One of the recurring themes we find when speaking with SMEs is that there is little clarity about what they are trying to achieve. Whether this is from a start up owner, or an established company looking to change.
Simply put, not many managers or owners have the clarity of vision. They do not have a goal of where they would like to be in 5 years time (not that 5 years is the obvious time horizon, but let’s use that to draw a line in the sand).
Ask yourself the simple question, “I’m running this business, but what am I trying to do?” I have seen numerous examples such as the following:
• Increasing turnover
• Increasing profits
• Increasing the number of customers
• Satisfy our customers
• Raise the profile of a social or environmental issue
Great, but how exactly do you do this? Do the managers/owners set the vision? Do they know exactly what there are delivering and to whom? Or is the company flailing around trying to meet the demands of everybody?
However good the reason is, the above examples are merely short-term goals. They never really answer the question “what am I trying to do and what business am I in to achieve this?
Hence, come back to basics, answer the question, what business are you really in? Not marketing or television, PR or consultancy. But what ‘business’ are you really in?
Take BMW for example, their stated Corporate Strategy (their ‘vision’ or statement of what they are there to achieve) is:
“Identifying potential and encouraging growth. Knowing what we represent. Recognising where our strengths lie and making the best use of every opportunity. Following a clear strategy. Goals we have attained are in essence the point of departure for new challenges. This is the philosophy that inspires every individual at the BMW Group. It influences the company’s structure and it plays a vital role in the decision-making process. Our corporate ethos finds its expression in the uncompromising pursuit of the superlative. The result? Outstanding brands with an unmistakable profile. Automobiles and motorcycles which fascinate people all over the world and which win legions of new admirers every day. And a degree of success which sees the BMW Group go from strength to strength.
With the three brands, BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, the BMW Group has its sights set firmly on the premium sector of the international automobile market. To achieve its aims, the company knows how to deploy its strengths with an efficiency that is unmatched in the automotive industry. The strategic objective is clearly defined: The BMW Group is the leading provider of premium products and premium services for individual mobility.”
What you will notice is the lack of “we make cars and motorcycles”. In a nutshell, their vision is clear and there business is about creating ‘lifestyles’ by creating demand for premium products and services.
Now whilst this mantra may apply to any business, the skill in management is making these types of statement and then applying them to your business. It drives the business and becomes part of your leadership and you as leader are there to drive strategy and ensure execution. Remember though, this is not exhaustive and that strategy is not the destination, it is merely part of a journey. The idea of leadership is to set the agenda and steer the ship, to empower managers to manage and to ensure that the short term decisions are congruent with the longer term vision. But if you don’t have this vision, then how can you answer the short term decisions?
Hence, ask yourself the questions, “what business am I really in and what am I am doing to lead the team towards the vision?”