Monday, 11 August 2014

Billy’s Thirtieth law: The Three Business Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs. Skill One, develop great Tactical Skills

As I previously wrote in The Eighteenth Law, the entrepreneur must develop his or her skills ahead of the development of the enterprise. We can look at specific business aspect skills; learning more about finance, management, marketing and the operations of the business. Development also includes developing skill sets in three important components of business planning. These skills are Analytical, Strategic and Tactical.
Analytical Skills include all aspects of measuring, and interpreting those measures to make more effective business decisions.
Tactical Skills include all aspects of achieving goals set by the company.  These include everything from performing tasks to the systems and workflows that efficiently get things done. 
Strategic Skills are the planning, goal setting and visioning aspects of your company.  Strategies set direction while tactics get you to the destination.   
To use a simple example, when you take a vacation, strategy is deciding where to go, tactics is deciding how to get there and analysis tells you how long it will take. These three skills are taken from business theory; but don't let that scare you. You are already using each skill on a regular basis. The challenge is developing skills and building on the skills in which you may be weak. Over the next three blogs, I will shed light on each skill, why they are important to your firm and how these skills are essential parts of developing your enterprise.

Tactics:  Most Entrepreneurs' Strongest Skill

Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation.

·         Max Euwe, Chess Grandmaster & Mathematician

Most of the entrepreneurs I have met have little idea of why they are successful.  They attribute success to creativity, insight, hard work and other factors popularized by the press.  When I look at successful business owners they do not invent a better mousetrap, but rather build and sell mousetraps better than their competitors.  Successful entrepreneurs deliver well and deliver early.  This simple fact is not exciting, but it is the truth. 
In a previous blog, I suggested that success was more than simply hard work.  Successful entrepreneurs combine hard work with great tactics, especially when the goals (strategies) in the early stages of business development are quite straight forward. 
Tactical thinking is essential to success…especially early success.  An entrepreneur with whom I worked was in the solar control business.  This industry uses window tinting and roller blinds to reduce heat and glare in both buildings and automobiles.  The owner got his start installing tint automobiles and recreational vehicles.  He was extremely good at it, got a good reputation in the industry and built a profitable business. 
He didn’t invent window tinting.  He didn’t apply it to an entirely new industry.  He just found a better way of doing thing others were not doing well, and then building on it. There are tactics in production…finding better ways to produce your products or deliver your services.   There are marketing tactics, ways to influence your customers in ways that help you achieve your sales and profit goals. 
The challenge, as we shall discover going forward, is that strong tactics alone only take you so far.  This comes back to the hard working entrepreneur who works hard, but never really achieves much of anything.  It is fine to have your business exist to provide you with a job, if that is what you want.  There is nothing wrong with that…in fact that describes my own situation.  Many people want more…and tactics alone will not allow them to accomplish that goal. 
Good tacticians always look for a better way.  They know that there are no best practices, just best practices thus far.  In manufacturing they look at systems such as LEAN, TQM and Theory of Constraints; apply behavioral event interviewing in their recruiting efforts and apply online efforts to marketing.  Smart tacticians take from the best systems, adapt them to their unique situation and improve their ability to deliver.  
The weakness with tacticians hurt businesses in the long run.  These include a lack of the ability to delegate, assuming their tactic is the best tactic and failing to realign tactics when the company needs to change strategy.  Firms can get stuck in a ‘tactical trap’ where the means becomes more important that the ends. 
Most entrepreneurs are tactical and that is great when both the enterprise and the economics are stable.  Alas, we live in turbulent times; times that require more than great tactics, but add analytics and strategic thinking to the mix to develop a growing and sustainable enterprise. 

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