Creating a Power Plan

You will not likely work directly with the CEO on any project or product purchase; you will be referred to the appropriate person. The information you gather on others should be the same as the information you gathered on the CEO. You will need to know the personality type to give you that inside edge, and also how much influence they have on the decision to make a purchase; you may find that these other contacts have an authorized spending limit following a set of guidelines.

You want to make sure you target the correct person once the decision is made. These contacts will often have an inside edge on up-and-coming projects where you might be of use. They may even get additional funds in order to buy from you. I had a client that was limited to $10,000 on any purchase order, and my services for the quarter were to be $32,000. Instead of having to fill out the paper work and get additional approvals, he simply made four separate contracts for me, each with their own start dates, milestones, and project completion time. It worked well for him as he did not need additional approval to continue the project, and it also worked for me as I was paid in a shorter time frame than otherwise.

Having a person in the company at the right level for approving projects and purchases will make a difference between making the sale and knocking on the next door. You need to form a close relationship with that person and make sure they are completely satisfied with your work.

Ingredients of Successful Business Plans

  1. Understand what a business plan is;
  2. Understand what you intend to use it for;
  3. Identify and implement the critical steps to achieving a successful business plan;
  4. Understand what needs to be included in the plan;
  5. Be aware of gaps or weaknesses in your plan.

A business plan sets out the method for running a specific activity over a specific future period.

Business plans are needed essentially for the four following reasons:

  1. A formal, explicit document of the planning process;
  2. A request for finances;
  3. A framework for approval;
  4. A tool for operational business management.

This may come as a surprise to my fellow business consultants, but producing a successful business plan is not as difficult as people often think, so long as they follow a logical sequence. Here is my considered view as to the critical steps.

  1. Understand what you are planning and why;
  2. Define the activities of your organisation;
  3. Outline the current position of the business;
  4. Review and discuss the external market conditions, undertake and understand a competitive analysis, and define your market positioning;
  5. Define your core objectives;
  6. Prepare and articulate the strategy to attain and meet the objectives;
  7. Identify and review risks and opportunities;
  8. Prepare a strategy to deal with risks and exploit opportunities;
  9. Refine the strategies into operational plans;
  10. Prepare financial forecasts including revenues, costs, cash-flow, capital expenditure and assumptions adopted;
  11. Finalise the plan;
  12. Get it approved;
  13. Use it;
  14. Review it regularly and update as appropriate.

What should be included in the business plan?

Without being too prescriptive, there are certain necessary elements which need to be included. Such elements are:

  • Preliminaries – such as contents, contacts and definitions;
  • An executive summary;
  • A description of the business;
  • A review of the market, the competition and market positioning;
  • The vision, mission and objectives;
  • The corporate strategy;
  • The plan for developing the products and services;
  • Financial projections;
  • An outline of the risks and opportunities;
  • A conclusion.

Any casual viewer of the BBC programme, Dragons Den will be aware of how easy it is for weaknesses or gaps to be identified. Depending upon the purpose of the plan, this may, or may not, prove to be critical. It is often easier to recognise such weaknesses and gaps, and be prepared to deal with them, either by noting them in the plan itself, or having appropriate answers available should the need arise.

As a business consultant, this may sound like heresy, but I believe that any plan should be produced by the senior management of the organisation. That is not to say that the consultant does not have a role to play in its preparation. He does. Senior management should prepare the plan as they will then be able to present and discuss it, demonstrating to their audience that they fully understand their business and market. I believe that the consultant’s role is to help facilitate the preparation of the plan, the consultant can help undertake the necessary research, and can cast a critical and impartial eye over the plan.

Steps to Implement Strategy Successfully

  • Their strategy is sound. It is the output of an objective ‘thinking exercise’ about the strategic issues the company faces. Their strategy creates focus, and sets achievable goals. It presents a realistic scenario based on explicit assumptions, tested hypotheses and a pragmatic competencies match.
  • The analysis work is objective.¬†Their strategy is the result of a tough-minded analysis – a mix of quantitative data, blended with experience-based wisdom, insight and risk taking. It is created through sound decision-making, mindful of cognitive biases which create perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation or irrationality.
  • Their strategy provides perspective. It reflects a deep understanding of the company’s competitive environment, external market trends, and relevant structural changes. It is insightful, adopts a long-term view and takes a position to address uncertainty. This perspective is often gained through processes that enable accurate and up-to-date market information that flows from staff closest to the customers back up the decision makers, allowing them to become aware of both opportunities and threats on a near real time basis.
  • Their strategy process is effective. Less time is spent on running a ‘process’, and more time on having thoughtful conversations with the right people about strategic issues and opportunities. It focuses on asking the right questions, and on making deliberate rational choices. The resulting strategy provides focus on the critical few strategic moves that will lead to future success. It is believable as the validity of the plans is regularly challenged.
  • Their strategy is viewed as a continuous journey. It emanates from a flexible calendar, allowing the company to adapt and respond with agility to rapid market changes. Detailed road maps are the backbone of the implementation, but the process is dynamic and fluid as the plans are continuously evolving, to mitigate unexpected threats and seize fleeting opportunities, while at the same time not losing sight of the overall strategy and its boundaries.
  • Actions result from the strategy. The strategy gives a purpose, is executable and spells change – it is not a plan for a plans’ sake, or a series of meaningless graphs or statements, disconnected from reality. It provides something tangible against which to align capabilities and mobilise people to build a business. Where necessary, the strategy drives rapid reallocation of funds, people, and attention to support the strategic priorities. Unsuccessful initiatives are stopped rapidly to avoid wasting resources that could be redeployed.
  • The execution of the strategy is actively managed. The strategy is translated into programmes, detailed action plans, and focused capabilities build-up plans. Change is actively managed: core to the execution is the ability to seize opportunities aligned with strategy, while coordinating with other parts of the organisation on an ongoing basis. The execution is guided by the top executive team, and driven by the management teams across the company. Focus is on ensuring that the strategy is understood throughout the company, and on facilitating the peer-to-peer co-ordination, agility and team-work required in volatile markets. The leaders, who are closest to the situation and can respond most quickly, make the important decisions.
  • The operations of the company are aligned with strategy¬†as it gets translated into objectives that then are cascaded down the organisation, and integrated as part of operational plans and budgets. Processes and ways of working are aligned with the goals and the strategy, through tools such as management by objectives, and balanced scorecards that capture outcomes and leading indicators of those outcomes. In addition, such processes provide a structure to coordinate activities across units, to explicitly map dependencies, and define performance commitments across silos.
  • The strategy is communicated time and time again. The message is clear, simple and consistent, and focused on what matters most. It shows genuine engagement with employees – it explains the logic behind the strategy, and states how employees can participate, and help with its successful execution. Communication success is measured in terms of how well the message has been understood throughout the company.
  • The employees are committed to the strategy. Much time is spent on strategy and there is a continuous commitment such as reviews on an on-going basis to measure progress and achievement. The strategy becomes the driving force behind everything the company does – with employees having a clear sense of their respective roles and responsibilities. Decision rights and parameters are defined for employees at all levels. They are then empowered, incentivised, and held accountable for the delivery of specific results, through a clear link between performance and rewards.

Sharpen Creative Focus

Let me explain, all of our resources are finite – time, energy, money, ideas – by choosing to do X you’ve decided to not do Y. When you’re a thought leader the goal should be to create with intent. To have some guardrails, some parameters so that you have a process that enables you to hone your creative focus towards things that are aligned to your business strategy. This doesn’t mean you’ll never get to dabble in a different medium or experiment with ideas you haven’t quite refined. It means that you are clear about what your intent is when you create content.

Your intent could be to scratch a creative itch, to have some fun, or to just think something through. It could also be to further refine something you learned from a client. You may be drawn to create by a concept that popped into your head or something that has been gnawing at you. These drivers stimulate the creative process and if we pause and ask what is the objective of the goal then we can produce more of what is relevant and less of what is extraneous. I realize relevant and extraneous are subjective terms but I’m using them with regards to the goals and objectives of your business. If you are committed to going after the leadership space and all of your resources are aligned to create content for sales people, that is a distraction, not something that will further your business goals.

Constraints actually accelerate the creative process, a lack of intent hinders it. If I put you in front of a canvas and hand you a paintbrush and ask you to ‘create’ something how would you respond? Most of us will stand there and stare at a blank canvas for a long time waiting for something awesome to randomly come to us. It’s frustrating. But, if I put you in front of the same canvas and ask you to paint an apple or a kid in a sandbox you still have the freedom to express yourself in any way that you see fit. I’ve given you some guidelines that speed the process up and allow you to get started with a clear objective in mind. It does not inhibit your creativity at all – it actually releases it.

So, while it may feel a bit counter-intuitive to you creatives, I’d strongly suggest to add a touch of process, a little bit of constraint, and a dose of strategy to the process of creating and developing top notch content.

Developing an Integrated Business Plan

  • The Venture: Brief description of the business, its location and scope;
  • Description of the Business: What business is to be established? What products or services are to be offered? What is the target market and its size? What is the best way to offer the products to the market? What are the critical success factors for the business? What are the possibilities of growth of the market under study? What are the positive and negative points of the business?
  • The Market: What is the big market and the best segment status to compete? What is the size of the segment and its growth possibilities? What is the geographical distribution of the market? What are the seasonal fluctuations for demands? What is the estimated value and the location of the business? Highlight the positive and negative points of this market.
  • The Competition: What are the direct competitors to the business? What other substitute businesses or products will compete with the product? What is the size of competitors? What analysis can be drawn about the competitors? What is the company’s price strategy? What is the distribution strategy? What is the technical assistance strategy for the company’s products or services? What is the quality concept for the product? What selling methods are to be applied? What the means available for publicizing the products or services?
  • Description of the Venture’s Product: What is the technology used in the product? What is its current development stage? What function and application does the product have? What innovative solutions can be used to serve the market? What are the regulations and technical standards governing the product? What analysis can be drawn on the relation between the product and the environment?
  • Price: What is the price competitiveness? What is the price strategy to be used? (in this case, study the prices that exist in the domestic market and the price of the similar imported products). What margins are appropriate to work with?
  • Suppliers: Where are the suppliers located? What inputs are imported? How to obtain the necessary inputs for the product? What are the delivery times for the inputs and the minimum quantities required for the product?
  • Productive Process: What is the flow of the productive process? – present an example of the process core, what is the planned number of employees? What will the installations of the business be like?
  • Marketing / Commercial Plan: What are the potential customers and their locations? What is the best way to attract the customers? What will the sales channels for the product be? How will the sales promotions be conducted? What are the best suppliers of inputs? How much should be invested in advertising? How will the distribution system for the products, and the technical assistance thereof, be operated? Who are the opinion makers for the product? What is the potential and sales estimate for each the product?
  • Costs: Cost estimates shall be generated for those inputs directly involved in the production of the asset – fixed costs and overhead, as well as the level of reliability of forecasts for the critical costs of the venture.

Marketing Strategy

  • Work with you to create a baseline “state of the business” evaluation. You need a clear understanding of your market, your products and/or services, what sets you apart from competitors, and your market share. You need to know not only what you are doing, but also what your competitors are doing and how it’s different (or similar) to what you offer. Be detailed about your business’ strengths, weaknesses, external threats, and opportunities.
  • Get a handle on product positioning. What makes your product special? What features make it stand out? Decide what features will appeal to different customers. For some, convenience is a top priority, but others are just looking for a good price. And still others hold out for top quality. You can’t offer everything, so determine what makes the most sense for your business.
  • Help you clarify marketing goals. What are you trying to achieve? A growth in sales? By how much? More customers? How many? Keep a running list of large and small goals.
  • Define tactics. How will you achieve your goals? There are many ways: sales contact by phone, email or in person. There’s social media marketing. There’s direct (snail) mail. And there’s advertising. Decide when you will utilize which methods to reach your goals.
  • Draw up a marketing budget. Remember, to make money you (usually) have to spend money. You should never spend more than you can afford, but over time you’ll win more business and your marketing budget can expand accordingly.

 

Better Execution Management System

When you implement an execution management system, there are certain things you need to do simultaneously. Taking the following steps will improve the efficacy of the Execution Management System.

  • To begin with, it is necessary that you make short-term plans instead of long-term ones. Meet up on a quarterly basis; decide on the next set of actions and also the way to go about them. When you meet once in a year, the discussions get longer and the strategies more complicated. Consequently, sound executive management automatically becomes least feasible. Short-term plans, on the other hand, are better executed and the entire scenario looks better at the end of the year.
  • Cost reduction exercises are common in every enterprise or market. But more often than not, costs reductions lead to negative impacts on the business model. This is not desirable. So, it is necessary that you review your plan of cost reduction before implementing it. It is found that cost restructuring instead of cost reduction actually helps in better execution of business strategies.
  • When it comes to strategizing and executing of these strategies, business enterprises consider certain Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPIs. But the KPIs determined long back lose significance over the time and hence, bring no real value for the organization. So, the best thing to do is to select indicators that are relevant and matter the most. These can be related to cash position, exposure to short or long-term risks and access to capital.
  • It is not enough to define an objective but you need to implement it. People in the organization have to take ownership and work towards achieving the pre-determined goals. Let people debate, raise issues, suggest modifications and only then accept the objective. Even if this means investing few weeks of time, never stop yourself as the end result will be satisfactory.
  • It is easy to implement strategies and execute them when things go as planned. But it is extremely difficult to even think rationally in times of crisis. Performance coaching, quite popular these days, helps managers keep their calm and stay focused in difficult times. It ensures that plans get executed even with the obstacles.

Organize Business Data Efficiently

It can be used for so many different purposes and it makes it easier to share information within the company structure at any point in time.

Network data integration is used in:

Retail operations

Healthcare industries

Construction industries

Big corporations

Factories

Real Estate Companies

And many more businesses

The Data Software

A wide variety of reports are generated within company data from various sources of software. The software is usually customized for the business that uses it, with ongoing tweaks and updates to improve operation and functionality.

Data integration software is often used for:

Sales data and reporting

Customer data and reporting

Financial management

Inventory management and reports

Employee performance data

And a whole lot more

Uses for Data Integration Software

The main uses of data integration software in company structures is to review past information, see current information, and forecast future information. Predictions can be a scary thing, but software helps make it a little more accurate. This is mainly because the software reviews the past, sees the present, and determines the potential future for sales, profits, inventory, employee performance, etc.

Data integration software is used for:

Analytics

Comparisons

Projections

History

Etc.

The Analytics

Analytics utilize various data to pull up reports and information for various purposes.

This includes:

Profit and loss

Sales volume averaging

Daily, weekly, monthly inventory counts per product

Etc.

Comparisons

Comparison functionality is used to see differences and make predictions with various data, depending on the business’s needs.

Example uses include:

Sku by sku data comparisons

Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly sales comparing

Employee productivity comparisons by day, week, month, year, etc.

Investment or stock comparisons within the company

Projections

A business needs insight into the future through the creation of prediction reports, generated by software that handles data analysis and mathematical calculations. Predicting is important in order to make preparations for success, whether it is for sales, employee expenses, profit and loss, or any other purpose.

Projections are used for:

Sales forecasting

Inventory preparation

Customer counting or data

History

In order for a business to succeed, it needs to look backwards, as well as forwards. Analyzing the past is a great way to identify issues, adjust budgets, predict future employment needs, and so much more.

Historical Analysis and Reporting is used for:

Sales number retrieval based on day, week, or month

Profits for a specific period of time

Employee performance data for a specified period of time

Inventory data from specific periods, such as month, week, holidays, etc.

Sku data such as sales history, inventory history, product movement, etc. for specific periods

And many other uses

Participative Strategy

Shift the strategic-leadership role of the top executives team from ‘all-knowing decision-makers’ to ‘social architects’.

The starting point is an honest assessment of the readiness of the organisation to open up which then leads to determining the best way to stimulate engagement. Once the process for interacting with employees is set-up, leaders have to constantly fine-tune it while continuously reaffirm the open culture and the vital importance of the contribution of their employees. As part of this, they need to demonstrate some vulnerability to match the exposure that their employees might feel when expressing themselves openly. This approach requires a more direct, personal, and empathetic exchange with employees than traditional town hall meeting allows. Red Hat experience shows that making this shift does not imply an abdication of strategic leadership. Its CEO and other top executives still have the responsibility to step in if things go awry and to make the difficult trade-offs that are the essence of good strategy.

Build a culture of openness, transparency, collaboration and peer review.

The best way to increase the quality of insights is through variety. To participate to a more open strategy development, employees from across the company need to believe that the environment they work in is capable of metabolizing their diversity of opinions. Red Hat’s wanted to be more systematic about how they analysed the market, customers and prospects as an input into their strategy. They initiated an idea generation process (that would ultimately last five months) and created a cross-functional ‘engagement team’ charged with inventing ever-new ways to maintain transparency and expand the conversation. Those included the use wikis, blogs as well as company-wide online chats with the CEO who could be asked any question about the strategy process (or about anything else). In parallel, the strategy team posted status updates to the wiki and replied to comments on their team’s internal blog. This openness and access to variety of ideas enabled the thinking to evolve as part of the process. For instance, one of the conversations started about the need for a defensive differentiation strategy that would halt competitors’ progress. However, as ideas were shared and discussed openly, it became clear that creating more value for customers through the products and services would yield more compelling results.

Involve employees throughout the process strategic planning – from idea generation to the execution.

The best ideas from Red Hat’s idea generation phase coalesced into 9 strategic priorities, each with their devoted ‘exploration’ team sponsored by a member of the executive team such as the CIO or VP of Operations for instance. To execute more efficiently on the opportunities, the company headed up each team with leaders one level or two removed from the senior leadership team. Those, in turn, tapped the people with the most knowledge and the most interesting ideas to take charge of actually developing the strategy and the actionable plans in each area. In most strategic planning projects, these teams would be asked to present the strategies and plans they had built back to the leadership team to make decisions. But at Red Hat, the accountability and responsibility was left in the hands of the people who knew the most i.e. those who were doing the work. They were trusted to execute the plans without further approvals.

Create an open approach to communication and engagement.

To keep a large number of people communicating, informed and involved at all levels in the company, Red Hat set-up a specific cross-functional team that included representatives from the human resources, branding, internal communication and information technology teams. Regular updates on progress and deep dives on strategy became a part of most company’s manager meeting. This kept the momentum behind the strategy strong and ensured that Red Hat stayed focused on executing it. In addition, strategy became a continuous process – updated and evaluated on an ongoing basis instead of once year on a fixed calendar. Initiative leaders communicated via town hall-style meetings, internet chat sessions, and frequent blog posts. Evolving funding needs of the initiatives were directly fed into the company’s annual budget process. The pillar of the communication about the strategy process was an iconic diagram that worked like a “You Are Here” map. It would show people where any discussion might fit into the overall strategy to ensure that everyone understood how his or her work fit into a larger vision.

About Corporate Strategy And Marketing

Strategy, within a business context, is commonly confused with strategic planning. Strategy is about the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of intended goals and objectives to reach, whereas strategic planning is about the ‘how’ to achieve them through tactics, campaigns and actions.

Strategy is all about the choices we make in utilising our resources within a competitive environment and relative to our customers, which give our organisation the distinct advantage at a point in time. Therefore, strategy is identifying the next ‘big thing’ before others do, and gaining a competitive edge in it to be able to take full advantage.

Business strategy is rapidly changing with the ever emerging trends and shifting developments within the modern, very connected world. In the past, the business concept and plan was set in stone and only changed yearly (if that). However, this is not flexible enough any more and will result in a poorly performing, stagnate organisation, lacking in innovation. This is why most of the top performing companies in years past, such as Kodak, are now nowhere to be seen today. Businesses must treat strategy as a living, evolving entity, ensuring that emerging trends, opportunities, threats and new information are all taken into account and integrated into it accordingly.

Every industry today alters and evolves so rapidly that an organisation which fails to update and adapt their strategic objectives and plan regularly will soon discover that the goal posts it set for itself twelve months prior will quickly become completely irrelevant or in the wrong direction. Most organisations don’t know they’re going out of business until it’s too late! They’re the ones that fail to recognise vital elements within the industry their involved in and then, when the consumer no longer sees their product offering as valuable, it’s often too late to react and update the strategy.

Additionally, in the past (and too commonly now too, unfortunately), strategy was built around a set budget, rather than the other way around. Using a budget as a cornerstone to build strategy is a very short-sighted and limiting method as it results in the organisation having to negotiate and water down the essential goals necessary to remain strong, relevant and competitive.

Obviously there are limited resources with any business, however strategy should be set first so that all goals are established initially, and then budget can be allocated in order to prioritise them and develop the best action plans associated with each with the resources at hand.

With the rapid shifting of market demographics and trends, strategy is more crucial than ever before and absolutely no organisation can afford to ignore it or become complacent. There are too many inevitable pathways for competitors to join the market and do something innovatively different which threatens a currently established business. And, on the other side, a new business entering a new market must have a comprehensive strategy to capitalise on their niche and fully utilise their strengths to take on the well-established players in the industry.

A solid, flexible strategy will focus and grow the organisation, while strengthening its position against potential threats.

Marketing has a key role in updating and enacting strategy, as it’s responsible for the revenue generating marketing mix and external communications, and is the only business function looking outward toward the market, alongside the sales force, obviously. Other internal functions, such as operations, accounting, I.T. and so on, are ‘supply-side’ biased, entirely focused on keeping the internal core operating.

Through the gathering of marketing intelligence, the marketing department can keep a close eye on fluctuations and changes that will directly impact on the organisation’s overall strategy and develop ways to address these. These can include, for example, regulatory and legal updates that impact on how business is conducted domestically and internationally. Remaining ignorant to significant changes in the marketplace is a guaranteed way to hinder progress and risk the health of an organisation.

Outgoing demographic shifts need to be monitored, and not simply taken for granted. With the rise of social media and technology, the consumer is far more informed and possesses far more power than ever before. Marketing must appreciate these fluctuations and rise to the challenge of developing strategy and tactics which best capitalise on new and rising niches.

Marketing must also come to always expect and defend against new competition, who see the opportunity within change and approach the market differently, not playing by the traditional paradigms or rules. They are desperate to ‘eat the big fish’ and can quickly eat away at market share simply by thinking outside of the well-established square.