Before you head off to a strategy session to discuss your new venture, we have a few small business tips that will provide you with the right start-up advice to create an effective strategy that will get your business off the ground.
Here are some small business tips to turn your business into a success:
Make it personal – the quality of a strategy discussion is strongly related to the quality of thought and depth of insight of those participating in the discussion. People need time and space to think, so have the participants do some of their thinking before the session. Give them some pre-work that will get their minds working and their intellect engaged even before they walk in.
This does not mean providing mounds of reading in a bound folder that resembles a telephone directory, it’s just a few questions spread across four or five sheets of paper with lots of white space where people can jot down their ideas in response to the questions posed.
Make the questions personal and relevant: What are your reasons for being part of the team to start this venture? In 18 months’ time, how will you measure your success as part of this new venture? What do you bring to the table that will make this venture a success?
Send these questions out a few days before the session and ask people to take some time out before the session to think about the answers and jot down some ideas.
Engage early – any trainer knows that an ice- breaker increases participation in a training session. The principle is that if you get people to talk early on they are far more likely to actively participate as the session progresses. The content of the discussion in an icebreaker is normally pretty meaningless but the role that it plays in the process is incredibly important.
In a startup team working on a strategy for a new organisation, the last thing you want is total domination by one or two individuals. You want everyone present to give input and build on ideas. Build in an activity that requires the active participation and contribution of everyone early on and you are more likely to get an even spread of participation as the process progresses. Remember that the more people contribute to the discussion, the more likely they are to accept and embrace the outcome of that discussion.
Big picture to small detail. There is a fine line between being too structured and driving the session down a certain path, and being so unstructured that you never get anywhere or achieve anything. You need to find this balance. It helps to have a broad overall framework and then allow flexibility and creativity within the framework. It’s useful to work from big picture to small details over a number of hours.
Start off by getting the team to talk about where the business is going in the longer term: What’s the vision? Where will we be in five years if we are really successful? Then move down to the medium term with more specific goals and plans and finish the session talking about what each person needs to do in the next 30 days to get these plans off the ground.
4. Post-Session Plan.
30-day action plan. To get action out of the session you need to make it immediate and measurable. That’s why I always try to end a session by getting each team member to devise a 30-day action plan. This creates urgency about what needs to happen when you walk into the office on Monday morning after your weekend away.
The plan must be written and shared to make it meaningful and each person should be challenged and questioned about what they put into their action plan. Ensure that each person is held accountable for delivering on their plan within 30 days of the strategy session. If you don’t follow up first time round, don’t try it a second time.
Tangible output. The person leading the session should follow up as soon as possible afterwards with some sort of tangible output: a one-page summary of what was decided, a typed vision statement with specific action points or a collage depicting the key outputs of the session.
The participants of the session take their action plans a lot more seriously if they know that the leader is aware of what was decided and that he or she has taken the time and effort to capture it and share it with everyone who was present. You’ll find the summary, vision statement or collage that you created pinned up on notice boards, pasted in people’s diaries or popping up as a screen saver on the computers of those who are part of the dream.
Joel Barker said: “Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with vision is making a positive difference.” A properly executed start-up strategy session can be a powerful tool for fostering vision and action in an entrepreneurial team.