How To Revive A Business on a Downward Spiral Part 2, Strategy
By Nada Andersen
In the last article I talked about Situation Assessment and how important it is to any poor-performing business to pull this hand-break and try to discover where it all went wrong. No matter the pain one feels in the process of digging out all the failures and negativity, there is a great reward at the end of that journey: you clear the road for your next steps and they are mostly optimistic, proactive, creative and innovative actions.
Time is ripe to look at the business with your eyes wide open. Don’t do it alone; gather a team of soldiers who want to shoulder you through the fight. These people should be your top managers and team leaders and you need to steer them towards clear and strategic thinking. When choosing your strategy team, be on the lookout for those quiet guys who never speak until asked. Such people can often be an incredible source of all kinds of strategic insights and their contribution can surprise you. Ask them those questions!
Invite your team for a day-in-the-boardroom with the purpose to redefine the path of putting the business back on track. Use any strategy-building tools you have available to you. I prefer to use the Business Model Canvas because it dissects the business into clear segments that fit together perfectly. Once canvas is defined, strategizing becomes much easier.
Most common reason for failure is if the business loses its purpose somewhere along the way. This is also one of the reasons why all great businesses reexamine their purpose at set intervals. Major international companies have their strategy sessions annually; something you don’t come across often enough in our local business. Is it connected to local business failure rate – this I don’t know for sure. At least I can name a number of other factors that deprive Ugandan businesses of the level ground to compete and thrive: low GDP, flimsy laws and regulations, no fiscal policies focused on prompt payments that can ensure stable cashflow, high interest rates, and so on. But I strongly suspect lack of strategy is another detrimental factor.
Ask your chosen team to focus and understand the gravity of the situation. Tell them you depend on them for insights and the way forward. Then focus your team on thinking about the organisation’s purpose. Find out what exact needs of your customers is your business set out to satisfy. Dig deep into reasons for your organisation’s existence. Your purpose will give you answers to many other questions in the future.
I advise all companies I engage with to quickly define their vision, mission and values. This is also a collective exercise; vision, mission and values should never be written by the HR department or even worse, by your PR agency. These statements are a heart and soul of your business and they have to come out of the minds of your most valuable employees. Not the management team alone – but your strongest foot soldiers as well, because they live the active life on the grounds of your business and have deep understanding of emotions that drive them. They create maximum tangible value for the business and they are well-placed to add value to organisation’s guiding statements.
Define your Vision. What is it that your business wants to achieve, not now but in twenty or a hundred years from now? What is the shiny guiding star on the horizon that you want to reach? What is nearly impossible that you look up to as the most amazing place that your organisation should occupy in the business universe? Let your wildest dreams guide creation of this statement and you will not be falling short of an amazing Vision for your business.
Now look at the Mission as the means to painstakingly and diligently work towards the achievement of your Vision. What are the two, three, four primary avenues that your business will take on a daily basis in order to be one step closer to the Vision every day?
Finally, what principles and standards will you employ as the pillars of the business? What are the guides for the entire organisation to collectively think and be, whether in private or in public, in order to wholeheartedly and uniformly execute all steps required to achieve organisation’s mission statements? These principles and standards are also known as Values.
We tend to write down our Values in a bit of a copy-paste manner. A lot of organisations have honesty, teamwork, respect as top-three of their Values list. Stop and think. These three common Values should actually be a given; each employee should already come armed with these three Values that should be instilled by the family, education system and society. Unfortunately Values across many organisations in Uganda speak much more than they should about the society at large and its shortcomings.
To solve this, my advice is to have a solid employee manual that defines organisation’s culture in fine details. Employee manual serves to explain the way your organisation collectively thinks and behaves in many situations. Values should be the distinguishing marks of the organisation, above human behavior and relationships.
Final touch at this stage: take a look at your Brand and define how you want to be perceived by the general public and do you want to be remembered, recognized or respected for in the marketplace.
Once you have the clear and collectively created definitions of your Promise, Vision, Mission, Values and Brand, you are prepared to develop your strategy. The key answer your strategy will give you is to actually a very simple question: “Now, how do we achieve and bring to life all these?”
Creating strategy for a suffering business is a once-in-a-lifetime exercise. You have the destiny of the entire organisation, all employees and their families in your hands. Do not blow the opportunity to make it happen for everyone.
The writer is the CEO of Advertising Agency Star Leo and the Chairperson of the Uganda Advertising Association
Kyamutetera is a senior journalist based in Kampala