This competency could be the single most important foundational distinction you develop as a small business owner. Most entrepreneurs I’ve worked with were so tactical when we first started coaching, they didn’t realize the immense, directional power of a solid strategy and its importance to accelerating their success in business. When you understand this important distinction it will allow you to exponentially multiply your efforts in growing your business by simplifying your succession planning, focusing your energy and avoiding many costly pitfalls.
Your “Strategy” is related to the overall position you’d like your company to achieve over the long haul. It’s the mind set that forms the guide for your mission statement, strategic objectives and overall business plan. Just as your strategy is the True North on your compass of goals and plans, there’s an important, underlying foundation for your strategy as well.
In our coaching with entrepreneurs around the globe we’ve discovered that the alignment of a small business owner’s ”’Natural Style”’ coupled with the strategy of his/her organization is critical for accelerated success. Eliminating any misalignment between these two areas has proven to be an extremely effective way to assure long-term success and fulfillment. (”’Natural Style”’ = your own unique combination of life experiences, education, passions, behavioral/communication styles and motivational values.)
“Tactics” are the things you “do” to achieve your strategic objectives. For example, in marketing you could employ a magazine ad, a direct mail piece, or a trade show to attract new clients. These are all tactics. But how you leverage them and maximize your results must be related to your strategy. When you have a well defined strategy, choosing the “right” tactics in areas like systems development, sales and your hiring/team-building is a relative breeze.
This is an important distinction for you to make because far too many entrepreneurs jump right in. It’s our nature to want to get into action. The mistake is that all too often, the typical entrepreneurial response will cause you to primarily focus your energy on tactics, without having clear strategic objectives. Unfortunately, this is why so many entrepreneurs stumble onto needless side roads losing time, money and growth opportunities.
Let me share a brief example with you. Here’s a great strategic objective that just about any service company would like to achieve: “To be the most trusted, customer-centric company in our target market, and to turn our existing clients into a literal army of sales people gladly recommending our services to every qualified prospect they meet.”
If that’s your overall strategic objective, than you have to ask if your tactics contribute to achieving this important goal. If your service technicians in the field are simply trying to get the repairs on their route completed as quickly as possible, then they are operating tactically no matter how well the work is done. If they are doing their work in the mind set that says, the client needs to be listened to, reassured that “no matter what, we’re here to make things right,” and subsequently have the freedom from the owner to go above and beyond expectations while on-site — that’s operating strategically.
Let’s take the typical chiropractic approach to advertising as another example. Most marketing methods that chiropractors use are approached from a completely tactical standpoint. (i.e.: I need more patients.) The typical chiropractic office runs ads with headlines like: “Washington Chiropractic, our specialists will get you out of pain — fast!” Marketing like this shows that there is no strategy behind the tactic being employed … and very little knowledge of the general marketplace.
Surveys reveal that only about 16 percent of the population use chiropractic services. Yet about 85 percent of the population complains of neck or back problems (back pain is the second most common reason for visiting a medical doctor). Quite obviously the vast majority of people have not yet discovered the value of chiropractic care. They’re not interested in chiropractic care, and may even be biased in their view of chiropractic care. So why would you put the words “Chiropractor,” or “Chiropractic” in your headline? You’re only grabbing the attention of 16 percent of the population.
In contrast, let’s say that a chiropractor has a strategy that in part says, “We’re going to bring the health inducing benefits of chiropractic care to the general public and become the most trusted source of pain relief in our geographic coverage area.” A strategy like that indicates this doctor understands the marketplace and is clearly focused. Just as importantly, it immediately directs that doctor to tactics that are focused on education and removing many preconceived biases against chiropractic care that may be held by the general public.
The chiropractor with this type of distinct strategy runs a smarter ad with a headline that says, “Seven things you should know about relieving your back and neck pain. Free seminar this Saturday 9 a.m.” A headline like this appeals to 85 percent+ of the population. More importantly though, this doctor is applying tactics that are in alignment with her strategy.
Don’t worry if you haven’t fully grasped the concept yet, it takes some time. Often in coaching entrepreneurs to internalize this distinction it takes weeks of practice and real-world application. Here are some tips on getting yourself started.
Once every 12 weeks, sit down for 90-minutes (alone or with your team) and analyze strategy versus tactics. Take a look at your tactics in each of the 12 Key Areas of Successful Business Ownership, and compare them against your companies strategy. How much more could you accomplish if your tactics were all in alignment with your strategy?