An excerpt from the e-book, “Moving From Chaos to Growth: The 7 Elements that Fuel Fast-Track Expansion and Profitability.”
This blog series examines the 7 elements that fuel fast-track expansion and profitability, each of which is absolutely necessary in today’s competitive and evolving business landscape. When thoughtfully designed and faithfully implemented, these 7 elements allow a business owner to set the long-term vision of the business, define roles and responsibilities throughout the ranks and as a result, practically enable the business to operate by itself.
In this blog, we examine the sixth element: Initiatives.
“Initiative is to success what a lighted match is to a candle.” ~ ORLANDO ALOYSIUS BATTISTA
When organizations plan to accomplish things – anything, really – it often comes down to identifying broad goals, designing complementary strategies, then designing tactics to accomplish each strategy. If your donut business seeks to be the dominant donut seller in the U.S. (the objective), your strategy may be to establish retail dominance in 10 high-growth markets. Your tactics to accomplish that strategy could then be opening X-number of stores in five of the 10 markets in year-one, followed by X-number in year-two. An associated tactic (again, to accomplish that strategy) might be to develop and deploy targeted advertising through selected media channels (e.g., print, broadcast or direct mail advertising, social media) based on a defined advertising budget.
Those tactics – also called initiatives – are the things you do to create your products and services and drive your mission. They are granular, they are specific, they are measurable and they involve specific roles and responsibilities from your team that demand accountability.
The critical challenges when developing your list of initiatives are:
- Over-commitment: Many organizations start hard and fast without properly assessing how much the organization can take on. We suggest beginning with 3-7 initiatives at the outset. Smaller organizations that are starting this process for the first time should focus on just one or two new initiatives.
- Staff burnout: Initiatives typically place additional demands on top of regular day-to-day staff work. This, in turn, transitions your staff from an eight-hour day to eight hours—plus additional hours necessary to work the initiative. Most employees can only sustain such a pace for a limited time.
- Baselining: Failure to establish a clear baseline (i.e., signpost) of where you are at before you begin the initiative prevents you from understanding progress, or when you’ve really veered off course. Tracking the performance of the initiative as a signpost greatly increases your chance of success and helps to address barriers before they become insurmountable.
- Project management support: Without a trained project manager, the probability of success decreases significantly. Trained project managers are experts at identifying and addressing issues, tracking budgets and costs, and holding teams accountable.
- Budgeting: Understanding what costs may be incurred and allocating sufficient resources to cover those costs is critical to eliminating “sticker shock” as a project progresses.
- Communications and change management: It is vital that stakeholders who aren’t directly involved in the initiative, but who may be affected by it, are kept apprised on issues and progress. Usually, a project manager or communications manager can help manage this.
Initiatives may be focused on meeting external challenges like customer demand for those products and services. But they also focus on internal goals and strategies like professional development, strategic planning, CRM integration, market research, capital projects and more. These are all initiatives that can help you meet the broad goal of evolving your business, and driving growth and profitability.