A business strategy has to be crystal clear to work

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We recently met a business owner who was telling us about her company. After about 10 minutes she left and, by the blank look on both of our faces, it was clear that we had no idea what her business did. Worse yet, neither did she. We would like to say this only happens occasionally but it’s a fairly common occurrence.

We’re not talking about a 30-second elevator speech here. It goes beyond not being able to explain what the company does; it goes to the core strategy of the business. Having a clear strategy is the basis for everything you do in your business. If your strategy is fuzzy and unclear, the company is average at everything and great at nothing. It will harm the business by resulting in lower sales and profits, lost opportunities, wasted resources, poor communications, or inefficient operations.

If you’ve read this far and think that — unlike those poor, confused souls — you already have a clear strategy, that’s great. But, just to be sure, you might want to look at the following list of clues that your strategy isn’t as clear as you think it is.

You found out that a customer went somewhere else for products or services you sell because they didn’t know you could provide them. Ouch!

You’re afraid of losing an opportunity for a sale so you cast a broad net of services. You end up doing things that are outside your expertise or leave people with the idea that you are all things to all people. (You would never a choose surgeon who advertises both brain surgery and facelifts.)

When you tell people what you do, you’re constantly changing the way that you say it because your business is frequently changing.

When employees are asked what the company does, no one gives the same answer. Case in point — after we interviewed seven employees at a new client’s office, none of them described what they do for customers in the same way.

When close friends or family members introduce you, they never really explain what you do and you have to clarify what they said.

After looking at your brochure or going to your web page, people still say, “now let me see if I understand what you do.”

If you think there is room for improvement, ask yourself the following questions to come up with a strategy that is more defined:

What should your company be doing?

What is truly unique about your business?

What should you stop doing (even if it is currently bringing in revenue)?

What real value do you bring customers? Do they see it that way?

How often are you selling on price instead in value?

Now comes your assignment. Go lock yourself in a room (preferably with key employees and advisers) and don’t come out until you have a clear strategy for your business. A strategy that is easy to communicate, internally and externally. Then go tell five new people and see if they can repeat it back to you correctly. If so, you’ve probably got it. If not, go back to your room and start over.

It could be one of the most important things you ever do for your business.

Laddie and Judy Blaskowski are co-owners of Business Truths, a Springs-based small business consulting firm. Reach them at Laddie@businesstruths.com