May 14, 2014

Why you NEED a Strategy (Even if you're small!)

I've spent the last 3+ years of my life as a strategy consultant.

Yes, that ubiquitous job that even the smooth-talking Marty Kaan from the TV show House of Lies cannot explain. We're everywhere but nowhere at the same time because not even ourselves sometimes can explain what we do.

I help retailers make more money. That's generally what I describe my job as being. 


By co-creating a strategy with them.

Big retailers have got retail down to a science (but even they can't do it alone!)

Through my own experienced starting up Encircled as well as speaking with other smaller e-commerce startups, I've learned that it's not that different from running a large retail business -- the same principles apply. It's just a lot of smaller online shops don't apply them.

Do you have a strategy?

Strategy in my world is the most overused and misused word. I once hosted a workshop at a client to explain to difference between a vision, mission, objective and strategy. It can be confusing!

But strategy is something that EVERY size of business needs. 

It's how you are going to make money.

It keeps you focused.

It sets boundaries and keeps your ideas in check.

It grounds your business in your core values.

It is an easy way to act big, while you're small.

So, why don't more small online shops have one?

Nowadays, the startup costs for an online store, thanks to platforms like Shopify, are quite minimal. Gone are the days when you needed $10k to build a decent website. 

When you're investing $10k to build a website, of course you will build a business plan, which includes your brand strategy but when you're launching a shop for $500. It may not be top of mind.

Lastly, it's often hard for entrepreneurs (and even large retailers) to look objectively at their businesses to get the clarity required to develop a strategy. Going to an offsite to discuss 'strategy' is often joked about, but it's needed.

Sometimes we get so far down into the weeds of our business that we cannot see our way out, up or around. You cannot shift your brain to focus on high level, conceptual ideas when you're worried about tracking packages or where your inventory levels are at.

Don't have strategy shame.

It's okay if you don't have one right now but definitely put this on your to-dos.

A good brand or retail strategy starts with the overarching vision for your business, defining your core values, and your reason-to-be (your purpose). There is too much to cover here, and I definitely plan to take this on in a future post (so scroll to sign-up for updates, so you don't forget to come back!).

Excellent strategy is grounded and closely tied to measurable and realistic business objectives. 

It's also based on a combination of research, customer intelligence and gut feel.

It's a living breathing document. Meaning that it WILL evolve over time. And that's ok! 

Do you set a formal strategy for your business? Or do you make it up as you go? Let us know in the comments below!


Wishing you blissful retail!

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