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Are you too busy working IN your business to work ON your business?

12 February, 2021

It’s a common problem for scale-ups and SMEs as there is too much to be done getting new business in and keeping the day-to-day operations running. Unless you have a crystal clear business strategy for growth, then you may be missing opportunities and making costly mistakes without even knowing it.

There are many tools and frameworks available that you can use to develop documents and processes, some more actionable than others. 

You’re busy, right? So you want tools that are easy to use and provide you with really useful actionable insights. 

3 easy to use tools that could help transform your business

You can use any of these tools independently but they are most powerful when you combine all three. This is because they each encourage you, and your team, to reflect and brainstorm from different angles. Using all three should help you create a business strategy you can have confidence in.

1. Scale-up Growth Diagnostic

This is an interactive tool developed by senior directors who have founded, scaled-up and exited many businesses. The survey format asks a series of questions on the topics of business strategy, sales strategy and marketing strategy. Answers are scored and a personalised report provided on completion.

The traffic light scoring system provides a quick overview of areas of strength and potential weakness. A priority action list is provided for any individual points that score low.

Founders, senior executives and anyone you want to can complete the diagnostic so you can compare scores. Perceptions and experiences may be different so uncovering any discrepancies as well as identifying issues you agree on can highlight priorities to work on.

Take the Scale-up Growth Diagnostic here

2. SWOT Analysis

Most people have heard of SWOT, meaning Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, but how many actually use it regularly? 

When to do a SWOT

If you use this simple but powerful process once a year to create or review your existing strategy you will almost certainly find some gems of opportunities and avoid some costly threats.

How to do a SWOT

You can do this as a group together in a team meeting or this can work more effectively by each doing your own SWOT and then bringing your ideas together. Either way you need to brainstorm and prioritise the following:

Internal Strengths – the positive things about the business. Examples of strengths are positive cash flow, effective branding and marketing, and minimal staff turnover.

Internal Weaknesses – setbacks and negative aspects of the business. These can include a lack of profitability or being untrained in a potentially valuable technological field.

External Opportunities – places where your organisation or business have the chance to develop or grow. Examples include entering a market where you currently have no presence or utilising new technology to improve your workflow.

External Threats – potentially negative impacts from external sources. These include competitors in your field or changes in laws that affect how your organisation operates.

With the right strategy, SWOT analysis can reveal how to turn a threat into an opportunity or a weakness into a strength. However, without analysis, it’s highly likely the opposite will happen.

After conducting a thorough SWOT analysis, your team should be able to best determine how they should move forward, where to direct their energy and what to pursue in the future.

3. MOST Analysis

The MOST tool looks at Misson, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics, which together creates an actionable strategy that your team can embrace.

When to do a MOST

After you have completed this process for the first time, it will result in a live working document where tactics are completed and your business can advance to the agreed objectives.

You just need to review your MOST plan when it makes sense to your business. This may be annually, 6 monthly or every quarter. Once some objectives are achieved, you’ll need to develop new ones. You may find some tactics are not working. To achieve the right strategic direction, you need to recognise where the tactics need reviewing and realigning with your business goals.

How to do a MOST

Usually you would do this in a senior management team meeting so you can all discuss and agree each of the four stages below.

Your Mission

There’s no one-size-fits-all mission because all businesses are different. There is no way to truly know your organisation’s mission unless you ask questions. No matter what your goals are, your mission needs to be ambitious and designed to help position your business to succeed.

Your Objectives

Every objective should be defined with the mission in mind. Your objectives should make it easier to achieve your mission, even if it isn’t essential to the mission itself.

Objectives need to be SMART– that is, Specific, Measurable. Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Vague goals are significantly harder to implement and often become impossible to complete.

Ideally, your goals will be clear and designed to be met in a relatively short period of time, complementing additional objectives your business has set during the MOST analysis. If your objectives prove not to be helpful, consider changing or disregarding them.[CF2] 

Your Strategies

Strategies consist of your different options that will help you solve your objectives. They can be comprehensive, involving a number of different tactics, and there is often some overlap between strategies.

In business analysis, strategy helps your team to conduct a thorough review of tactics being used to determine how they can best help meet your objectives.

Much like objectives, if a strategy proves to be ineffective or inaccurate, you should determine what isn’t working and make changes accordingly.

Your Tactics

Tactics are methods employed to implement strategies and achieve business goals. These are typically simple, straightforward processes and can be executed by team members even if they didn’t participate directly in MOST analysis.

Like objectives, tactics must be SMART and effective.

In conclusion

You can use any one of the tools above to quickly identify opportunities to grow your business. However, using all three tools will very likely give you a much broader view which will result in creating a business strategy you can have more confidence in.

Written by John Courtney:

John Courtney is the founder and chief executive of, which supplies ‘real world’ board advisors, mentors and non-executive directors without a recruitment fee to scale-ups and SMSs across the UK and Internationally. John is a Lifetime Award-winning entrepreneur who has founded 7 businesses over 45 years.