Traditional planning tools aren’t really relevant in a world that requires revenue fast to survive. First, they are woefully inadequate in terms of creating unique competitive advantage. The tools to define how an organization is different from their competition in a compelling way don’t exist. In fact the question is never asked. The conversation is replete with how to leverage its core competencies, use technology effectively and exploit the power of the internet, but it never broaches how an organization can be unmatchable in the markets that it serves.
Competitive advantage is afforded the company that has discovered something unique to offer that no other organization does — they are the ONLY one that does what it does, in the way that it does it.
If an organization isn’t the ONLY one that does what it does, it has no competitive advantage — Roy, advantage seeker
Second, traditional planning typically is consumed with formulating the direction an organization should take and doesn’t address adequately how to execute on the tactics you need to get there. Hours and hours of time is spent developing SWOTS and analyzing trends to land on the ‘perfect’ strategy often leaving only a meagre amount of time to determine how to make it live in the trenches.
A new strategy creation process is necessary; one that places the emphasis on plan execution and is content to get strategic direction just about right.
In my experience a strategy built to execute has a short planning horizon; I recommend a maximum of 24 months — 24-hours in COVID times! And it uses top line revenue as the simple and well understood growth metric.
The idea is to keep the term of your plan short to be able to quickly respond to unforeseen events and to keep daily execution activities in your face every moment. A 5-year plan does little to motivate one to keep their feet moving; if you don’t achieve what you have to in year 1 you can hope to do it in year 4. The hockey stick lives on!
A plan consisting of 24 periods of 30 days each, on the other hand, puts the appropriate pressure on what one does TODAY with little tolerance for procrastination and over-analysis.
My principle of ‘fast-and-easy’ is critical to ensuring your strategic game plan lives within the 24- month period and delivers the expected revenue results.
Fast-and-easy means targeting customers that:
Can be sold quickly
Customers you can get to fast with your current selling methods. If you have to build new sales channels, it will consume energy and precious time that you can ill afford without generating additional revenue. In addition, as I’ve said elsewhere, it is critical to focus your efforts on the things that matter; those activities that you believe have a good chance at helping to grow your business.
Stick with what you know. Bear down on what you’re good at. Concentrate on customers you know. Ask yourself ‘Is this consistent with fast-and-easy?’ when considering chasing new stuff.
Are ‘close to home’
In a geographic sense, explore the territory immediately around you before trying to exploit distant ones. If you have a good online presence, stay with the market focus you have. Exploring new virtual or physical markets — probably with the need to establish new sales channels— can gobble up your time with questionable short term results. Penetrate and dominate your current markets before you wander afar.
This is an area where I’ve seen small business leaders fall flat on their face. They spot something new to do that is interesting and at least theoretically is a good idea and they decide to chase it, reducing the energy that is applied to fast-and-easy activities. They lose on both accounts: the new stuff doesn’t materialize and the current stuff suffers.
Don’t need much selling
Where closing a sale can occur relatively quickly and revenue realized soon thereafter. An opportunity requiring a 12-month sales cycle won’t be terribly productive when you only have less than half the 24-month plan period left to enjoy the revenue. Work with clients who will give you at least 18 months of revenue if you want to hit your revenue targets.
And avoid customers who ask for proposals. Responding to the request and waiting for a decision will gobble up precious time you don’t have. The formal sales process is a time consumer; focus on people who are willing to deal you their business based on trust and past success with you.
Define your high value clients who have shown their loyalty to you; look closely for outstanding needs and unfulfilled product applications. These clients will not require significant convincing if you have worked with them effectively in the past, providing them with solutions proven to be critical to their business.
Can give you quality referrals
Again, a short planning period requires closing as many high value deals as possible which generally means getting to deal closure without a lengthy sales preamble. High quality referrals should mean that your brand comes recommended and you can get to the solution presentation quickly.
Effective execution in a highly volatile environment requires a combination of short term and long term effort. A 24-month focus on fast-and-easy will generate the revenue you need to be here to witness the longer term.