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I need a strategic plan!

Lately, leaders have been asking for help with their strategic plans. A promising sign that the economy is back on track!

I’m cautioning these leaders however to pause. Why? Unless you need a quick turnaround for survival, you should first assess the current state of your basic business operations before investing in strategy assistance. These basic operational practices – across all functions – need to be both complete and correct – this is the ticket to staying in business long term.

Start-ups, in particular, face real risk because this core infrastructure (policy, procedure, talent) is weak. It’s become such an issue, for example, that the EEOC published a new fact sheet this month focused on helping startups and small businesses understand federal employment law. 

What can you do? Think about what risks you face and how you can decrease them or mitigate their impact if the risk is realized. What could drag you into court (think about your employment practices)? What touch points could cause harm to others (especially critical for food service companies)? What infrastructure (systems, data) could be harmed or cause harm? Realize though that you’ll come up with only a fraction of the possibilities. A third-party audit is a good investment!

Your goal as a leader is to evaluate the existing state of the core, basic operations and put resources against big holes or risks. It’s also to make clear that being good at the basics is important. So is being agile and prepared for risk.

Are you now ready to move on to a growth strategy? No. Not unless you have some kind of balanced scorecard to see and predict how the company is operating. This is critical in knowing where to focus your strategic energies and then in determining whether those new initiatives are getting results. The first version doesn't need to be perfect – it will and should evolve.

Take note however that you must be quick in doing the above. An organization with growth potential is BOTH tweaking its day-to-day operations for optimization AND planning and executing new ideas and changes to push itself to new levels towards its vision.

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