Building your business strategy can be daunting, says Brett Davidson of FP Advance, but a clear-cut game-plan should help you achieve your goal
In any business we are faced with the problem of limited time and resources with which to make our business vision a reality. By having a clear game-plan we can make better business decisions and prioritise objectives more easily.
Your business strategy is like a road map. If you follow it, you know you will arrive at your destination somewhere on schedule - barring incidents. If there are any problems on the way or you get lost, you can stop, regroup, and refer back to the map. There are several steps that you need to take to create this map.
1 - Decide what you want
This sounds simple enough. But how many people do you know who are not really doing what they want to do in life? Refer to the strategy questions in the box below. The last question - what are the six most important things that, if done well, would make my business more successful? - is vitally important. Here is the answer you need to achieve your goal. American author Jim Rohn says: "In any endeavour there are about half a dozen things that make 80% of the difference." What are those half a dozen things for your business? These are the important tasks that should be top of your daily to-do list when managing your time.
2 - Ask for what you want
Having mapped out some thoughts on the list of strategic questions, it is time to get that distilled into a business plan. This is a document that will briefly ma p out your vision and plans for the business over the next three or four years.
A great website for a free strategic business plan template is www.planware.org. Working your way through this process will focus your thoughts from the previous questionnaire so they become sharp and clear. It will also get you to focus on your core competencies as you complete the SWOT - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats - analysis.
3 - Focus on the clients who will best help you get what you want
Having created a vision for your business with some key milestones, it is important to have a look at what type of client you will need to achieve those objectives. List all your clients by value to the firm, from trail income (or retainer or anything that comes in year after year). You may also include regular upfront earnings if you are confident of them materialising every year.
List the top 5% of your clients by name and then record the following information - age; income; occupation or, if retired, the occupation they did previously; net worth (estimated if you are not sure); source (where you got them from); and products purchased (as a proxy for needs addressed by you).
Do the same exercise for the next 10% of clients. Try and group this information as best you can. See how many particular occupations or occupation groups you have. Are many of your people professionals, for example, or teachers? Look for the common issues, not the differences.
What you are trying to find here is the story of your business as it stands today. You need to see if your current clientele matches what is required to achieve your strategic vision. Reread your strategic business plan and see if the current client base is appropriate.
What you have just done here is a simple segmentation and targeting exercise. Any business that does not know who it will and will not work with is rudderless.
4 - Work out how to describe what you do to those you want
To attract the people you want requires a constant flow of signals explaining what it is you do and why these people should be seeking you out. The process for doing this is called marketing.
Developing key marketing messages is one of the most difficult tasks for any business. This is particularly so for financial planning businesses because there is such a variety of services for clients over a broad range of areas. This won't do in marketing and communications. In marketing it is better to be different than it is to be better.
To communicate your marketing message to customers - both new and existing - your business must be clear on exactly who it works with and what it does best. This knowledge can then be crafted into three key messages - my business in a sentence of five words or less; my business in one minute; and my business in 500 words.
The first message is your tag line, which will accompany your logo and let people know instantly what your business is all about. The second message is what marketers call 'the elevator pitch'. If you were in an elevator and someone asked you about your business, what would you say?
The third message - my business in 500 words - is something, pre-written, that can be supplied to media, PR firms, conference organisers and a range of other potential marketing opportunities, to describe your business in a short article.
This sounds straightforward but can be excruciating to develop. Be prepared to spend one to two full days on these three tasks. Nevertheless, all the hard work is worthwhile - having developed the three key messages, you can now communicate the complex range of products and services that is your business, simply and clearly.
5 - Take time off
In your business planning, a key date to put in the diary - and to adhere to regardless of what is going on - is the day off. You may be surprised by how little is actually important in your business - and how much is just 'stuff'. So plan your holidays and days off and take them. Limiting your time forces you to prioritise.
6 - Make sure you ask for what you really want
The final step is to read your finished work and make sure it is really what you want. Will it make you happy? If not, it is back to the drawing board. If you have done the work on the planning and feel it is realistic and a stretch all at the same time, then there is only one thing to do - execute on the plan. Let go of the outcome and just focus on the process now. It is the clarity that comes from the business planning process that improves the profitability of your business.
1. What do I want to achieve from my business?
2. Where do I have a sustainable competitive advantage, scale or service?
3. What types of clients do I like working with?
4. How many hours per week would I like to work?
5. How many weeks holiday per year do I want?
6. What level of personal income do I want to take out of the business every year?
7. What level of profit do I need to reinvest every year to grow?
8. How would my business look if we were designing it from scratch today?
9. What value would I like to receive for the goodwill I am creating in my practice?
10. What is my exit strategy from the business?
11. What will be my point of difference to, say, a high street bank?
12. What are the six most important things that, if done well, would make my business very successful?
Source: FP Advance
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