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In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey captures the essence of Strategic Thinking. It all boils down to being absolutely clear on what business outcome you really want.
Covey illustrates the concept with a visualisation exercise. Imagine that, at the end of you life, you were able to listen in to what was being said at your funeral. What would you like to hear people say about you, as a father, a life partner, a colleague etc? Whatever it is you would like to hear, you are now in a position to start living the kind of life that will make it happen.
That is a powerful concept and really good personal development advice. And the principle applies equally to making a success of your business. By being clear on what you want from your business, you increase your chances of getting it.
It is generally accepted by the experts that the first thing you should do after starting a business, is to plan your exit strategy. Few people do it because of the operational workload. But it is very important. So push all the operational hassles to one side for a moment. Think ahead into the future and do some crystal ball gazing.
Planning your exit strategy means having a clear idea of what you want your business to be when you move on from it. So think about some scenarios. Do you want to sell your business after 5 years? Or do you want to retire from your business in 15 years? Or maybe you would like to hand your business over to family members, who will run it while you continue to draw a passive income.
Whatever it is, you need to get clear on what outcome you are looking for. By planting those desired outcomes firmly in the back of your mind, you become a lot more likely to recognise and take advantage of opportunities that support achievement of your goals. Over time, the business will steadily move closer and closer to what you want it to be.
In this way, getting what you want out of your business becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it is important that you have a clear and detailed vision of what you want your business to become. So here is a tip on how to build that all-important mental picture.
Ask yourself the question "If this business was a stunning success, what would it look like". If you are tempted to answer "It would make a lot of money", dig a bit deeper. Look at the business from the perspective of all the different stakeholders. If the business was a stunning success, what would it look like to the owner. And what would it look like to the staff. What would it look like to your most important stakeholder, your customer.
Write your answers down in as much detail as possible. Use a piece of paper that you stick on the wall where you will see it every day. Because this is you Business Vision – what you want your business to become. It is the reason for making all those sacrifices you made to be in business, the long-term payoff. So remind yourself every day of just where you are going.
By doing this, you become a Strategic Thinker. Your choices and decisions are not only expedient from an operational point of view. They also reflect your long-term strategic objectives. As a result the capability and capacity of your business increase steadily, turning your Business Vision into reality.