By Gail Goodman, Pepperlane Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer
Have you heard the phrase ‘she can’t see the forest for the trees?’ It means being so consumed by the details and the doing that we aren’t remembering the big picture. We’ve all been there, especially recently. The changes brought by Covid have thrown us all into short-term adapt-and-survive mode. Totally understandable. But as the pandemic timeline stretches on, it is important to take the time to ‘visit the forest.’ Checking in on your strategic objectives is the best way to make sure you are focusing on the right tactics and tasks.
When you are building a business, it is very important to have a strategic foundation. I am not talking about a 100-slide presentation or a 10-page business plan. Your strategic foundation can be much simpler. It is understanding what you do, who you do it for, and how you will make money doing it. Your strategic foundation should also set your growth goals and timelines. While these may sound like very basic questions, I generally find that many business owners (including some that are wildly successful), have trouble being crisp and clear about their strategy.
Why does having a clear strategy matter? Two words: Repeatability and profitability.
Doing the same (or similar) services for many clients creates leverage. You can re-use assets, like proposals and project plans. You have a good sense of how long it will take to deliver. You don’t need to spend time inventing new processes, you just repeat what has worked in the past. You know exactly how to wow your customers (and inspire word of mouth referrals). If your strategy defines what you do and who you do it for clearly, you will find yourself building a repeatable business.
Your business will only work over the long haul, if you make a profit. And you can only make money if customers pay you more than it costs to deliver your product or service. Sounds really basic and obvious. But costs can be sneaky. And discounting can be tempting. A sound strategic foundation that clearly articulates your value along with pricing which reflects that value (while covering your costs) will lead to a profitable business.
What’s the best way to stay strategic?
Strategic Foundation already in place? Set aside some time on a regular basis—like the beginning of each quarter—to review how you are doing, notice where you might be off track and set your intentions for the quarter to come. If you have some difficult issues to tackle, bring it to your next Boost and get some help. It can be really helpful to find a peer group to do this together and hold each other accountable.
Need to create or revisit your Strategic Foundation? Now is a great time to do the work. You can start by using this guide to begin writing down your strategy. You may notice it is hard to do alone. It really helps to have some structure and outside input from your peers. Come to a Boost and get feedback on your strategic growth plan.
Wishing you all the best as you visit the forest to find your strategic focus!
Gail Goodman is Pepperlane's Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer. She grew Constant Contact from pre-revenue to $375 million in annual sales. She led the IPO and ran it as a public company for eight years before selling it for $1.1B. Gail sits on the boards of Shopify, Lola Travel, and MassChallenge, and is deeply involved as both mentor and board chair with Entrepreneurship for All an organization fostering entrepreneurship in economically challenged communities. Gail is a proud step-mother and mother-in-law.