Although January seems the more logical time to consider business growth, it’s actually during Q3 that SA Law receives the most calls for assistance. Fear not, for we more than identify with this phenomenon. Returning to work after an invigorating summer holiday can be far more motivational than trudging back to work on that first cold Monday morning of the New Year!
For me this has always been the best of year time to see if there is anything else we can do to improve the plans we already have in place. The aim is to take a snapshot of the business and look at it from as many different perspectives we can think of. We also take into account what is likely to happen inside the business over the coming 12 – 18 months, and what might happen externally in the market, the economy, and in politics.
This step back from the day-to-day is also an opportunity to let your imagination run a little wild. It isn’t meant to result in any huge tangential changes in strategy, but it usually results in a few great ideas you may not have thought of while trying to meet pre-existing objectives. Furthermore, this exercise can also lead to improvements in many other aspects of the organisation, from streamlining processes to enhancing employee wellbeing.
So, let’s say you have stepped back and come up with an idea or two. Here’s how to go about incorporating them into your next 12-month business strategy.
Define the new idea clearly
Build a comprehensive understanding of each idea, which means a good deep-dive. Is it a new product or service offering, or is it the improvement or expansion of something you already provide? Will it be targeted at your existing customer base, or is it something that lets you move into another market?
Next, consider what would be required to bring the idea to life. Is there room in your existing strategy to achieve it to an adequate degree of success? What would you need to do if there isn’t?
These are some of the key questions to ask yourself so you can arrive at a clear understanding about what you intend to achieve, which enables you to assess the idea for its merits. Is it something that can be reasonably achieved during the next financial year? Is it something that has merit, but requires a longer-term strategy? Or is it a nice idea, but not for you?
Remember who you are
When exploring ideas, never lose sight of the brand. Your business is successful because of a unique set of parameters that contribute to the way your customers understand and trust you, so don’t introduce anything that might undermine that.
Understanding is about logic. If Lea & Perrins suddenly decided to introduce a line of inflatable paddling pools alongside its time-honoured Worcestershire Sauce, customers would likely question the logic of it in the context of their brand. The result would almost certainly be a loss of reputation. That said, if your brand is more about an idea than any specific product or service (e.g. easy.com), then you have a much freer reign over what you can introduce.
Maintaining trust means making sure that nothing you intend to do is going to weaken the quality, reliability or delivery of your core offering. Much of that is down to how you plan.
Define the journey to market
The best amendments or additions to a pre-existing strategy are those that offer great return on investment with as little disruption to your existing business plan as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean restricting yourself to small ideas though. If you have the capital, then outsourcing could let you take advantage of an idea that perhaps couldn’t be resourced internally.
Plan carefully, in as much detail as possible, including the reasonable timescales and milestones you intend to work to. As we are still in the blue-sky thinking mode, you also get to test out a number of different scenarios about how you could apply resources.
Put the right person in charge
As the objective is to achieve additional profitability within the financial year, short-term targets must be managed carefully. Therefore, you need a manager or co-ordinator who is capable of driving them forward.
If improving or expanding on an existing product or service, then this is likely to be the current person in charge. However, consider the need to give them further support if it means a greatly increased workload. This may be an excellent opportunity to draw in someone from another part of the business that has spare capacity.
If embarking on a new project, then appoint someone who can meet the challenge, particularly if it means entering unfamiliar or even uncharted territory. Choose a robust individual who can improvise as they go along.
Get everyone on board
Naturally, you will need the help of other employees to achieve your idea, so communication is essential.
Make sure everyone who might be affected by the initiative understands the plan for achieving it, and be extremely generous when you think about who that might encompass. If employees suddenly discover new things are happening from peers rather than management, they may begin to think that they aren’t important enough to be told officially. Worse still, they may start to worry about changes in strategy impacting their job. It may also cause confusion about the primary objectives of the organisation. “Are we still on the old plan or has everything changed?”
With the idea defined, planned and provisionally staffed, you arrive at the final decision gate: is it a green light or not? If it is, then make your announcement to the business, launch the strategy, and the very best of luck!