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Bill Crawford's Blog

Strategic Management - #4

Welcome to the latest in our series of discussions about Strategic Management! While this is the second article in print, it is the fourth article overall. The first installment was found in last month’s issue of the Natural Foods Merchandiser, the second and third ones were published on my blog on February 10th and February 20 th. (My blog is on the Natural Food Merchandiser’s website.) If you haven’t read what came first, you may want to check out the first article (either on-line or in last month’s print edition) as well as the blog posts and comments. We began our discussion talking a bit about what strategic thinking is and isn’t, how it’s a smart thing to do and that it is more an exercise in hard work than in just being born smart. From there, on-line, we talked about the various steps in the process of putting together a strategic plan and the role of the CEO, leader, owner, manager, boss, etc. in the formulation of business strategy. The first place that we start is at the company mission – your goal, your reason for being. This is an important thing for you to identify. If you don’t know why your store is in business, how do you know if it’s doing a good job? Or – how do you know if it is doing the right job? King Solomon said that if people have no vision they “perish.” That’s a pretty dire assessment of the need for vision! I’ve seen the word that he used that is translated as “perish” also be translated as “uncontrolled,” “unrestrained,” or “run wild.” The thought here is that if you don’t have a mission, a vision or a goal, you will not have anything that keeps you focused or on track; you won’t end up accomplishing very much; you will have no real direction or discernable purpose. I think that we all see this with people. It is understandable if they are young people trying to figure out how to put their gifts and talents to work in the best way. It is sad if it is an older person who has never got a mission and never shown and real purpose or direction. I see this with entities in our industry – stores and manufacturers that follow the latest fads – no cohesion to their product mix, no consistency to their ingredient standards, not representing any standard of quality to their customers. Some of the things that your mission will tell include: Who are your customers? Where are they located? What do you carry? What are your business philosophy and values? Why people should buy from you? How do you treat your staff? How do you treat your suppliers? How do you treat your community? A word that is key to having an effective mission statement is “stakeholders.” This is not another word for stockholders, those you have an ownership interest in your business. Stakeholders are those who have a “stake” in it – owners, customers, employees, suppliers, neighbors, etc. Ideally, your mission statement would describe how your business treats and interacts with all of these important groups. This can be a daunting task: Defining your reason for being in business, especially if you’ve never done it, can be tough. Some advice: Keep at it and keep it internal for a while. When you make it public, you can make changes to it, but the fewer the better. If you’ve never defined and shared a mission statement with your stakeholders before, taking a few months to refine and polish it, it a good use of the time. Once you have it pretty well define, run it by some close associates and then share it with those who need to see it. The next two parts of this series will be on-line in my blog. There will be a new article posted on the 10 th of March and one on the 20 th of March and then we will pick this discussion up again in the March print issue of the Natural Foods Merchandiser, as well. (The March 10 th post will share some links to some very well done mission statements from companies in our industry – be sure to check it out!)

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