Business strategy sounds like a large document with a mission statement, a detailed segmentation of the market and an analysis of industry competition. Not something you would expect a smaller business to benefit from.

Of all smaller business (up to 50 employees) less than 50% survive in the first five years. Behind this number there are many personal tragedies of hard working business owners who didn’t get it quite right and lost their money.

Compare a business to a cycle race. No matter how much effort to push the bike uphill, if you are on the wrong track you won’t get to the finish.

Strategy is not about doing things right but about doing the right things.

A good strategy is built on three pillars:

1. A diagnosis that brings an overwhelming sophistication back to its essence and lists those items critical to a business.
2. A plan to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.
3. A set of coherent actions to execute the plan.



In our fast changing world this is now becoming more of a continuous exercise. Most businesses that failed, did not realise their environment was (rapidly) changing. They thought that advantages of yesterday would still work in tomorrow’s markets. They forgot to keep changing by doing the right things.

Change affects larger and smaller businesses alike and therefore strategy is for smaller businesses too.

Change is all about people – but most people including business owners don’t like to change. Put a frog in a pan with gradually cooking water and it will slowly die - put the frog in a pan with boiling water and it will jump out and survive. The question is: who is turning the heat up?

Most Kiwi businesses like to do it all themselves (“number 8 wire” mentality). Nobody knows your business better than you do as a business owner. But can you distance yourself enough from your business to get a fresh perspective on it? Do you have the knowledge and experience to spot trends and issues that really matter? Do you dare to ask yourself the sometimes awkward and uncomfortable questions?

What are your views on strategy and change, and how do you think to benefit from an outsider-expert’s view?

By John Van der Burg, Business Consultant.

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