For small business owners like you, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks associated with running your own company. However, zooming in on things too much can be costly. Being able to step back enough to see the big picture is crucial, both in terms of identifying the potential for positive growth – such as windfall opportunities – and negative developments like signs the business is heading for trouble.
Equip yourself for success by becoming a strategic company leader. The idea is generally easier said than done, as the word "strategic" means different things to different people.
One of the definitions for "strategy" offered by Dictionary.com is "a plan, method or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result." As an entrepreneur, your goal or result will most likely be related to running a successful business. It could be general (for example, expanding your company) or specific (driving 10 percent revenue growth).
According to Inc. magazine, adaptive strategic leaders – those who thrive in uncertain environments such as the economy of today – employ six specific skills when it comes to strategic thinking.
The first is the ability to anticipate and put together a comprehensive financial plan. Companies of all sizes have a tendency to focus on what's directly ahead. This tunnel vision can be detrimental to effectively monitoring what's happening at the periphery of your industry. Reach beyond this blinkered thinking by looking for game-changing information on industry sidelines, surpassing the current boundaries of your business and constructing wide external networks to help you better monitor what's on the horizon.
You might remember the concept of critical thinking from when you wrote analytical essays in high school or college. However, thinking critically also has an important place outside the classroom. It's easy to accept and operate within the status quo, but as a small business owner, you're likely independent-minded and willing to push the envelope by thinking outside the box. By reframing problems, challenging the beliefs and mindsets held by both yourself and other people and exposing problems within organizational decisions, you can put your company at a competitive advantage.
Rushing to judgment in order to defuse the unsettling feeling of ambiguity is part of the human condition. A strategic leader must be able to resist that temptation and deal with the fact that they may not have all the answers – at least long enough to seek patterns in multiple data sources, encourage others to do the same and question prevailing assumptions. In general, you should resist making important decisions until you feel adequately prepared to do so.
When it comes to decision-making, the source notes that many leaders are afflicted by "analysis paralysis." As an entrepreneur, the buck stops with you, and that can be intimidating. Understand that while you should make every effort to frame a decision adequately, perfection is unattainable. All you can do is work with what you've got – which involves enlisting the help of financial services advisers when you see fit.
Most small business owners have to run decisions by key stakeholders, among whom it's rare to achieve complete consensus. You have the final say, but you should try to understand the motivation behind other people's agendas and take the time to bring difficult issues to the surface, even when it seems easier for these to remain hidden.
Lastly, open your mind to learning. Encourage honesty and don't shy away from constructive criticism. Don't be ashamed to admit your mistakes and change direction accordingly, and realize success and failure are both things to be celebrated, as they provide insight that can help you run your company better going forward.