There’s no denying it: running and scaling a business can be stressful. When you haven’t got a huge team behind you and wear every hat from marketing manager to operations executive, taking time to focus on strategy can feel impossible. Your time is filled with small tasks, while what you really want to be focusing on is the big picture.
I am here to share my tried-and-tested tips for creating a manageable strategy for 2023. I have worked with thousands of brands over the years and been called ‘the queen of retail’ for a reason! Having previously headed up buying at Selfridges, I know what it takes to grow brands and retail businesses.
Independents are the future, which is why I now am a strategy mentor and coach to small business founders alongside offering consultancy services to corporate brands and retailers.
TIP #1: have a clear vision
Grab your notebook, post-it notes and coloured pens – it’s time to brainstorm! First and foremost, I want you to consider the following questions:
- What’s your ‘blue sky’ vision?
- What would you like to achieve in the next three years?
- Where do you want to be in 10 years – sitting on a beach sipping cocktails, global domination, a household name?
Dream big, take time out and document everything you have ever dreamed of; the bigger the better! People often shy away from this, as it feels too far off, but without a big vision, it’s hard to create a strategy that you are passionate about.
TIP #2: break down your vision into goals
Now it’s time to take direction from your vision and consider the following:
- What needs to happen in the next three years to get you closer to your vision?
- What do you want to achieve each year?
- How do you want to work and feel each year?
Keep this top line and ideally on one page so you can look at it regularly.
Now let’s focus on this year. Split the entire year into quarters – new year’s resolutions often are quickly forgotten about as there is little accountability, but focusing a strategy within a three-month section will provide a timeline to achieve your goals. Add check-in sessions to your diary now so you are accountable.
Use each quarter to create specific goals and timelines. Make sure the goals are achievable by expanding on exactly what needs to happen in order to accomplish them.
TIP #3: find support
For this, it’s important to identify what gaps there are in your knowledge when assessing what support you need. Who do you need in your team? How do you balance employees with outsourcing? Are you not so great at social media? Find copywriting difficult? Struggle to stay on top of emails? This is when you outsource!
My biggest tip and where I see many clients make the same mistake – identify what you love doing but is a time drain. Often we think it can be easier to do something yourself but freeing up headspace and time is a gamechanger to scaling more quickly.
Outsourcing is an amazing tool. It doesn’t have to look like taking on a huge firm, it can simply mean hiring a freelancer on a one-off basis if that’s all you need.
TIP #4: help with the big picture
Once you know what support you need to give you more time to lead the business, think about what will help you achieve your vision more quickly. Do you need advice from experts, mentors or coaches? Working with a coach has given me accountability, focus and advice to help me achieve my goals more quickly.
The key challenges I see from businesses I work with are:
- Finding new customers and making the necessary sales to grow at the rate they desire
- Knowing which direction to take the business in – often business owners have so many ideas but they are unsure about what will have the biggest impact
- Understanding how to stand out in a crowded market as the market and consumer is evolving so quickly
As their strategy mentor and coach, I help them focus on:
- Streamlining a strategy to focus on more profit and customer engagement
- Positioning and messaging to ensure a clear point of difference
- Connecting with more of the right customers to increase sales
Retail is a lot more than selling products, it’s focused on delivering exceptional customer experiences through multiple shopping and social channels. Sometimes it can be overwhelming with knowing how and where to focus.
If you want support to reach your goals faster, identify your weak spots and look for someone who has the expertise to support you. I have met my coaches through networking or social media. Personally, I feel it’s about an energy match as well as someone that can help me achieve my goals more quickly.
TIP #5: prioritise & remove distractions
I prioritise daily, as well as mapping out my week, month and quarter based on my vision and strategy. You need to delegate and be razor-sharp on where your focus lies. If you’re creative, this is even more important.
Do you often get interrupted? Create focused time and communicate with others that you need this space. I’d recommend reducing distractions like phone and email notifications and stop multitasking. While it can feel rewarding and like we are getting lots done, multitasking comes with a warning – tasks are not completed properly and it’s hard to work towards big goals when you aren’t focused.
TIP #6: break down big tasks
Starting the big tasks in your strategy can feel overwhelming, but even starting with a couple of hours a week makes an impact. I recommend using the Pomodoro Technique to make this as productive as possible: set yourself 25-minute focused windows with five-minute breaks in between.
This is a distraction-free way of working that will allow you to get a lot done in a short space of time. Try it – you will be amazed at what you can get done on those big tasks that are easy to put off.
TIP #7: align with your team
The more you scale the more organised you need to be to give proper briefs and fair timescales to the people that work with you. It’s also important to ensure they’re kept up to speed on your business and that you find a communication method that works for you such as weekly meetings, calls or Whatsapp.
The key is to align your expectations with theirs!
TIP #8: focus on you mindset
Headspace is a huge part of being able to grow into your role as a business leader and take the stress out of scaling.
Parking ideas is important. Every time you think of something, assess whether the idea aligns with your strategy and if it will lead to your big vision.
Developing your mindset is crucial. Business can be like a game of snakes and ladders. There are as many snakes that arise as challenges as ladders that propel us forward.
Last February and September I felt like I slid down the big snake on the board. I was so sure I was doing the right thing – nearly at the finish line – and then bam, I went back to the start. But, as I reflect, I’m much quicker to find the ladders again and building resilience is crucial to success.
The reason I hit the snake last February was the huge amount of pressure I’d put myself under at the start of the new year. I didn’t have a proper strategy in place, I was trying to do much and was lacking adequate support. It’s not always easy to see where we are going wrong, which is why I find working with a coach helps.
TIP #9: keep ahead of consumer trends
Keeping up to date with industry news is important when you are running a business. I regularly share free insights on LinkedIn and Instagram and host free webinars while I would encourage you to keep up with trade press too.
Here’s what to expect to see more of in 2023:
- High street revival and local shopping
- Destination malls
- Indie pop-up shops and marketplaces
- Experiential department stores
- Immersive brand pop-ups
TOP #10: trust and authenticity
Retail is not dead as you may be led to believe by the mainstream media – you already know that! It’s an evolution and trends have just been fast-tracked! There is a massive redistribution of shopping channels, retailers and locations, which is hugely exciting. Only the customer really matters. Here are some questions to consider:
- How and where do your customers want to shop?
- What experience can you provide that exceeds their expectations?
- How can you keep in touch with them in between purchases or visits so you are top of mind?
- Is this the end of ‘over-consumption’? If so, how will you make your brand count?
To summarise, this is not a time to stand still! The biggest businesses rise from every recession. So, I encourage you to take time to strategise and ask yourself the question: is your business set up for success? I would love to hear what action you are going to take from this guide, so please get in touch and let me know.
Wizz Selvey is founder of retail and brand strategy consultancy agency Wizz & Co. Follow her for insight and updates on Instagram @wizz.and.co and Facebook @wizzandco.retail, visit wizzandco.com or search for Wizz & Co on LinkedIn.