So you’ve spent considerable time and resources developing a business or marketing strategy. You’re clear on where you’re going and you’re excited about the future. But soon enough, you get bogged down with the day-to-day, the strategy is retired to the shelf, and in 12 months time when you have the chance to think about it again, you realise that nothing has changed and you are no-where. Unfortunately, this story is an all too common reality for small businesses and for strategists such as myself. But how do you prevent it?

This problem highlights the absolute importance of 4 additional elements – action planning, staff involvement, delegation and monitoring.

Once you have your strategic direction and goals in place (the what), you need to think about what needs to happen for you to get there (the how). Making this translation is a hard one. Say, for example, you want to increase the number of people who enter your store every day by 10%. The ‘how’ part could be to introduce new products that appeal to a wide variety of age groups. You then need to break this into steps over a certain time period, such as:
In 1-2 months times: Investigate new products
In 2-3 months time: Source product samples
In 3-4 months time: Test new products
In 4-5 months time: Assess product viability
In 5-6 months time: Add new products to standard product range if
deemed viable

As you can see, ticking off the various steps on a ‘to-do-list’ is much easier than trying to simply increase store traffic by 10%. This is action planning. Translating a goal into workable steps.

You then need to get to work on the ‘doing’. This is where staff involvement and delegation comes in. Many business owners try to do this themselves – become overwhelmed, bogged down, and eventually give up. My strongest advice is to use the people and professionals around you. Assign tasks to your people and create ownership. Explain to them what they need to do, by when (a deadline is very important) and what it means to you. A receptionist who collates client details for a database and sends out the monthly newsletter should understand why they are doing it and why it is so important. I’ll guarantee you that staff attitudes and performance will change significantly when they can feel some ownership over the process. And don’t forget the powerful message it sends to your clients when the receptionist can talk openly about the latest marketing campaign or the rationale behind your new logo – see Scott’s blog of last week – ‘all aboard’.

You also need to meet regularly, say once a month, to monitor progress and review tasks. Here is where you must lead by example. Give yourself something to do (even if it’s small) and get it done! If not, your people will eventually lose all enthusiasm. Keep them focused, excited and importantly, share the results. You don’t need to ‘open the books’, as they say, but you can be transparent with any client feedback and sales increases (in percentage format).

Action planning, involvement, delegation and monitoring – simple yet so effective. Now I have given you all my secrets, I’m off for a relaxing break for Christmas and New Year. See you all again in 2009!