by Arun Sinha

Fairfield County Business Journal

Business conditions are always changing, so it's a good practice to periodically step back and take a hard look at your business strategy and how you're implementing it.

The term "strategy" has many definitions. For the purposes of this article, we'll say that a company's strategy lays out the goals of the company and its plan for achieving these goals. Every company has a strategy, whether it's carried in the chief executive officer's head or in a 300-page binder. Here are steps you need to take to ensure the strategy you've mapped out is the best it can be.

Set your goals. They could include growth, maintenance, or even a change in the way you do business. They may be short term, such as countering a move by a competitor, or long term, such as achieving a certain position in the industry. Whatever the goals, they need to be concrete and achievable.

Analyze your company. Critically examine your strengths and weaknesses. Be careful here, because it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you're better — or worse — than you really are. Hard data such as sales or operating numbers must be balanced with information that you obtain informally, such as by talking to your salespeople and customers, studying industry developments, and so on.

What is your company good at? The answer may not immediately be obvious, but if you dig deep and long enough, you'll get to it. You may even be surprised by what you find. For example, you may have thought all along that your strength lay in product quality, only to find that competitors are matching you in quality and your real advantage lies in the productivity of your sales staff. Such hidden strengths and capabilities, once uncovered, can propel your company way out ahead of its competitors. Speaking of whom...

Keep files on your competitors. Even now, they're plotting to eat your lunch. And if you aren't careful, one of them will, when you least expect it. Wal-Mart came from nowhere to overtake Kmart in sales and profits. AOL was founded 16 years after CompuServe, and eventually swallowed it. Never dismiss competitors. They are always smarter than you give them credit for. Monitor them, anticipate their actions, and pre-empt them if you can.

If the barriers to entry in your industry are low, then you need to be especially watchful of your competition. Stay on top of the situation. Monitor their Web sites. Visit their stores. Do top managers of Home Depot ever shop at Lowe's? You can bet on it.

Get your employees on board. The people who come to work every day are your real competitive advantage. The quality and productivity of your work force makes a big difference to how you compete in the marketplace. You want to be sure that your key employees have it in them to take your company where you want it to go.

Look at the business environment. The world outside your company also has a say in your business strategy. The government, suppliers, lenders, your neighbors, the general economy all affect your thinking, your decisions and your actions.

Embrace reality. We business people are optimists. Wishful thinking sometimes creeps into our rational analyses and forecasts. Guard against it. Use intuition and judgment, by all means — it would be unwise to ignore them — but not as a substitute for facts.

Shaping strategy. After gathering this wealth of knowledge about your company, your competitors and the world around you, it's time to shape your strategy. Focus on your competitive advantage. What makes you unique? Why should a customer choose your company over a competitor? Perhaps you appeal to a segment that is underserved by the market. Or you've found a way to lower prices that others can't match. Or it turns out that your product can be sold over the Web profitably. There are many ways to set yourself apart.

Implementation. Putting your strategic plan into practice requires a steady hand and unwavering commitment. While implementing your strategy, market conditions will change— a new zoning law may come into effect, or technology may change the playing field. Stay focused on the overall goals of the company while you to go back to the plan, make changes where needed, and start implementing your revised strategy.

Arun Sinha is president of Access Communications, a digital marketing, content creation and web development company in Stamford, Connecticut, USA. Visit for more information on copy writing, websites, and Internet marketing.

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