How To Simplify Your Approach To Business Improvement Strategies

The Now Where How Business Planning Process

Throughout your life as a small business owner you find that you need to solve problems and implement improvement strategies to keep your business growing.

The problem faced by most small business owners is knowing where to start on the business improvement process.

Human nature drives us to find solutions to problems as quickly as we can. Once we identify the problem we want to know how to fix it – NOW!

Sometimes the answer to the problem seems obvious and we jump at that answer and drive to implement the changes required – only to find that the business is still operating at a less than perfect level and we have to look for even more answers.

One of the most effective techniques I use as a business coach is to follow the Now Where How approach to implementing change within your business.

Now Where How Business Improvement StrategyThis approach forces you to slow down your decision making process and to consider all options before launching into the action oriented implementation phase. Even more importantly, the Now Where How process ensures that your chosen course of action is aligned to your longer term goals.

Let me explain the three steps.

Where are you NOW?

Before you make changes to your business systems and processes, make sure you have a very strong idea of what is happening within your business NOW in relation to the problem you are trying to solve.

Brainstorm everything that is happening – both good and bad. Remember that the aim of any brainstorming process is to develop a large quantity of ideas rather than great quality of ideas. The best brainstorming sessions are also those that involve your team members – don’t rely on your own experiences solely.

Having created the full list of current issues, carefully identify the top 3 issues that you would like to improve in your business.

Write these down as the start of your business improvement plan – this is the NOW that you want to change, and the NOW that you have identified should be the most important issues to the growth and performance of your business.

WHERE do you want to be?

Now that you understand what you would like to change in your business, let’s consider what that change will look like. Let’s create a detailed picture of WHERE you would like your business to get to.

Take each of the three issues identified in the NOW process and write down WHERE you would like to be in relation to each one.

For example:

  • You may have identified the need to increase sales from the current level of $1m. Your WHERE in this case might be to increase sales to $3m over a two year period.
  • You may have identified the need to reduce debt. Your WHERE may be to reduce long term debt facilities by 50% within 18 months.
  • You may have identified the need to reduce the reliance the business has on your personal involvement. Your WHERE may be to systemise your business processes and delegate tasks to appropriate staff within 12 months so that you can spend at least 2 days working on business strategy rather than business operations.

It is important to develop very specific KPIs in relation to your WHERE. Make them specific as to value and timing so you have the clearest possible picture of what you are trying to achieve. These are the goals you will be measuring your performance against.

Importantly, this vision of WHERE you want your business to be in relation to the identified issues must be measured against your longer term Vision for the business. There is no sense in striving to achieve a particular result if it doesn’t bring you closer to your ultimate business goals. Always make sure your short term operational goals are aligned to your longer term strategic goals.

Finally the fun stuff!

HOW will you take your business to WHERE you want it to be?

Following this process you have a good understanding of what is affecting your business performance NOW and you have a very clear vision of where you want to take your business in relation to the specific performance issues.

Only now are you ready to consider the most appropriate strategies to achieve your business goals.

Following this process you have resisted the urge to jump to an answer.

By considering what your business is doing NOW and prioritising the issues, by developing a clear vision for WHERE the business needs to be in relation to these issues, you now have all the information you need to develop the best HOW TO strategy to implement the required changes.

By involving your team members in the process you will have greater buy in from them when it comes time to make changes to the business processes.

By aligning the operational goals with the longer term strategic goals you will achieve the business success you are shooting for much more quickly.

A final secret ingredient for you to use in your quest for business improvement is the One Page Business Plan.

Nobody likes to prepare a full business plan, and next to nobody actually uses the full business planning document to drive a business change process.

What I have found to be most effective, and what I rely on in every client assignment I am involved with, is to use a One Page Plan to drive strategy.

I have embedded a You Tube video below that demonstrates the One Page Plan format that I use and you will see that it is also based on the NOW WHERE HOW process. The plan documents where the business is NOW, Where it needs to be moved to and HOW the changes will be achieved.

Like all good implementation plans, the One Page Plan breaks the goals into separate tasks and adds accountability to each one in terms of responsible team member and timing.

Note that the plan only allows for three or four strategies to be worked on at one time. Anymore and the One Page Plan becomes a multi-page plan! But more importantly, you need to stay focused on achieving results and you won’t do that if you spread yourself too thin.

So next time you start to think about implementing some business improvement strategies, simplify your approach with the Now Where How process and you will find the effectiveness of your business plans will be greatly increased.

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