Head’s Up – It’s Time for Business Development

Louise Attenborough, Chocolate Collective

“Let’s have a business strategy day!” This simple phrase doesn’t necessarily make you jump for joy. But if like us you’re a business start-up then the landscape is rapidly changing as you try to find your place in the commercial world. It’s easy to get sucked into the day to day tasks – head down, bottom up! But it is essential at some point to stop and take some time out to reflect. And this is exactly what Jane and I did as we hit the 6 month mark. It took some planning but we scheduled a full day over the weekend to step back and ask ourselves some important questions – ones that would help refocus the business and drive future growth. Whilst this is a learning process, we thought we’d share what worked well for us. 

Step 1: Get an outsider’s view

Have a chat with other business owners. If you have someone you know and trust, then ask their advice. Whether they know your business well or not, it doesn’t really matter – they are likely to have gone through similar reviews of their own business and can pass on some valuable advice and practical questions you need to be asking. We found some of our business contacts went above and beyond, taking time out of their busy schedules to give us indispensable advice. If like us you’re also lucky enough to know a Business Development expert then there’s lots you can learn! We attended a fantastic presentation by Una Doyle from CreativeFlow who shared some of her tips and tools to help business owners get focussed and deliver better results.

Step 2: Plan ahead

Don’t turn up to your business strategy day empty handed (and certainly not empty headed!) It’s easy to get bogged down on one issue but with a limited amount of time the day needs some structure. Ahead of time we agreed the most important things we wanted to cover and set an agenda. You then have a bit of time to write down the issues you want to raise and discussion points that are important to you. Doing this helps to get the day off to a flying start and makes sure you’re making the very best use of your valuable time.

Step 3: Think Practical and Think Big!

There will be plenty of practical issues you’ll want to cover such as business admin processes or your website for example, but here is your chance to think a bit bigger! For us it was looking at our client base and trying to find common ground that would help us to be more targeted. Giving each client a persona helped us find similarities even when, on the face of it, they were completely different.

One good exercise that we took away from Amanda Brown’s Leading Ladies Company was to put in writing 5 things we wanted to happen in the next 12 months – both in business and personally. Then it’s time to get up from behind the desk to role play those events. Simply by talking through your aspirations and answering questions you come to realise that some (if not all) of these things might just be possible! I admit it feels rather un-British to stand up and pretend, but it works!

Step 4: Value Every Idea

It’s important not to throw any ideas away. There may not be the time, money, inclination or business climate to carry forward those ideas in the short term, but long term they may provide you with the answer to your future growth. We create a ‘car park’ list – a simple catalogue of brainwaves, suggestions and ambitions to revisit – waste not!

Step 5: Action Plan

After a successful day you’ll come away full of ideas (and totally exhausted) but it’s important to follow up with written notes from the meeting and a series of actions and responsibilities, ideally with timings. This way you’ll keep up the momentum and make the changes that will catapult your business to the next level. This is where we are now…currently hurtling into the second half of the year!

And finally don’t forget to schedule in your next business strategy review – we’re actually looking forward to seeing where we’ll be in December 2015!

If you fancy joining us and would benefit from the help of a forward-thinking PA company then get in touch!