Where does small business strategy come from? (it doesn’t grow on trees)

(image from StockMonkeys.com)

When I walk down the high street in St. Margarets and go past sweet little quirky shops, I sometimes feel a soft sense of envy.
The owners of these small businesses have managed to make their dream of independence a reality. It may be a struggle, it may be tough to keep going with more and more customers shopping online every day, it may give them less return than they have been hoping for and many more sleepless nights – but it’s their baby, and their personal sense of identity.

I am passionate about helping these people with their digital strategy and activities, and at the same time I realise that there’s a lot to learn from them too. As I manage my own small company and being rather new to the world of small business ownership, I can learn from their stories and from their courage. And from their patience… because while the wish to make your business a long-lasting venture is an inspiring and necessary goal, you can only ever take it one day at a time.

That’s a struggle – coming to terms with:

a. the fact that strategy takes time to implement – you can’t dream up an end-result and wake up the next morning with lots of money in the bank, a fulfilling job, happy relationship and a huge sense of relief. But as strategy is a crucial driver in understanding and taking incremental steps to achieve goals, making sure you have a strategy is a must. Do you? Do I?

b. the fact that in some cases a good strategy can take time to manifest. A possible reason for a lack of strategic focus is that sometimes we just don’t know what we want. Knowing and clearly defining what you want is the starting point in creating a strategy, without which you’re just cruising on the way to nowhere. I experienced this myself, drifting for several years without a clue where I wanted to go. Until one day I realised I wasn’t at all where I wanted to be. That’s when I started asking myself the right questions. The destination can change, and it’s OK for it to evolve as we ask more questions and imagine and investigate different options.

Everyone needs a Gandalf to help with Strategy!

Picture-of-toy-gandalf

(image from GandalfWorldTour)

And if you know what you want and have a strategy, there is so much to do when you start up from scratch – market research, business planning, product/service development, marketing, business development, finance… each element breaks down further to so many tasks, it’s hard to know what to do first. I’ve read several books and blog posts about working efficiently and have my own methods, but I do believe that one of the best ways of increasing efficiency is sharing. And that’s not something I do enough of, and neither do many of the businesses I’ve spoken to in the past few months.

If you’re a sole company director, the workload is huge and so is the pressure of getting things right. Sharing your thoughts about what to do and why, where to invest efforts and where to stop, simply discussing things with somebody other than yourself can have a tremendously powerful effect. I have read somewhere that even speaking aloud to yourself can be useful in getting your brain to make strong connections and aid with comprehension and resolve (I do this in my daily life anyway when nobody’s around, is this normal?).

So I’m on the lookout for partners, and have my own treasured network of mentors, with whom i hope to engage more.

And I wish my dad was still around to listen and advise – he was a tech consultant with a career spanning several decades, such a shame I can’t pick his brain anymore.

First published Friday 2nd, May 2014

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