One of the many challenges facing business owners is how to keep the business running but set aside time to think strategically about the business. Shoehorning in 15 minutes here or there to “think big picture” really doesn’t work well if you’ve ever tried it! You need some time to allow your everyday to do items to filter away, and start the process of thinking about what is working, what isn’t working, what’s happening in your market, and if your competitive advantages are still giving you the edge in your market.
How can you think strategically when you’re already torn in too many directions? One strategy is to set aside time, whenever it works for your schedule, and stick to it. If you can schedule it in like any other appointment or to do item, the likelihood that you’ll actually do it is higher. Maybe you schedule Sunday afternoon from 5 – 7 pm. You might be a little more relaxed (if your business is not open on the weekends) and able to allow your mind to roam through the possibilities open to grow or expand your business. Maybe it’s Tuesday at 9 pm or Friday at 5 am – whatever time slot works for you, schedule it in on a periodic basis (try once a quarter or once a month) and stick with it.
OK, I set aside the time, now what? Start with a series of simple questions that you most likely know some of the answers to, such as:
How has business been for the last quarter/month/year?
What service(s) or product(s) have increased in revenue/sales and which ones have decreased?
What has my competition been up to? Am I seeing any competitors take away any of my business? Why is that happening?
What marketing activities have been working? Which ones haven’t?
What are some opportunities to set my business apart? New products/services/partnerships/geographic areas?
In these strategic thinking sessions, dream big! Don’t limit yourself arbitrarily – there’s plenty of time to test these new strategies out. And that’s the next step – once you’ve thought through some ideas, test them out with fellow business owners, employees, advisors – anyone you turn to with business sense. Map these ideas out, plan a strategy, set a timeline to evaluate if the new strategy is working, and get to it!