How many times have you set out your plans and something has come along and your plans have been blown out of the water, so you’ve decided that actually you’ll just wing it and see what happens!
In 2006 me and my partner Darren bought our first house, and in 2007 we bought our second.. in France! Neither of these had really been planned. Twelve months previously I had started a new job 40 miles away and Darren had just been made redundant so we decided that we wanted to move closer to my work, where Darren would also start job hunting. Then 6 months later we were in France and fell in love with the area and found a cheap house which needed quite a bit of work, but had potential.
Why am I telling you all this? Well before the house buying, I had a good job, which was well paid, but I didn’t really have a strategy for moving up the career ladder. I just got on with doing my job as best I could, and people liked what they saw and opportunities arose! But when we got a mortgage, and then a second home, we had to think about the future in more detail. We knew we didn’t want to be paying a mortgage for the next 25 years, so we took out 2-year fixed mortgages, paid as much extra as we could, without being penalised, and then every 2 years re-mortgaged, reducing the term each time, so that after 8 years we were mortgage free!
At the same time, we were renovating the house in France. Our DIY skills were stretched to their limit, and youtube became our favourite GoTo tool! The more time we spent there, the more time we wanted to spend there, until the pull became too strong and the new strategy was to work out the finances so we could come to France full time.
That’s also where the need to set a strategy became more important too. Being employed meant that as long as I did my job well and the company was doing okay, I could count on a pay cheque each month. But moving to a new country, where my knowledge of the language could be measured against a primary school child, meant that I had to look for something I could do, which was predominantly in English! We also needed to make sure that we had sufficient savings in place to support us while we settled in and we had to decide what to do with our home in England, while we were living in France.
The first thing we did was to make sure we had 12 months savings. We thought that would give us enough money to get us established in France. The next thing I did was apply to be an Agent Commercial for an English owned Estate Agent in France, who marketed mainly at Brits wanting to move to France, so my lack of French wouldn’t be so much of an issue. Then we looked for get a property management company in to manage our home in England, so we at least had some money coming in each month from renting it out, plus there would be someone in the house looking after it, while we decided what to do long term.
So, we moved over and I started working, while Darren started wading through French paperwork to set up his own gardening business. The estate agency work was okay, but it wasn’t particularly challenging, so I looked at our plans, and decided that I could set myself up as a virtual assistant, using the skills I had gained while working for corporate and during my 2 business degrees. I am also quite techy, so at the same time started to learn more agile applications that people in the social media and digital marketing were using the manage their businesses. I set out a strategy to create my website and my content marketing and to build my client base. I also realised that being a solopreneur meant that I didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off, discuss different options and help me grow my business as quickly as I wanted, so I found a coach who was able to help identify ways of growing the social media management and digital marketing side of my business.
Then BREXIT happened, and with that the estate agency business bottomed out for about 6 months, before slowly gaining a little more momentum after that. Luckily, I had started my VA business, I had some clients who I managed their social media for and I was working with my coach to help me better articulate my service offerings so I was able to adapt my strategy to deal with this external factor, which could have had a huge effect on my life.
So, I suppose you are thinking what has all this got to do with strategy? Well, have a look back, we had our goals of paying off the mortgage and renovating our house in France, which we achieved. Big tick for strategy setting. Then we set a new strategy. We wanted to move to France, but rather than just move and hope for the best, we set out a list of things that we needed to achieve before we could hand in our notice and go. We knew the importance of having a well-formulated strategy to establish the foundations against which we could monitor and measure how successful we were.
Some of the things on our strategy didn’t quite work out, other external factors emerged while we were undertaking the activities needed to achieve our strategy and also as we gained more insight into what we needed to do, we adapted our plans to take into account new opportunities.
What we didn’t do, is to not have a plan. If you wander aimlessly through life, then how can you look back and know whether you have achieved everything you wanted to? You need to create a strategy to work towards, but also know that some of the things may not work out, some may work out better than you expected and then other things may materialise that just take you in a slightly different direction. Earlier I said “luckily, I had started my VA business” when the English property market in France bottomed out, but actually I had set a strategy to move away from the estate agency business and grow my online business, prior to it happening. It just meant that the timescales changed, But, having the plans in place, meant that I could change direction and move forward a lot quicker than someone who didn’t already have a strategy in place.
So, what I’m saying is that ‘Yes’, sometimes you will have set out your plan, for the day, the week or even longer term, and something may come along and totally change your direction. However, without a strategy there is a danger that you will just keep following the next shiny object and in 12 months’ time, look back and find out that you are no further ahead than you are today, you just have more information which you need to wade through to see what you need to do next.
So, having some clear goals and plans on how to achieve them is totally the right thing, but you shouldn’t continue blindly if something changes. There will be parts of your strategy that fall by the wayside, and other things that emerge as you go along. That’s why I suggest having a long-term strategy, but having regular reviews and setting specific tasks that need to be achieved during that time. Most people can’t do everything at once (I know I can’t), so being able to analyse where you are and where you want to be, so you can select areas to focus on during a set period of time makes it easier for you to move your business forward in a planned manner. Reflecting on what is working and you need to do more of, or where you need to either put greater focus or perhaps even drop altogether enables you to move your business forward quicker than trying to do everything at once.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with what to do next why not join up to my 6-week program, Building your Savvy Business Strategy, a 1:1 program, which takes an depth look at all areas of your business and where you will:
- Review where you are and want to get to in your business, and understand your current business model
- Start to interpret the data, so you can understand what’s working well and adjust where necessary
- Analyse your social media content, so you have a strong foundation on which to build
- Model your business against best practices, so you can identify opportunities for improvement
- Devise a 90-day roadmap, so you can start to implement a long-term strategy to grow your business
- Learn how to implement your own business strategy, so you can feel organised and focused
I will guide you through evaluating your business, identifying your ideal customer, and supporting development of the strategy you need to improve and grow a sustainable business.