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THE PROCESS OF developing a strategy for your company doesn't end with a beautifully crafted business plan that sits on your office shelf and is dusted off from time to time.

The real value is in implementing it, although unfortunately that is easier said than done. To be truly effective, the plan must become a part of the daily, weekly and monthly routines that drive the sales and marketing initiatives, production efficiency, human resource practices and so on in your business.

Here are 4 steps that can help with this process:



1. Summarise the plan on a single page

Your plan needs to be converted into something that is easy to have on hand, simple to reference and can be communicated effortlessly. An 80-odd page document is not easily referenced, it needs to be a single page that highlights the main areas of focus in the plan.


If that's the best approach. then why do successful companies go to the effort of producing these large documents, you may well ask. The answer lies in a Mark Twain quote: "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."


It's often easier to ramble on and tell you everything rather than deciding what is truly important and what your audience needs to know. The business plan is a great way for you to clarify your thoughts, consider all the steps and ensure that a holistic view is considered for the proposed actions.


The reality is that not all staff need to know the thought processes behind a current strategy, but they do need to know what is most relevant to them.



2. Set achievable targets and track progress against them

What gets measured, gets managed and gets done. Knowing that someone will be scoring your performance helps focus your attention. So ask yourself, "How am I going to keep the plan on track?"


Think of key performance indicators, or KPIs, as a way for a company to keep score. They help management understand if the company is achieving the objectives set out in the plan. Unfortunately, far too many companies think that standard financial KPIs are sufficient. They are not. KPIs should be driven from the strategy and thus are personal to each business.


Measuring the right KPIs and determining what actions you need to take to ensure that you meet your targets can elevate a company above the competition. For example, failure to meet a quality metric should lead you to ask why, discover that there is an issue with the supplier and ultimately source from a new provider.




3. Find the person who will lose sleep if it isn't done


If you want something done, you need to make someone responsible and accountable. Relying on a group disperses the responsibility and can lead to delays in decision-making and meeting the targets. Holding one individual accountable means that they will be focused on delivering their metric which supports the plan.



4. Communicate and make sure everyone is aligned

Staff need to believe in the plan if it is to be successfully implemented. They need to all be pointed in the same direction heading for the common goal. There is a long history of companies failing, despite having the right strategy, simply because they couldn't get the staff on board.


To do this, you need to communicate the plan and take the time to answer questions from staff. Make sure to address their concerns and seek their feedback. In short, ensure that they understand the vision for the company and their role in it.


Tom Early is a senior investment adviser at Enterprise Ireland, which is running a series of workshops for exporting SMEs on 'finance for growth'.





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