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Scottish Entrepreneurial Academy: The Importance of Strategy

The Scottish Entrepreneurial Academy (SEA) gathered in Edinburgh on the 7th of June for a workshop on Strategy. SIE Business Advisor, Liz Mackenzie, takes a closer look at Strategy and rounds up what SEA members learned below.

The definition of strategy is “a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. Strategy generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions.”

So many businesses, both start-ups and established businesses, fail to understand the differentiation between vision, strategy and detailed planning with many going from having a vision to initiating a detailed plan. Put another way, your Vision is Why you are doing something; Strategy is What you are going to do; and Planning is How you are going to do it. The Strategy part can be likened to a journey plan showing you what you need to do to get from where you are today to reach your end Vision. On this journey you are likely to have to pass lots of hurdles and if you don’t have a strategy in place these hurdles are likely to block you and stop you getting to your destination.

In order to put together a strategy it is essential to understand where your business currently is today before you decide where you are going and the path you need to take to get there. There are certain stages that all businesses will pass through in their journey and these stages can be defined by the “feelings” their leadership has at phases in the journey with brick walls encountered at particular stages. From the euphoria of starting up where the founder feels excited and frantic the first brick wall comes often just before the initial sales start hence why sales and income generation are so important for start-ups. The next stages of the journey once sales have started include hitting the good times before going through the next steps to grow the business which include feelings of frustration, stress and disillusionment. It is these feelings that block so many businesses from high growth.

On the basis that your feelings pay such an important role in your strategic plan it is essential to take steps to get you from your vision to action. Traditional tools to work towards goals often don’t work because they don’t take account of how a person changes. One tool that business people can use to change this is called “Mindfulness” where you train your brain to notice useless habits and emotions and notice how they ruin and waste precious moments. These useless habits get in the way of clarity of thinking and stop us having the ability to make decisions. Honing your mind can make you more creative and able to make strategic decisions that will have an impact.

Our May SEA day was delivered by Kai Murray from Shirlaws and Martin Stepek, Mindfulness Teacher and Consultant. Both provided excellent interactive and fun workshops with some excellent takeaways. Kai had some great tools for not only developing your own strategy but also understanding where you are and most importantly being able to communicate that to others. Martin showed us some useful tools to help us become more mindful in our everyday lives and warned that in business it’s easy to get drawn into egotistical and unethical decisions and you should be careful not to sacrifice your values.

Assean Sheikh of gave a great insight into the journey of a young entrepreneur sharing three key lessons he has learnt over the last three years.

  1. Team – always surround yourself with one. Find people with complimentary skills and things will move much faster for you with much less stress. The more control you give away the more you will actually get back.
  2. Resources – Think about what you really need from the start and don’t be confined by monetary value. Form partnerships instead of using cash to get what you need.
  3. Assess the Opportunity – Quantify what you do at the outset. Is it worthwhile?; Is there a reachable market?; How much does it cost to acquire each customer?