. Keep Climbing

Keep the strategic direction of your small business moving even when things are going well.

"Start-up companies frequently suffer from the 'We’ve Arrived Syndrome' after going public or after reaching a stage in which survival no longer seems in question," write Collins and Porras. "An envisioned future helps an organization only as long as it hasn’t yet been achieved. "

If you've hit one peak, it's time to set the next goal.

5. Work Together

No company will head in the right strategic direction without teamwork. 

The salesperson should be in sync with the marketing person who is working in tandem with the president who shares ideas with the financial officer. Ideally, the entire team understands the goals and shares the vision for how the business is moving forward.

6. Evaluate Where You Are

Every once in a while stop and evaluate how the strategic management process is going.

"It is important to develop a checklist of important and measurable aspects of your business and then review them regularly," is the advice from More for Small Business.

That doesn't mean constantly revising goals. If you're changing up the plan frequently, you may not have nailed the focus of the business and the vision for the future.

7. Live the Plan

Let the plan come to work with you every day and be part of the strategic direction of the company.

"Keep the plan active and in front of you. Make sure you begin to 'live the plan,'" advises More for Small Business. "That’s how the plan becomes a reality."

Encourage everyone on the team to live the plan as well.

8. Believe in Yourself

No plan, no matter how organized or how intricate, is going to work if you don't believe in yourself, in your purpose or in your company.

Trust your instincts and use your entrepreneurial skills to move your small business in the right direction.

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Carla Turchetti is a veteran print and broadcast journalist who likes to break a topic down and keep her copy tight. That's why this bio is so brief! Carla blogs via