The need for a sound business strategy

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Strategy is plan designed to achieve certain goals and objectives for a long term. It helps to strengthen the performance of an organisation by following a specific game plan. A strategy acts as a guide to management on how to run the business in order to achieve the desired results.

A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. The word strategy has military connotations, because it derives from the Greek word for general. Strategy is distinct from tactics. In military terms, tactics is concerned with the conduct of an engagement while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. In other words, how a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: the terms that it is fought on and whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy. Military strategy is the overarching, long-term plan of operations that will achieve the political objectives of the nation. It is part of the four levels of warfare: political goals, strategy, operations, and tactics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy

• How strategy can be constructed and carried out effectively, even by small businesses

Strategy for Small Business

Business Strategy is usually not your strength, but if it isn't, your small business might not last very long. Get everything you need for your small business to attract and keep visitors and generate income. This normally requires a great deal of effort, investigation and focus.

Why are small businesses small? For start-ups, the answer is obvious. Great oaks from little acorns grow, and companies as large as Hewlett-Packard or Apple Computer began as the proverbial two men in a garage. But the great majority of acorns, even if they survive, never grow beyond sapling size - and that requires more explanation.

One reason could simply be that their owners lack the professional abilities to manage much more than one shop or workshop. The young Charles Forte, though, was surely right. He reasoned that, if he could run a single milkbar profitably, he could handle two: if, two, four: and so on, in a geometrical progression which led to a world-wide catering and hotel empire and a peerage.

Forte, of course, was a brilliantly able young man. But others with less talent are perfectly capable of applying his insight on a smaller scale and of mastering the simple management technique which enabled Forte to grow. Knowing his figures in detail, he could work out what ratios of costs to sales would leave his first milkbar in profit. Apply the same ratios to each new outlet in turn, and he had the golden key to control and expansion.

Everybody can follow that principle. But would everybody want to? The difference between Forte and the proprietor of a single cafÃÆ’Æ'©, and between large business and small, is ambition. However ineptly a big company sets about the task, its managers expect to grow sales and profits. They often fail, sometimes miserably, but their motto is onwards and upwards. Small business owners may settle for staying put - a perfectly legitimate choice.

In one branch of engineering, wire-drawing, several small companies used to operate in the South of England. One alone invested in the latest machinery and sought to excel and expand. His competitors (if that was the right word) looked at him without envy: one observed, 'Me? I'd rather take the dog for a walk'. As it happens, the hare, over-dependent on Ford business, went bust. But the dog-walking tortoises can't have won any races, either. They weren't trying.

Yet a little effort makes so great a difference that it's surely worthwhile. Take the example of one retail business that had journeyed on for seventeen years, neither making a profit nor providing its founder with a reasonable income. She was far more interested in her merchandise than her money, and built an enviable reputation. But the business was only kept alive by small infusions of capital from admiring backers - and the future would have looked no different.

Nobody looked at that future, however, until one of the investors became anxious about his investment. He sat down with the owner and her general manager to devise a three-year plan. Few small businesses do any such thing: I've heard quite successful businessmen react forcefully against working out sales and profits in Year Three as a meaningless exercise. But it forces you to concentrate the mind, and gives you targets and checkpoints. Anyway, you don't start with figures.

That three-year plan began with words. Stop losing money in Year One. Pay the general manager a decent salary in Year Two. Give the owner a sensible income in Year Three and, at the end of that year, move to larger premises. These verbal aims were translated into simple figures, and simple controls were installed to monitor progress: a weekly cash report, a weekly management meeting, an annual month-by-month budget, a monthly profit-and-loss statement.

The results were spectacular. The three-year plan targets were met in two. Moving to much bigger premises, the business was soon selling more in a month than its best previous annual performance. Slightly bemused by this upsurge, the backer, who knew Lord Weinstock of GEC, mentioned it over lunch one day, described the simple changes, and said 'That's all we did'. Britain's greatest maestro of financial management looked at him and replied, 'That's a lot.'

For most small businesses, it is a lot - not in terms of effort, but of willpower. It's difficult to believe that planning the future improves the present. Yet the rewards are simply (the operative word) too great to ignore. And you can still walk the dog.

http://www.thinkingmanagers.com/management/small-business-management.php

• The value of using key analytical tools to help in the strategy-making process

Analytical tools used for Strategic Analysis

The following are some of the tools used in Strategic Analysis:

Scenario Planning - A method which visualises various scenarios in future

Market Segmentation - An approach which classifies the Market into different segments or sectors depending on the similarities and /or differences in a group

P.E.S.T Analysis - Stands for Political, Economic, Social, and Technological factors that affect external macro environment of businesses.

Competitor Analysis - This is a effective tool which helps in analysing the competition in the market, who are the competitors what are they offering at what prices etc.

Critical Success Factor Analysis - highlights those areas which need more focus and attention in order to succeed in a competitive market.

Successful companies cite analytics as a key element of their business strategy

Enterprises are increasingly investing in analytics technologies, such as customer relationship management, data warehousing and business intelligence software, and investments in these technologies are paying off, according to new market research released Monday by Accenture.

Respondents to a survey conducted by Accenture said that better management decision-making is the most important objective in implementing new business software platforms.

Successful companies are five times more likely to cite analytics as a key element of their business strategy, according to Accenture. These companies, compared to lower-performing ones, also have more sophisticated analytical technologies, value analytical insights more and have better analytics than their competition. The low-performing companies were less likely to have BI (business intelligence) or data warehousing modules than the better performers.

Overall, the most frequently deployed analytical and reporting tools implemented by the companies that responded to the survey were data warehousing, reporting software and BI software.

Accenture surveyed more than 700 executives and chief information officers (CIOs) from 371 companies in 35 countries and compared their answers to a similar survey done in 2002.

At the time of the original report, 55 percent of respondents had some analytical capabilities and 19 percent had significant analytical capabilities that came from integrated enterprise system information. By this year, 74 percent of the companies had some analytical capabilities and 33 percent had the more significant capabilities.

The companies also plan to implement more enterprise software in the coming years, with the top three types of software being analytical intensive applications, according to the survey.

In the next two years, 35 percent of respondents said that they'll deploy CRM (customer relationship management) products, 29 percent said they plan to implement BI or data warehouse software and 28 percent said that they want to begin using SRM (supplier relationship management) systems.

http://www.infoworld.com/t/business/accenture-investments-in-analytical-tools-pay-690

Analytical tools give meaning to data: Effectively analyzing collected information can give HR practitioners a seat in the boardroom, vendors say - HR Technology Systems & Solutions

Software analytical tools give HR professionals the option of examining the reams of data they collect so they can help top management make sound business decisions. But software experts and HR practitioners agree that technology is no substitute for sound business expertise.

While analytics are becoming an integral part of many human resource systems, some industry observers wonder whether HR is ready to exploit the technology, because practitioners may be locked into the habit of simply collecting data. Those who break out of that mold can use the tools to determine whether the workforce makeup fits the company's business strategy, for example.

Software vendors increasingly are offering such tools. PeopleSoft USA Inc. includes workforce analytics in its Enterprise Performance Management series of products, says Row Henson, co-founder of the Pleasanton, Calif., company. "Through our workplace portal, we're offering analytics to every employee in the enterprise, whether CEO, line manager or employee," Henson says.

In most instances, of course, line managers and employees would not do statistical analysis. But they would look at bottom-line figures derived from analytics. For instance, they might end up seeing something as simple as "the number of interviews per recruiter per month compared with the number of hires," says Shafiq Lokhandwala, president of NuView Systems in Wilmington, Mass.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3495/is_11_46/ai_80327071/

• How to apply such tools to the particular business context.

The Perform System: Turning Strategies into Results

Most companies achieve less than their full potential in the market. By managing the real drivers of performance they will gain better results and their decision-making will improve.

By John K. Shank, Walter G. Jewett, Jr., Paul A. Branstad and the Performance Management Team

"Even the best strategies do not implement themselves" is the pithy opening sentence of this article which probably deserves a place in an anthology of business quotations. The authors suggest that many management systems come up short because they focus too narrowly on measurements and results. Measurement is not management, as they put it. Instead, they argue in favor of the Booz-Allen system, Performance Management, that continuously analyzes decision-making and draws on intra-company relationships rather than delivering a bald account of good or bad results.

A model-based management system, Performance Management incorporates a number of effective tools and processes that focus on linking operating decisions to financial performance. The model is upgraded as the business evolves - and its information communicated to all levels of management. Among its attributes are the capturing of knowledge across a company's business units which enables managers to emulate the successes of the best performers. In essence, therefore, Performance Management goes directly to the heart of a company's behavior.

The starting point for Performance Management is the creation of a new set of measures to connect business goals to each line manager's accountability. This permits managers to measure actual performance against the true potential of the business, helping them choose between short-run and long-run financial returns when making critical operating decisions.

Comparing Performance Management with the Balanced Scorecard -a well-known performance and accounting system - the authors say that, while a scorecard can be important in assessing management performance, it is not a decision-tool for enhancing performance. With Performance Management, decisions are linked to performance targets, which in turn must be linked to action plans designed to produce the intended results.

Even the best strategies do not implement themselves. One reason is that most management systems--planning, budgeting and internal reporting--are simply not very effective. These systems often fall short because they focus narrowly on financial measures and results, rather than on the real drivers of business decisions. The concept of a broader, strategically focused measurement approach is illustrated in Exhibit I, taken from a presentation by the managing director of a major global energy services company.

Exhibit I

A Strategic View of "Measurement"

What Do I Measure?

If our objective is to get to the future, and

If our business mission, vision and strategy describe that future, and

If we believe that performance measurement influences what we achieve,

Then the performance measurements should be linked directly to the business strategy.

How Do I Use the Measurements to Get Results?

Measurement itself is inert. The impact is derived from the way it is embedded into management processes.

If used properly, performance measurement can be a powerful instrument for change.

Source: Norman Chambers, Managing Director

Brown &Root Energy Services, Europe and Africa

But measurement--while critically important--is not management; it is merely an element in a modern performance-focused management system. Effective management systems must meet four broad design tests:

They must set fair "stretch" targets. The effectiveness of a management system depends upon its ability to set stretch targets that drive performance to the maximum potential. The credibility of the system rests on its ability to set targets that are achievable and fair.

They must manage the "drivers," not the results. Traditionally, commitments have been expressed in dollar terms. With this type of accountability, it is inevitable that management will attempt to influence financial results directly. This can produce highly dysfunctional outcomes. As a result, it is vital to shift the emphasis of commitments from narrow financial goals to operational drivers. With targets expressed as operational measures, a meaningful operational analysis can follow. Without this shift, performance measurement is a marginal activity.

They must be able to focus their analysis on an understanding of root causes.

They must reward good decision-making, not just good results. High-performance management systems have another function. They must facilitate what we call multidimensional connectedness within companies. By connectedness we mean these systems must create links between:

Strategy and ongoing management decisions and actions.

The full potential of the business and the satisfying of goals that result from the conventional planning/budgeting process.

Management commitments and the management decisions that deliver them.

Top management and the line-responsible management team.

The functional and the operating units that form the line-responsible management team.

The line-responsible management team and the finance and control community.

The managing operational capabilities, as the cause, and financial performance, as the result.

The time when new insights about the future are systematically acquired and the time decisions to adjust are made.

http://www.mgmtarticles.com/subject/Consulting_Analytical+Tools/

Task II

S.W.O.T Analysis

Meaning and Definition:

SWOT analysis is a basic technique that is often used in strategic planning, improving company success, organizational development and identifying competitive advantage. This article explains the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in a straight-forward way everyone can understand (Ed.)

http://work911.com/planningmaster/planningarticles/swotanalysis.htm (Chris Mallon)

As with most management models, the clue is in the name

S = Strengths

W = Weaknesses

O = Opportunities

T = Threats

The SWOT Matrix Explained

All the best management models have four quadrants, and the SWOT matrix is no exception. You use each of the four quadrants in turn to analyze where you are now, where you want to be, and then make an action plan to get there.

 

Regardless of whether you or your team are future planning for specific products, work, personal or any other area, the SWOT analysis process is the same.

Step 1 - In the here and now…

List all strengths that exist now. Then in turn, list all weaknesses that exist now. Be realistic but avoid modesty!

Step 2 - What might be

List all opportunities that exist in the future. Opportunities are potential future strengths. Then in turn, list all threats that exist in the future. Threats are potential future weaknesses.

Step 3 - Plan of action…

Review your SWOT matrix with a view to creating an action plan to address each of the four areas.

(http://www.customerservicemanager.com/swot-analysis.htm)

In summary;

· Strengths need to be maintained, built upon or leveraged.

· Weaknesses need to be remedied or stopped.

· Opportunities need to be prioritised and optimised.

· Threats need to be countered or minimised.

Used in a business context, it helps you carve a sustainable niche in your market. Used in a personal context, it helps you develop your career in a way that takes best advantage of your talents, abilities and opportunities

http://www.customerservicemanager.com/swot-analysis.htm

argowiki.com/.../2/26/SWOT_analysis_example.png

Making it Big

Strengths

Product designs:

One of the biggest strengths for MIB was their product design which had four main categories

Career Wear

Casual Sports Wear

Formal Wear

Outerwear

Earlier the plus size clothing were available mainly in traditional Black, Navy, Maroon, Making it Big brought a different range of colours in the plus size clothing in more larger sizes up to 28 and above which previously was restricted in the range of 14 - 24

Comfort and Quality:

All clothing manufactured by Make it Big is double checked at every stage of manufacturing in order to ensure that the fitting and Quality of the product is as per the requirements and needs of the customers. This particular attribute helped in building the goodwill of the company and also enhanced customer patronage and loyalty resulting in repeat orders.

Sales Approach:

MIB's adapted various sales approach - Mail Order, Website , Retail sales, Fairs, radio, newspaper etc. But of all their House parties was a unique method of selling which contributed a lot towards additional sales. These house parties were a great success because it was a new way of bringing the goods to the customers.

Market Served:

MIB targeted the Plus-Size market with its varied product lines, Colours, and most important Large Size women clothing from size 14 to size 28 and above, According to a research company NPD 60 percent of American women wore size 12 or larger and 16 percent of teenage girls were overweight. Over 1/3rd of large women purchased their clothing from speciality stores exclusively for plus size clothing. This gave MIB a good share of prospective customers in the American apparel market.

Staff and Employees:

MIB has a very dedicated team of people working and thus covers most areas of business. All staff including the founder CEO Cynthia Riggs is very dedicated to their work and play a very significant role in the growth of the company.

Weakness

Lack of Marketing Expertise:

MIB lacks Marketing expertise resulting in decline in sales, currently the company does not have anyone responsible for the marketing of its products.

Location of business:

MIB has a retail outlet located in California, It is a major weakness as other geographical areas and localities are neglected. Exhibit 6 clearly shows that 60% of the sales in U.S for Womens apparel are generated through Speciality stores, Discount stores and Department Stores.

Existing Staff:

The current managerial staffs at MIB is a mix and match of Skill sets and specializations, but they have their own strengths and weaknesses which when analysed bring out the fact that the right person is not appointed to do the right Job.

Decision Making:

With the departure of General manager Bridget in October 2002 CEO Cynthia Riggs is now the sole decision maker in the company which adds a lot of additional work and responsibilities only to one person leading to Stress, Wrong or single sided decisions without consultation or review which might lead to overall failure of the business.

Strategic Plan and Direction:

MIB does not have a clear Strategic Plan and direction in place, it started with a Aim and mission to provide a variety of clothes to women in the Plus Size segment, but there is no plan or strategic approach to continue and develop the business.

Product remodelling and Diversification:

MIB's product line needs more diversification and a bit of remodelling that is fresh designs, more variety, consumer preferences etc.

Comprehensive Customer List:

Most of the customers on MIB order list are old and this needs to be refurbished. New customers must be added in order to improve sales. Prospective customers must be added to the list and approached accordingly.

Opportunities

We shift our focus to external factors when we look at opportunities. Here we try to identify areas of business we think the company is looking to enter, or should be looking to enter. We also look for opportunities to gain market share from competitors, or grow the company's market to new customers.

But there are more than just external opportunities. There are opportunities within a company that should be considered. Can the company combine product lines to increase sales? Maybe the company has duplicate costs that can be streamlined. Companies can always find ways to do things better.

Some opportunities to look for:

New markets for products

Financial or legal trouble for competitors

New technologies the company could adopt

Changes in regulatory / tax burdens

Strategic investments

Internal efficiencies

http://work911.com/planningmaster/planningarticles/swotanalysis.htm ( Chris Mallon)

Opportunities MIB

New markets for products:

MIB can explore new markets in other states thereby improving the sales and geographical coverage throughout America.

Better Distribution Channels:

Apart from Mail Order, Retail Outlets and House parties, MIB has an opportunity to introduce new distribution channels for e.g Franchise showrooms, Tie ups with Major chains, Fairs and Exhibitions etc.

Strategic Investments:

With the available monetary resources MIB can do some planned investments in areas of Manufacturing, Brand Recognition, Marketing Surveys, Road Shows, Fashion Shows Contests, to name a few.

Vendor Development:

MIB can focus on developing Vendors who supply the raw materials accessories etc as per their custom made business and market requirements.

Threats

Finally, we need to consider threats to the company. Again, threats can be internal as well as external. In fact, I've found that internal threats usually come first, which opens the door to external threats. Therefore, it's important to do a good threat analysis.

Internal threats aren't usually classified as such, which I think is a mistake. Any internal problem is a threat to the company's well-being and should be evaluated alongside the external threats. For example, a company that relies on developing innovative products, such as Microsoft or Intel, faces the threat of losing engineering talent every day. This is an internal threat that could easily pave the way for external threats.

Some possible threats are:

Internal obstacles the company is facing.

Financial constraints on the company.

Cash flow problems.

The relative position of the company's largest competitors.

Technological advances in the industry (if the company isn't keeping pace).

New technologies that threaten to displace the company's products

http://work911.com/planningmaster/planningarticles/swotanalysis.htm ( Chris Mallon)

MIB Threats

Competition:

MIB faces a very tough competition in the existing women's apparel market with some of the big Retail chains like Charming Shoppers Inc, Lane Bryant, Catherine's Plus Sizes etc. Also Leading brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Old Navy have launched their Plus Size apparels and are gaining popularity and attention.

Technology:

Introduction of latest improved technology is also a threat which MIB faces, The competitors have access to technology in terms of computerised Inventory and stock Management, Comprehensive customer Database, Accurate billing solutions etc.

Financial constraints on the company:

MIB's financial resources are very limited as compared to its competitors. Financial restraint hampers the growth of the company and thereby restricts influx of new technology and diversification of risk.

Internal Obstacles:

The company is facing certain internal obstacles in the form of Adequate Management Staff, Lack of Specialists, Defined strategy, Professional advice.

Task III

Capabilities and Competences

Capability-based strategies are based on the notion that internal resources and core competencies derived from distinctive capabilities provide the strategy platform that underlies a firm's long-term profitability. Evaluation of these capabilities begins with a company capability profile, which examines a company's strengths and weaknesses in four key areas:

managerial

marketing

financial

technical

Then a SWOT analysis is carried out to determine whether the company has the strengths necessary to deal with the specific forces in the external environment. This analysis enables managers to identify:

external threats and opportunities, and

distinct competencies that can ward off the threats and compensate for weaknesses.

The picture identified by the SWOT analysis helps to suggest which type of strategy, or strategic thrust the firm should use to gain competitive advantage.

Stalk, Evans and Schulman (1992) have identified four principles that serve as guidelines to achieving capability-based competition:

Corporate strategy does not depend on products or markets but on business processes.

Key strategic processes are needed to consistently provide superior value to the customer.

Investment is made in capability, not functions or SBUs.

The CEO must champion the capability-based strategy.

Capability-based strategies, sometimes referred to as the resource-based view of the firm, are determined by (a) those internal resources and capabilities that provide the platform for the firm's strategy and (b) those resources and capabilities that are the primary source of profit for the firm. A key management function is to identify what resource gaps need to be filled in order to maintain a competitive edge where these capabilities are required.

Several levels can be established in defining the firm's overall strategy platform (see figure).

At the bottom of the pyramid are the basic resources a firm has compiled over time. They can be categorised as technical factors, competitive factors, managerial factors, and financial factors.

Core competencies can be defined as the unique combination of the resources and experiences of a particular firm. It takes time to build these core competencies and they are difficult to imitate. Critical to sustaining these core competencies are their:

Durability - their life span is longer than individual product or technology life-cycles, as are the life spans of resources used to generate them, including people.

Intransparency - it is difficult for competitors to imitate these competencies quickly.

Immobility - these capabilities and resources are difficult to transfer

http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/dstools/paradigm/compet.html

Recommendations:

MIB is a small but growing company and after doing the above S.W.O.T Analysis. I can see that there is lot of potential in the company's business which if tapped in the right way can turn Making it Big into a very successful company.

Following are my recommendations and suggestions:

Business Plan:

According to me after doing the S.W.O.T analysis it is clear that the company lacks a proper business plan. Hence the company must focus on developing a strategic business plan keeping in mind the current and long term goals and objectives which the company wants to achieve and how the company is to grow.

Marketing:

I recommend that MIB must put into place a robust marketing plan and invest some considerable amount of time and money in developing and implementing this Plan. Professional marketing firms or agencies must be involved to map and develop the entire process.

Expertise and Specialist services:

I think MIB must take expert and specialist services especially in the areas of Marketing and Product design as currently the company lacks in these two important areas. This will not only help the company to move in the right direction but will also help in improving its Brand image.

Franchise showrooms and Speciality stores:

MIB is already a popular brand and people are aware of its products and presence. I feel Franchise showrooms will uplift the sales by providing a wider distribution channel and making products readily available to a large number of customers in their Local Areas.

Improved Technology:

MIB is a Labour intensive company, I recommend that the company must improve the technology used to manufacture and quality check the products at every stage of production. Automation will result in improved Labour efficiency, better quality products and optimum utilisation of resources.

New Customers:

I feel that making new customers is another priority for MIB, most of the business is from repeat customers. MIB must aggressively look out for new or potential customers through various channels such as Television, Road Shows, Exhibitions etc. Customer Database is up to date and the profiles must be accurate and up to date. New customers must be promptly added to the database.

Discount and Points scheme:

I suggest MIB must introduce a Points and Discount scheme on purchases for all new and existing customers, this will help to improve the sales and clearing old stocks or inventories.

Staffing Skills

Following are my recommendations on Staffing:

Re organisation of staff:

The current staffing must be closely reviewed, especially the management staff there is a lot of mix and match in the skill sets against their job profiles. Re organisation of staff will ensure that the right person is appointed to do the Job. Each member of the management team should be assessed on their Skills, Strengths and Weaknesses and then aligned to the correct position.

Coaching and Cross Skilling:

The company must ensure that all staff is well trained in their work and clearly understand what are the Goals and Objectives of the company and what is expected from them in their role. Cross skilling or multitasking will ensure optimum utilisation of human resources.

Employee Benefits - Bonus and Incentives:

Happy employees result in better output and improved work efficiency. The company must ensure that all staff receives timely Bonus and performance based Incentives, this will keep them motivated and ensure smooth operation of business.

Internal Promotions:

The company must have an Internal Job Posting policy which will give eligible employees an opportunity to apply for senior positions thereby fulfilling the company's requirement if someone leaves the company and also saving the cost of Training and recruiting.

I think the above recommendations and suggestions will definitely benefit the company in the short and long term. MIB has the potential to grow and retain its position and presence in the Plus size womens apparel market throughout America. I have arrived at all my recommendations keeping in mind the available resorurces both Financial and Human and also considering the fact that MIB is a growing company with limited exposure and clientele. CEO Cynthia Riggs being the founder and Owner of the company must review these recommendations and implement them to compete and be a Leader in the Plus Size Apparel Market.

Task 4

The various tools and techniques used for crafting and executing business strategy (e.g. S.W.O.T analysis, PEST Analysis, Competitor Analysis, and Five Forces Analysis etc) are all scientifically tested and tried methods and are universally used by all types of organizations whether Big or Small to design and develop their business strategy.

I think these tools and techniques will work well in crafting and implementing the business strategy for small businesses. By using these analytical tools owners and managers of small businesses will know what are the essential requirements for their Business, then formulate a strategy based on the findings and results. We must not forget that even if the business is small and has very limited resources including specialist staff or expertise there is a great potential for them to grow if they have a well designed business strategy which will serve as a guide and point the working of the business in the right direction.

I feel the academic models used for studying Business strategy are not complex if the right tools and analysis are used it boosts the performance of a business it does not matter whether the business is small or big. Yes the larger businesses do have an advantage with regards to Working Capital, Infrastructure, Quality Staff, Brand name and Goodwill etc but this does not necessarily mean that this scientific approach and analysis will not work for smaller organizations.

For e.g. If a owner/ manager of a small business unit manufacturing Candles wants to design and Plan a Business strategy, he can use the above tools like S.W.O.T analysis to determine the Strengths, Weaknesses of his unit and then also look at the various Opportunities and Threats for the business. After a detail review of the findings he will begin with the designing of a strategic plan which will improve the strengths (More Variety of candles, New Markets, More Customers, Staff etc) reduce the weaknesses, Explore the Opportunities and Eliminate the Threats from competitors and Technological advancements. Once the Strategic Plan is ready and implemented the business will definitely show a positive outcome.

Planning a Business Strategy

A strategic plan can help to steer a company to operational success over a short or long period of time. If an enterprise pokes along without a sense of direction, it may end up going nowhere. That is why you need to write a strategic plan to guide your organization through good times and bad.

Many companies form strategic planning committees, with members from all major departments. Every area should be represented so that no employee feels left out or disenfranchised. Employee representation is vital for staff buy-in and implementation.

Organize monthly meetings, with the chair setting an agenda and, with the committee's help, establishing a timeline for completing a draft of the plan. After each meeting, the committee report should be published in the company newsletter or in a special section of the Web site, if applicable, to keep everyone informed of the document's progress.

Feedback should be sought from non-committee employees on a routine basis. As each draft of the strategic plan comes together, it should be reported in company media, with feedback invited by a certain time. Or copies of the plan can be circulated with a request for proposed editing changes by a specific date. That way no one can say he or she did not have a voice in setting the company's future goals.

Goals to be considered may include objectives like these:

-Improve safety by increasing parking lot lighting

-Increase customer satisfaction by reducing turnaround time on orders from four days to two.

-Enhance the foyer appearance by adding live plants and carpeting.

Larger or long-range goals should be set under broad categories:

-Customer satisfaction

-Employee safety

-Product integrity

-Workplace harmony

As one goal is met, replace it with another. There are always ways in which to improve company performance.

In additional to operational objectives, five- and ten-year goals should be emphasized, along with the steps for reaching them:

Five-year plan:

-increase profits by 25%

(expand customer base through sales calls, increase advertising budget by 10%)

-increase staff by 10%

(hire full-time employee each year for five years)

-add 2,500 square feet of production space

(purchase adjacent lot and erect a pole building)

-reduce waste by 20%

(double-check product content daily)

-decrease absenteeism by 30%

(offer $200 annual bonus for perfect attendance)

These clear-cut, measurable goals and steps can be attained through employee motivation and cooperation. At staff meetings take time to explain the purpose of the plan and the overall value to the company, its employees, and your customers. In putting the plan on paper, divide departments or areas into sections, list the steps for achieving each goal along with a timeline for completing the action step, and circulate the plan for final approval before pronouncing it complete.

When the plan is formally adopted, be sure that each employee gets a copy. Make reference to it at staff meetings, retreats, and other special programs. The committee should review the plan at least once a year for updates and reprioritization. A competent strategic plan can provide the structure and vision that will lead your company to the next level of achievement.

http://www.essortment.com/career/writesmallbusi_szwq.htm

Making it Big - The Way forward……..

After doing an S.W.O.T analysis for MIB it is clear that the company had a Vision and mission of manufacturing comfortable, fashionable and quality Plus Size Apparels for large American women and Teenagers. But the company did not have a Strategy to pint the business in the right Direction.

Even though Founder Cynthia Riggs and other staff worked very hard after a few years the company showed a decline in sales. This when analysed today using one of the Tools has put forward the root causes and bottlenecks in the growth of the company.

Conclusion:

According to me the way forward for Making it Big is definitely prosperous and the company has the potential to grow and emerge as a leader in the Plus Size Apparel Market.

I must mention that there might not be a single analytical tool or technique which is the best suited for any organisation whether big, medium or small. At times companies have to use a Mix of Tools in order to design and implement its Business Strategy.

Making it Big is a growing company specialising in large size clothing and has a very specific target market to serve, form the above analysis and my experience I think the first thing for MIB to do is to formulate and design a Long Term Business strategy which will give direction to the company and the staff will be aware of what is to be achieve and how it is to be achieved.

Next step will be to focus on MIB's Weaknesses and work on converting those weaknesses into strengths e.g. Staff alignment and Marketing Plan. Then shift their focus on the Opportunities and finally eliminate the Threats from competitors and volatile Market conditions. I am confident MIB with the above approach MIB will come out of its currents crises and setbacks and reap long term benefits going forward.

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