Write a Business Strategy (revisited for 2019)?


How do I write a business strategy?

Writing a business strategy today is very unlike anything you might have written five, ten or fifteen years ago. Why? Because the world of business moves so quickly these days that realistically, your business strategies ought to be for the next eighteen months and no more. So how do you write a business strategy? A winning one at that.

A business strategy is very different to your overall vision and business plan.  

In order to write a business strategy, you need to recognise that it is simply a plan.  No more and no less.  It’s a plan of what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.

It ought to be a live document that can be altered when market conditions change. It ought to have one person who is responsible and accountable for delivering the strategy. See our Players on the Pitch course for more details on the accountability bit.

The document should be easily read within about half an hour, so keep it short.  For small to medium-sized businesses, keep it to a couple of pages.  No one likes to spend hours reading reams of detailed analysis so make the strategy document itself as clear and as concise as possible. Save the detailed analysis in a file or link that can be accessed if required.

Write A Business Strategy Based on Evidence

This brings us nicely to the next point.  When you write a business strategy it needs to be based on market evidence, data and feedback from your customers and clients.  There is no point in creating a strategy to sell pork scratchings in a country where it’s forbidden to eat pork.  Similarly, don’t continue with a particularly unsuccessful strategy you’ve used in the past. Understand why it wasn’t successful and change it.

You might not need to change everything about a strategy that hasn’t worked – be wary of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But do remember to change your strategy sufficiently to create different outcomes.

An example of this might be: your product or service didn’t sell well in a certain geographical location.  Do you need to simply change the location?  Your product or service had low take-up.  Do you need to tweak the pricing?

In the example of a financial strategy, you might find producing quarterly management accounts is not frequent enough to meet the rapidly changing needs of the business and so switching to monthly management accounts means a slight tweak to your financial management strategy.

Talent Acquistion and Retention

Finally, in a talent attraction and retention strategy, you might want to increase diversity in your business and re-think where and how you advertise your vacancies in order to achieve that.

We’ve created a fantastic model, called Habits and Housekeeping which takes you through the key strategies you need in your business in order to grow successfully.

The course helps you understand what strategies you already have in place, how you’re implementing them and how you’re using them to grow.  We like to think of this course as the logbook for your business.  As with any car you own, it has much more value when you have a complete logbook.

Well, it’s exactly the same with a business.  Habits and Housekeeping is the logbook for your business and when it comes to valuation, it will add a respectable amount of value to it. (Our friends in corporate finance suggest this could be up to 7 times the average value).

Rather excitingly, the matrix we give you on the course, helps you identify the secret sauce in your business.

Secret Sauce?

“What secret sauce?” You might be wondering.

When a business gets really good at doing something, such as training its’ staff, it can leverage that know-how to create another business stream.  This other business stream can end up being more profitable than the original business and on occasion outgrows the original business.  Even if it doesn’t, it still adds another source of income to the business.

A great example of this is a bar and restaurant chain here in Edinburgh.  Their training academy was always excellent and their staff were always renowned for delivering excellent service in the venues the business owns throughout the city.  That training academy is now a business in its own right and trains other recruits for other bars and restaurants across Scotland.

So, from a strategy written about delivering great customer service by training their staff really well, the business formed an academy.  The academy got so good at training, the business ended up attracting the best talent and now makes money by charging other hotels, bars and restaurants to train their staff.


Some of the more cynical of you out there might think training the competition is a daft idea. Think about it.  You’re training the competition and making money whilst doing it.  Plus, you’re so good at what you do, you’re still the employer of choice and customers still want to eat and drink in your establishments because the other strategies you have in your business make sure that happens.  These could be around innovation, customer retention, all of which ultimately you being the best in your marketplace.

When you start writing the strategies for your business, remember to focus on one or two at a time and remember to test things out before launching a full-scale implementation.  Slowing down to speed up is a really good idea.