Small Business Strategy: Being In The Right Jungle

04-February-2013
04-February-2013 12:48
in Small Business Strategy
by Colin Smith

A number of classic studies show that small business owners have a natural disdain for strategic considerations.  This is understandable to a degree, simply by virtue of the numerous more urgent demands that compete for their attention and time.  However, even as a small business owner myself who understands first hand the difficulties of adequately addressing strategic issues in a small business, I found the following statistics to be shocking:

  • 85% of leadership teams spend less than one hour a month on strategic issues, whilst 50% admit that they spend no time on them at all.
  • Only 27% of employees have access to the strategic plan for their business
  • A mind boggling 95% of employees have either no awareness or do not understand the business's strategic plan

I believe that a proper balance between actual production and the work that enhances production capability must be struck for every business, but I am certain that if the aforementioned statistics are an accurate depiction of how things are in your business, then you are heading for trouble.  Nobody is suggesting that a small business owner can afford to spend all his time working on the business rather than in it, but somebody in the business needs to take time out to address strategic issues concerning the direction of the business or the business will eventually run into all kinds of problems, not least of which will be the failure to move forward significantly in the direction you desire. 

I'm reminded of a story shared by the late Stephen R Covey in his classic book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People".  He told of a group of producers who were cutting their way through the jungle.  They had urgent work to do and they were getting right down to the business of clearing the undergrowth that stretched before them.  Behind them were supervisors and managers, sharpening their machetes. developing policies and procedures, holding muscle development courses, bringing in new technology and working to see what schedules and compensation programmes yielded the best results.  It wasn't until one individual climbed a tall tree, surveyed the entire situation and shouted out "wrong jungle" that all these people understood that all that hard work and efficiency had been in vain.  They had been heading the wrong way.

If we are honest with ourselves, how often do we take time out from the day to day operation of our small business to climb a tall tree, survey the landscape and make sure that we are heading in the right direction?  If you are like at least half the small business owners surveyed for the Harvard Business review article, the honest answer is that you don't ever do that.  Success does not depend solely on how much effort we expend and can not be guaranteed by attempts to do what we are doing as efficiently as possible.  Being in the right jungle in the first place is the essential precursor of any business success.  No management success can compensate for failure in leadership and ultimately it is the role of leadership, which is the small business owner in most small businesses, to define the business's strategic position and direction.

Continuous Business Planning exists to help small business owners with these strategic considerations by ensuring effective communication of strategy throughout your small business, proper accountability for progress against plan and regular reassessment of strategic direction to ensure that the path you are following still leads to where you want to go.  If you are struggling to find one hour a month to dedicate to these issues, put your machete down and call Continuous Business Planning today.  Nothing could be a bigger waste of your time and money than to have invested months or even years trying to make progress in the wrong jungle.     

 

 

 

 

 

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