Do small businesses need a Strategy?

Ahh Strategy, what a grand word it is.

Used in everything from chess to the ‘Art of War’, it oozes sophistication, intellectual superiority and entrepreneurial prowess.

Clearly, it’s easy to see why every large organisation needs a comprehensive, multi-tiered and detailed strategy for every component of its corporate existence. But what about small businesses? Surely being strategic or having a strategy is just coming over a little bit arrogant or maybe not living in the real world?

No. Absolutely not.

Let me be very clear here. Every business, no matter how big or small, needs a strategy.

Ok, well, ‘You would say that, wouldn’t you? As a Management Consultant’ I hear you say. That’s a fair criticism, but it doesn’t make the requirement for a strategy any less true. Humour me for a minute.

Recognise the mode you’re in

‘Ok, so why do we have to ‘go away’ for a day, lock ourselves in a room, meditate, use big words and focus on ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ when we have work to do? How is that going to help us, exactly?’

Here’s the thing. Assuming your business isn’t a Lifestyle business (check out ‘How much is a Lifestyle business worth?’ if you’re not sure) then, typically, your business is likely to be running in one of two modes at any one time; tactical or strategic.

Tactical mode is the state that I most often find businesses in when I start working with them, and it’s usually why they need me. How do I recognise this mode? Here are a few clues;


Lack of planning Poor control of cashflow
Poor concept of how to scale Minimal process implementation
Zero financial forecasts or budgets Low levels of staff empowerment


See anything you recognise?

If you do, then it’s quite likely that your de facto mode for business operation is tactical. This does NOT mean that you won’t or can’t be successful or that your business isn’t a nice place to work or that you don’t have happy customers. It just means that your standard way of looking at the world is to purely concentrate on the issues and problems that you can see in front of you, and you rarely consider how things might be different if you looked further over the horizon.

It’s very easy for a business to get into a tactical mode of operation and simply stay there forever, and quite often these are the types of businesses that become frustrated when they hit revenue ‘glass ceilings’ or when trusted employees just leave. It appears to them that the ability to change their growth trajectory is borderline impossible for reasons they can’t quite grasp. The honest truth is that, if they stay as they are, they really won’t grow.

And here, is the key. The last thing you need to do is lock yourself away and meditate yourself into a new state of mind before you can attempt to change things. You simply need to take a little time to consider what your business might look like if you had a strategic outlook.

Trust the Process

Trust me when I tell you that even the process of creating a small strategy for your business can have significant impact, not only on the business itself but on the mindset of the people within it.

Having a strategy that provides a clear and unambiguous direction for scale, sales, marketing, operations, cashflow or process can fundamentally change how you feel about where you can get to and just how high you can go. Without it, honestly, you won’t be able to recognise growth if you see it, as you’ll be too busy dealing with today’s biggest issues.

So, strategies are important as they help you see and visualise the big picture in the context of what you want to achieve. However, tactics are important too. When used properly, tactics are the small course corrections that a smart team uses in order to, ultimately, help them on their way to achieving their strategic aims. No strategy that I’ve ever come across has been implemented properly without some tactical ‘manoeuvring’ along the way.

Your corporate SatNav

Think of it like this; setting a strategy is like plotting a route on your satnav. You have a very clear view of where you’re going, and the directions are equally as clear. Tactics come into play when you need to be diverted because of some unforeseen circumstance. You may even go in a completely different direction, but ultimately you get to where you need to go. Being too strategic and not implementing tactics when needed is myopic. They can be very helpful; you just shouldn’t rely on them all the time.

Be aware of the big picture for your business. Think about what this means and employ some simple strategies to help you get there. Avoid being in tactical mode all the time or it will inhibit how much you can grow. And remember, every large business was small once, and it was fundamentally their growth strategies that helped them get to where they are today.

You can do the same.


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