2 Old School Businesses that can succeed in the digital age...if they play their cards right

1.     Construction and maintenance service businesses

Here, I am talking about HVAC, plumbing, electrical and other technical, skill-based services.  While AI and robots may make many office jobs obsolete, I think we have a good while until a robot can come to your home to fix a broken pipe or install a new A/C unit.  In these examples, I am referencing in-home applications but, the same advantages translate to larger, more vertically integrated construction and maintenance service businesses.

Why they can continue to win…

I already referenced their skill-based and geographical nature.  Electricians are trained, not born and an electrician based in another state is of no value to you when you need to re-wire that old house you are fixing up.  Those two facts alone ensure the survival of the industry itself but, not the survival of your service business

Steps to ensure survival…

While the digitization of the world may not impact the direct service, you provide.  Installing a toilet is still installing a toilet, there will be (and already has been) a significant impact to how you get and retain business.  Word of mouth has gone the way of social media and is more powerful than ever.  A recommendation (& negative rants) on Facebook from a customer will be out there forever influencing the buying decisions of future customers so, it’s best to realize this and manage your business as such.  Respond to comments in social.  Incentivize reviews on social/digital platforms and interact with current and potential customers on social by providing them information relevant to your service (e.g. tutorials on how to know when to call them versus DIY).

Skilled labor is on the decrease while demand remains steady.  That is assuredly leading to a shortage of qualified employees for service businesses.  Those companies with an inside track to talent will be a step ahead of the competition.  Whether they train their own or arrange preferential placement status with local technical schools, securing a healthy pipeline of solid talent is a must have line-item in their strategic plans.

2.     Eldercare

I’m not revealing any crazy secrets here.  America is aging.  And as such, the services related to aging are experiencing higher demand.  Whether we talking senior housing, transportation, concierge services or even hospice, the volume of aging Americans is creating business opportunity for those willing and able to jump into the market.

Why they can continue to win…

High demand, high demand, high demand.  Senior housing centers are popping up all over the place.  With such rapid growth, be weary of localized ‘bubbles’ when selecting where to apply your efforts. 

Steps to ensure survival…

Businesses can set themselves apart if they can master the art of catering to two completely different demographics.  On one hand, the seniors in their care need to feel well cared for and comfortable with the service.  And on the other, their children.   This segmentation impacts every aspect of business.  For example, marketing will need to translate to new and old school methods.  While social media marketing may be effective in marketing towards the children of seniors, other methods may be necessary to connect directly with seniors themselves.

One thing never changes with time when it comes to service industries.  Those that provide the most positive customer experiences will win.  Investments in this area transcend generational gaps and are even more critical when you are dealing with the health and well-being of someone’s loved one.

If you or your organization would like assistance in building your strategic plan, facilitating the leadership planning discussion, mining the metrics for the business or just want to see if you are on the right track, reach out to me at steve@stevebazemore.com.

 

7 Challenges that will threaten the existence of your business (if they aren't already)

A lot has changed in the last 20 years for business leaders and owners.  And the challenges keep on coming.  Here are specific challenges you will face if you aren’t already as we head into the back half of 2017.

Expectation of Easy

It’s 2017.  It’s the age of free two-day delivery, instant information at your fingertips and if you want it, you can get it right now.  That’s all well and good if you are in a technology business and the trends are going for you.  But, what if you are in a more traditional service business or you deal in complex or customized products that require lead time?

Invest the time to design experiences that are seamless and simple.  Rather than fighting the trend, integrate it into your product and service design.  This may mean re-engineering your processes.  It may mean additional product design.  It may mean simplifying your pricing schemes. 

Rising expectation of value for a dollar

The dollar menu, free tutorials on YouTube, and massive scale driven businesses like Amazon/Wal-mart are setting the stage for customer expectations.  And they don’t just want it now, they expect to get it cheaply as well. But, what if you don’t have the immense scale of an Amazon that will allow you to lower costs?

The value equation should be so obvious that price is a non-issue.  Note, I did not say you should offer a low price.  You don’t have to be the cheapest but, you do need to be the best value for the dollar spent.  While obvious, it will keep customers coming back again and again.  Offering “free” content and information in addition to your core product or service is a short path to building up this goodwill.

Social Media is the Media

How many people do you think see and are in a position to act on the flyer you stuffed in their mailbox or the ad you put in a local magazine or newspaper?  The answer is, not many.  Most people these days are too busy staring at their phones to notice other media.

 Aside from the insanely low cost it takes to get into things like Facebook ads (, the ability to target your customers in social media settings far exceeds the capability of print media.  So, embrace mobile digital.  Embrace social media and think of it as a way to build one to one relationships with your customers rather than a one size fits all solution.

Lack of skilled labor

Forbes recently published an article highlighting that “The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte concluded about a year ago that some 22% of skilled manufacturing workers, or 2.7 million valued employees, are retiring over the next decade.”  That means new workers will need to be hired.  Where will they come from?  Enrollment in apprenticeship programs certainly hasn’t risen enough to cover the gap. 

Instead of competing for the little talent left, hire for attitude and aptitude and train the skills needed to differentiate our business.

Customer Confusion and Distraction

A recent study found that, on average, we touch our phone 2,617 times daily.  Around 100 of those times, we are checking something; Facebook, email, a text, etc.  We carry with us the most useful and most distracting piece of technology ever made.  People are tethered to their phones.  It is the primary object of our attention for media and communication.  It’s amazing we can get anything else done.

To win in this environment means doing one of two things.  One, fit your service into the chaos of their day.  For example, merge your advertising into their already existing social media habits or design your services as a hands-off solution for your customers.  Two, wow them with over the top experiences, design or quality.  Be so good they can’t ignore you.

Healthcare

I am no healthcare expert but, it doesn’t take one to see the high rate at which costs of proving healthcare rising.  Legislation over the past few years has increased the burden on small businesses to provide healthcare for employees and no matter which administration is in office, I don’t see a reprieve coming anytime soon.

Waiting for a solution from government is a futile effort.  Yes, you can work to find the most optimal healthcare plans.  I am not the expert in this area but it appears there’s no alternative to recognizing the current situation, understanding the impact on your bottom line and going out and making more money to cover the rising cost.

Retaining top talent

It used to be that folks got out of school, got a good job and they stayed, hard at work, for as long as the company would have them.  With attention spans shortening over the years and the rapid expansion and contraction of different industries, employees are now expecting that they will work for several companies throughout their career.  Thus, it should be no surprise that we see people jumping ship when they get a newer, better opportunity.

So, how do you keep top talent.  Even with millennials, it boils down to the basics.  Involve your employees in setting strategy, let them have ownership over success, recognize/reward them for that success, provide opportunities for development and foster strong relationships between managers and employees.

If you or your organization would like assistance in building your strategic plan, facilitating the leadership planning discussion, mining the metrics for the business or just want to see if you are on the right track, reach out to me at steve@stevebazemore.com.

 

6 strategy mistakes you may be making right now

Strategy is defined as a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.  Sounds simple, right?  So, why is it that so few organizations do it well.  Here are the most common mistakes I’ve observed.  Avoid them and you may just find yourself in rarefied air as one of the few organizations with a differentiated and powerful strategic plan.

Mistake #1: “We are good at” does not equal a competitive advantage

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I think I am a pretty good writer but that doesn’t mean I have a competitive advantage in writing.  Stephen King, on the other hand, cold probably claim this ability as a competitive advantage.  Being good at something is good but it takes a significant leap to get to true advantage.

Instead, ask your customers what it is that sets you apart from the rest of the market.  Take that most common answer and double-down, invest and make it an even more distinct advantage.  Your customers say there’s nothing special about your organization?  Then pick the thing you are best at, invest and keep asking. 

Mistake #2: Growth is always good

Growing too fast can put significant pressure on your cash flow.  If expansion happens too quickly, you may also outgrow your customer service capabilities, facilities or your own time.

Instead, build the ability to scale into every choice.  Buy the computer system that will allow you to handle 10x the customers you currently have today.  Build a staffing model that can expand without handcuffing talent.

Mistake #3: That’s where the market is headed, we must go too

The world has gone to digital, instantaneous communication.  So, that means your business need to meet that market, right?  Wrong.  The decision to follow the market or to depends entirely on your specific customer base and what they care about.  If they crave in-person communication, for instance, why invest your resources to make digital communication a strength.  While you may find a need to pursue market trends, do so in a way that matches and enhances your customer intent and resist copying the leaders.  Blindly following the market can have you sniffing exhaust….

It’s a big, big world.  While the masses move one way creating commodity situations, there will always be a segment moving the opposite direction and combing multiple macros trends to create unique products and offerings that the market didn’t even know it needed yet.  That is where the innovation happens. 

Mistake #4: Limiting yourself to incremental thinking

How many of your plans include things like, “increases sales by 10% this year.”  Don’t get me wrong, that is a great goal but, notice how your mind (and the minds of your team) go straight to assuming they just need to do more of what they are already doing to get there.  You may reach the 10% that way but you will have missing opportunities for thinking bigger and capturing market-shifting opportunities.

Instead, develop a vision of your perfect outcome.  Examine companies in other industries you feel are leaps and bounds further along than the rest of the world.  What is it that makes them special?  If you could do the same, where would your organization be.  Think big.

Mistake #5: Not linking metrics to outcomes

“Grow” is not a strategic outcome.  Sure, growth may likely be a part of your plan but without very specific actions and metrics linked to that “Grow” statement, it leaves to the imagination the ‘how’.  It leaves open to interpretation the type of growth you want and from where. 

Instead, be specific.  “Grow the X product market Y% by Z date through targeting the ABC market segment.”  It will be clear from that goal whether you’ve been successful or not.  If, amid implementing your plan, you learn something new that changes your strategic outcome then, change the statement.

Mistake #6: Trying to do too much

How many high priority initiatives does your organization have?  10? 15? 30?  I like to think I am like most other people.  I know that I find it quite difficult to focus on more than 2-3 top priority initiatives at a time.  Any more than that and it’s just a to-do list.  I don’t think I want my company’s strategy to read like a to-do list. 

Instead, by placing a majority of your leadership communication and focus on the 2-3 critical strategic outcomes, there’s very little room for confusion or mishaps in resource allocation.  Every employee can very easily point to their contribution to making the strategy real.

If you or your organization would like assistance in building your strategic plan, facilitating the leadership planning discussion, mining the metrics for the business or just want to see if you are on the right track, reach out to me at steve@stevebazemore.com.

Do you have an effective strategy?

How’s your business doing?  Are you achieving all that you had hoped when you began the year?  Often, I run across businesses that are doing well and become satisfied with incremental improvements from year to year.  But, currently the high paced change and outright overhaul of industries due to technology, shifting consumer priorities and unpredictable regulation, it’s more critical than ever for business leaders to not just know how their business is performing today but to also have in mind a clear vision of where they are going.  Having a Vision that considers the pace and transformation in the market and can then be clearly deduced into an actionable annual plan is a marker of a business that will survive and thrive through the next decade of change.

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Current State

This is the easy part.  Where are you now?  Where are you succeeding and where is it that you think you are currently underperforming?  It’s critical at this juncture to find and build metrics around your business is you don’t already have them.  Metrics will become the mileposts with which you can gauge the relative success of your business strategy and transformation.  The best metric sets include key indicators of customer, product and financial success.  You may also choose to include market indicators so you understand whether you are pacing with, ahead or behind the market.

Vision

What do you want your organization to be?  For just a moment, take the constraints away from your thinking.  Forget about the challenges of today and look forward to what will need to exist in the future for your organization to be successful.

With your leadership team and looking out 5-10 years, ask and answer these questions (in detail):

     Where’s the market?

     What will clients expect from us?

     What capabilities do the successful organizations have in that future state?

It’s important at this stage to test your thinking against other industries.  Asking thought starters like ‘Where are Apple, Facebook and Amazon headed?’ might seem irrelevant at the start but, digging in may highlight macro trends that will hit your business as well.

Future State

Back to your metrics but, this time, what would they be if you achieved everything in your vision.  The crazier the metric the better because it means you’ve looked beyond incremental improvement which in this decade isn’t good enough to keep your company alive.  How many folks remember the headlines about Blockbuster working to close stores to “improve their finances” only to be steam-rolled by the digital streaming revolution?

Execution

Execution is where it all comes together…or at least, we hope.  A grand vision is nothing without concrete, consistent action.

With your leadership team, ask and answer the following questions:

     How will we close the gap? In other words, what actions are required to move to our

Future State Vision?

The output here should be rich with detail and seem like a mountain of work.

     Which actions will make the largest difference?

     What can we do now?

     What will require more time to plan and execute?

What you can do now will become your one year plan and those items requiring more time will become your 5-year plan.  You now have a big to-do list which is a great place to start.  Where I see many businesses fail is the next step.  They fall short on truly allocating the resources to implement and become lax on the tracking and follow through.  Assigning project leads and executive sponsors is a critical step to ensuring resources are assigned to meet the goal.  Metrics around project budget, timeline and stakeholder feedback complete the picture and allow you to monitor the health of your strategic plan throughout execution.

While this is super high level, I wanted to provide some insight on how, for your business, you can dive into strategic planning and set your team up for success through strong follow through.  If you or your organization would like assistance in building your strategic plan, facilitating the leadership planning discussion, mining the metrics for the business or just want to see if you are on the right track, reach out to me at steve@stevebazemore.com.

Are you ready for 30 days of adventure?

And so, it begins…  I’ve talked before about what I believe are the 4 pillars of an extraordinary life.  For review, they are:

Health

Troubled health pulls us down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and prevent us from meeting our basic physiological needs.  Without health, it’s nearly impossible to create the mindspace and energy to provide for our own security, tend to relationships or pursue a better version of ourselves.  Above all else, it is our duty to ourselves and all those we hope to impact to maintain our health at the highest level possible.

Your contribution to the world

We each have a duty to give something back to this world before we leave.  Do you know what it is you will leave behind?  Is this how you want to be remembered?

Relationships

Cultivating great relationships takes work and are a product of understanding what you can give to those around you.  Having the love of family and friends helps fills the need to belong and be connected to something bigger than yourself.

Exploration

Man was born with the desire to explore.  We are curious beings.  Your brain comes alive when you explore.  New pathways and connections are built.  And in those experiences, lasting memories are built.  Learning and growth happens in those moments.

When I assess myself, exploration is often a place where I want more and want to be more.  So, for the next 30 days, I am challenging myself to find and document an adventure every single day.  No, I don’t have a special vacation planned.  I am not scheduled to do anything out of the ordinary.  I want to find the adventure and explore within the ordinary day to day.  I will document via photos and journaling what it is I come up with each day and 30 days from now, I will share with you what I did, what I learned.  I hope to report back that I’ve integrated exploration into the way I approach life.  I hope to make it habit.  We shall see.  Follow the journey on twitter @stevebazemore.  That’s where I will post daily… 

Here are the rules:

-An “adventure” here is defined as any activity or experience you do that is outside your comfort zone.  It is something that is new and different.

-Each adventure must take place on the day within the day.  Planning an adventure doesn’t count as doing an adventure.

-Where possible, I will try to include others in my adventure rather than making them solo efforts.

-Starts July 12, 2017 and will end August 12, 2017.

Are there other rules I should consider?

Is Facebook ruining your happy?

A little more than 30 days ago, I stopped opening FB to scroll through and see all the latest updates and pics friends had posted.  It wasn’t my idea really.  My wife first introduced the idea and dumped FB a few weeks before I decided to try reluctantly.  My first thought was about all that I might miss out on by not being on FB.  After all, the whole world is on there.  If I am not checking it daily, I might miss something important.  Here’s the truth about giving up FB.

First, FB gets ‘mad’ at you

After only a few days of not clicking on my FB app, the emails began.  So and so just updated their status.  So and so just posted a new pic.  “You’ve missed 35 updates on FB.”  I’d estimate that I was…and still am now getting 2-3 emails a day from FB.  Honestly, the emails just reaffirmed that I was doing the right thing.  I had gotten trained to the little red numbers of notifications and always felt the need to click and “see what I was missing” and I think FB knows the psychological training that goes along with this.  The emails prod you, reinforce the you might “be missing something.”

Second, you realize that nobody cares

Do all those ‘friends’ I have on FB really want to see my photos?  Do I need to see all those photos they post of their vacations, the awesome meal they prepared or OMG, their thoughts on politics?  I maybe would’ve said yes pre-FB-cleanse but, now I’d say I don’t really care.  My theory is that most things folks post are “humble brags”.  They post a cool pic of their vacation spot not because you would want to see it but, in hopes that you will think their life is awesome.  There’s a reason no one (well most people) don’t post on FB when they get fired from a job or have a crappy day.  Sure, there are legit reasons I could fathom to post that aren’t humble brags.  You may want your far-away relatives to see pics of your kids or maybe you need people to reach out to for support.  For those case however, I’d encourage to try an old-school method.  If you really want to keep in touch with family, call them.  Better yet, use Facetime.

Third, you focus on your own life

All that time spent scrolling through FB that you think is productive because it allows you to ‘stay in touch’ is really just distracting you from your own life.  We all need distractions for sure but instead of using a tool that really just makes us wish we were on that beach too, get yourself a hobby or focus on work that’s going to create action to make your life better.  Pick up a deck of cards and teach your kid how to play.  Go for a walk.  Look people in the eye when you talk to them.  Strike up a conversation with someone.

Give it a try for 30 days.  Stay away from your FB app for just that long and see if you actually miss it or if you actually find yourself getting a little happier and just a little more focused on your own life.  I think you will like the results.  Yes, there will be those that will come up for reasons why they can’t dump FB.  I get it.  You might have to keep the app and jump on from time to time to communicate with certain folks but, I’d argue that taking a 30-day break from FB will clue you in to just how much happiness it’s stealing from you.  And, it may just change the way you interact with social media forever.

Good luck!

Feeling Stuck? Here's what you can do Now

Maybe you feel stuck where you are.  You aren’t happy with your job or some other aspect of your life.  We get asked to do something at work that is less than ideal, that doesn’t make full use of our abilities (trying to stay positive).  Or, on a macro level, you get to the point where you just aren’t getting joy from your work any longer.  All too often, our response to such situations is to sit and boil over it.  We get angry.  We may complain to a friend or family member.  We may take our frustration out on others.  We wait for the ‘last straw’ before acting.  I think we have all been guilty of this at one time or another. 

Reframe what’s happening to you

I am a firm believer that most everything is life originates from choice.  If you hate your job, only you are to blame.  You applied for it at some point in time.  If you hate it, you likely stayed too long.  Baring in medical condition, if you are overweight, don’t get frustrated and give up, get a little angry with yourself for not making the right diet and exercise choices over time.  The stresses of life will happen but, you have choice in how you respond.  You can choose the defeatist approach I described earlier or you can choose to take control and take action.

Determine what you can do about it now

Rather than spinning your wheels lamenting about what your boss could do to make your job better or talking about all the things that are in the way of your ideal life, use that time to focus in on what you can do.  What is it that you can control?  If you don’t like your job, should you pursue a new one?  Or, are there things about your work you really enjoy that you may be able to maximize while delegating the things you prefer not to do?  I am a realist.  While there are many things you can change to make the situation better, sometimes there isn’t much you can do right now.  Changing jobs takes time…you can start now but the ultimate change may take months.  There are times when all you can do in this moment is choose to smile, challenge yourself to get through today’s situation.

Smile and move on

In this moment, you are choosing how you feel.  You have chosen the state you are in.  When someone presents you with a few flavors of ice cream and asks which you’d like to have, you pick your favorite, right?  Well then, why wouldn’t you choose to be in a state that is your most desired.  Why would you choose not to be happy?  Even if a situation sucks, you can choose to smile, you can choose to engage in activities you enjoy and you can choose to make a change to sustain that happiness.

The point of this post is really that so many of us imprison ourselves in our current situation believing that changing it is just too hard or would require too much sacrifice.  The reality is that “too hard” is defined by your mindset and is a completely fictitious concept.  Change is created by action.  If you don’t like where you are, do something about it.  It doesn’t have to happen all at once.  Start with the small thing you can do today and do another small thing tomorrow.  You will be shocked how quickly those small actions will create massive change in your life.  But first, you must choose.

 

Your pace might be killing your joy

Last Friday, I got the privilege of attending TEDxRVA.  BY now, everyone knows what TED is about…ideas worth spreading is their slogan.  This main theme of this year’s Richmond event was Change.  Seems perfect right?  I talk about making change all the time in your life and business.  One particular idea stuck me hard and it was right at the opening. 

Ben Sollee is a singer, songwriter and composer.  He describes himself as a “cello-playing, photo-taking, bike-riding, Family-loving Kentuckian.”  Opening with a beautiful rendition on “a change is gonna come” originally performed by Sam Cooke, Ben then spoke about his endeavor to tour by bicycle visiting places not normally on the tour circuit for large artists.  He experienced the local people, food and kept riding.  After his talk, he was asked to share the essence of his experience. 

He said, “There is something about finding you pace in this human, fast world.”  It took me a second to realize what Ben was getting at.  I began to realize that the magic of what he was saying that we all have a natural pace.  While the world has its own breakneck pace and tries to push us to the same lengths, we don’t have to follow suit.  Like Ben, we can choose to hop on a bike, slow things down and grab just a little more joy from the moments we have on this Earth.  Sure, this may mean that we don’t “accomplish” as much as we could’ve…at least by outside standards.  But what it will do is allow the entirety of our focus to consolidate on the few things that really matter.  Ben is a great example of slowing down to accomplish more.  Take a look at what he’s up to at bensollee.com.

I will forever be grateful for the words of wisdom Ben shared on June 23rd.  Ideas worth spreading indeed.

Check out Ben’s full talk from a past TEDx:

What I'd do differently, Advice to graduates

A couple weeks ago, my niece graduated high school….ahh, to be 18 again.  It got me thinking about what I wish I knew and had engrained in my thinking back then.  The following is what I now have an understanding of that was learned through trial and error and failure and success.

Be open to possibilities

You can try and draw out your entire career path on day 1 if you’d like.  If you do, it will likely look a lot like what I thought my path would be; a linear and slightly upward trajectory.  Year after year, I thought I’d get promoted up through the engineering ranks, then to manager, then to Director, so on and so forth.  Problem is, this thinking has nothing to do your connection to the work.  Staying open to opportunities as they come along leaves you free to explore other options.  Who knows, you may even enjoy a squigglier line career path that allows for experimentation.

That which seems important today will be a trivial matter 15 years from now

When I graduated college, all that was important to me was getting a good paying job that offered upward mobility.  Then, I got married, had kids, got cancer…life started unfolding.  It unfolded with aggression showing me that those deadlines and stresses of the day job weren’t worth bringing home.  They aren’t worth damaging the relationship you have with your family.  Life will give you plenty of real things to worry about like the well-being of your children, your health and your legacy.

Relationships really are critically important

Your cool car isn’t going to show up at your funeral and express condolences.  Your legacy is defined by the individuals you impact and the impression you leave behind.  I’m not the best at “building relationships” but I can say, from what I have seen, it boils down to being nice to people, acting with integrity and being of service to others.  Doing those three things might not make you a hero but, over the course of 60, 70, 80 years, it will make you someone worth remembering.

Interests before Money

You can chase the money if you’d like but, remember that it is true that you can’t take it with you.  When you leave this Earth, it will be the impact you’ve made on the people and world around you that will matter.  Sure, money may help you make a bigger impact but, it’s a means to an end and that’s all.

Work Harder Now

I mentioned before how life has a way of unfolding in ways you can’t necessarily control.  The younger you are, the more controllable your life may be.  Perhaps you don’t yet have the responsibility of a family or mortgage.  Seize that time to put in the work.  The extra work put in in your younger years will create to possibility and freedom you will desire when you do have kids and you want to spend time with them rather than work late.

Choose Adventure

In the immortal words of Lucille Ball, “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”  Take chances, explore the world and learn.

Time is the ultimate currency

I’ve tried to imagine the last day of my life.  And, on that day, if I have done everything right, I will have no regrets and be able to look fondly back on my life and the opportunities I’ve been afforded.  I can imagine that on that day, the one wish I would have for myself, if I could have anything in that moment, would be one more day…more time.  Time is the one thing you cannot get back once it is spent.  Don’t waste it and don’t give it away carelessly. 

For all those graduating this year, congratulations and good luck!

How to build a winning strategy

It’s not as fancy as it seems.  But being ‘strategic’ and having a ‘strategy’ is critical to your personal success and for businesses, it’s the point from which all productive activity flows.  Let’s walk it through.

All good strategy starts with knowing where you are.

For your personal strategy, this means having an understanding of who you are, what you are good at, what you value and having a true assessment of how your life and career are progressing.  In your organization, pull out that scorecard of key metrics.  How are you doing?  Do you have the revenue you desire?  Are your margins where they should be?  It’s not enough to have the simple answer, the key in this step is understanding why the metrics are what they are.  An understanding of key performance drivers and trending will enable insights we will leverage later for action planning.

Now, where is the world headed?

This might sound weird but, now, ignore your current state assessment.  After all, the world doesn’t really care who you are, what you are good at or even what you want to accomplish.  The market doesn’t care what your current margins are or what products or services are currently important for your survival.  Go out and gather information on trends and what their outcomes will be.  In your career, what are the skills and abilities that will be valued most in the future.  In your organization, based on developing technology and trends, what will be the state of your marketplace 5 and 10 years from now.

What do you/your organization need to be to win in that new reality?

So, you know where you stand and you’ve got a good idea where you think the world is headed.  But, in that future reality, who do you need to be and what does your organization need to be to win.  Are there specific capabilities you or your team will need to differentiate yourself?  What role do you need to play in the marketplace?  This is the part where you outline your vision of the future and describe who you will be or what your organization will look like 5 to 10 years into the future.  It’s critical that you remove constraints from your thinking.  This is not an exercise in incremental improvement.  You are outlining a transformation.

Gaps = Opportunity

Now you know where you are and where you want to take the business.  You have a vision.  You know how far from your vision you are.  Now, it’s time to fill that gap.  This can often be an iterative brainstorming exercise where you identify the many possible solutions you could leverage to fill the gap, assess your likelihood of success and level of effort and investment required.

Next, the hard part…You have to execute

People love to sit around and ponder the future.  Up to this point though, that’s all we’ve done.  We’ve talked.  We’ve thought.  We’ve probably put together some cool slide decks about the future and our role in it.  But, unless you turn those pretty slides into actions, nothing happens.  No effective strategic planning process is ever done.  The key word is done.  It’s a cycle where you Gather Data, make Plans, and Execute.  The simplest of tasks like assigning a leader to key objectives, outlining how and when you will assess progress against a given goal, at which milestones you will re-evaluate the effort and defining how you will communicate progress to stakeholders are often the difference between real transformation and a stack a pretty slides. 

You can apply this simple thought process to your own personal development or more broadly to your organization.  It’s important to realize that this isn’t a once and done process.  As you gather more information about your current situation and trends in the market, you have to have the mechanisms in place to be nimble and adjust where necessary to achieve your long term vision.  This could be as simple as a set of quarterly reviews or perhaps, you need to reflect on your vision and action plan weekly to continue making strides in your personal development. 

If you ever need assistance walking through this process for your personal development plan or for your team’s strategic plan, reach out to me at steve@stevebazemore.com.  I’d love the chance to help.