If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a business coach say, strategy is crucial for success!, I would be writing to you now from my hammock on a Tahitian beach, and servants would be bringing me another umbrella drink. It’s gotten to be so commonplace, that it’s a given.

It makes a lot of sense. Strategy is important.

The problem is, no one actually teaches you how to develop a strategy (at least, no one I’ve seen). They just tell you, get some.

It’s like a story I recently heard about a traveler deep in the African bush who wanted to buy a cola drink from a small shop, miles from any other commercial enterprise. You could buy one only if you gave them an empty bottle first. He didn’t have an empty bottle. He could only get one if he could buy a drink first.

You may sometimes feel like such a traveler with strategy, trying to find your way in a jungle, and the only advice is to get something you have no way of getting from where you are, without the thing you are trying to get.

With that confusing conundrum, it’s no wonder that entrepreneurs have trouble knowing where to start when it comes to strategy.

Strategy sounds really big. It sounds like grown-up, big business stuff. It can feel inaccessible.

I’d like to make it accessible to you by first sharing what it is not.

Strategy is not a plan of action. Strategy does not spring, fully formed, from the forehead of you, the head honcho entrepreneur, like Zeus’ offspring. Strategy is not only for big business.

You can put a lot of pressure on yourself by thinking in those terms. And it serves you very little.

Instead, think of strategy as thoughtful meandering.

What!!?!! Strategy is supposed to be big-brain, carefully thought out, planned to the nth degree, isn’t it?

Not necessarily.

Strategy is more about following the breadcrumbs than it is sitting in your bathtub and yelling, ‘Eureka!’ as whole-picture inspiration strikes.

Strategy that reflects your unique business, your authentic self, is a whole lotta creative effort that evolves over time.

So. First. Initiate. Start where you are. Get a clear idea of where you are right now. This is the thoughtful part of strategy. Let’s say you want to develop a strategy for promoting one of your services. Where are you right now? What are you currently doing?

Next. Evaluate. How well is what you are currently doing working? This is going to involve some numbers, some analysis. You can get pretty detailed here, so start simply: how many visits does this service get on your website? If it’s not on your website yet, that’s the first part of your strategy!

Analytics can get pretty sophisticated, including social media, which I won’t address here. If analytics are your thing, do some research to find out what tools are available, and think about whether what they can measure will tell you what you want to know.

Third step. Innovate. Now that you know where you are and how well people are responding to your current efforts, you can start to get creative.

This is where the meandering I mentioned earlier comes in.

Play around with different options, imagine where they might lead, and how the steps you’d follow would play out at the receiving end (where your clients are!). At this stage it helps to map out the steps so you can follow the trail.

When you come upon the option that makes the most sense to you, that feels right (the best strategy has both elements!), then your strategy process is complete. From here, go ahead and make a plan to put it into action.

Last step. Improvise. Allow for serendipity. When you get an unexpected outcome after any step in implementing your strategy, adjust for it. Learn what you can from it, and make changes to your strategy accordingly.

Strategy is an evolving, living process. There’s no right or wrong. There’s only what works and what doesn’t, and how you respond.

Strategy is an art. Find a balance between the focus you need in order to put your strategy into action, and making adjustments to it as you see things more clearly. The strategic artist can do both, maintaining momentum through focused action, while adjusting course as the wind shifts.

Reducing the process of developing strategy to 4 steps sounds really simple, and in a way, it is. The essence of developing strategy can be distilled into these steps. How far you take each step will determine the sophistication of your strategy.

When I develop strategy with my clients on their VIP Day, that’s in essence what we do. Depending on where they are in their business, strategy can be fairly straightforward, with one or two main areas of focus, or it can be pretty involved with a lot of moving parts. Either way, it’s transformative. It moves them to another level with their business.

The same is true for you. Your business will be transformed when you start creating and implementing strategy to move toward your goals.

Take it easy. Start with a simple strategy using the steps of Initiate, Evaluate, Innovate, and Improvise. As you get better at it, as you learn to ask clearer questions, and as your vision expands, you’ll be able to develop more far-reaching strategies.

The important thing is to start. Thinking through what you want and how you’re going to get there are essential to creating the business success you want. Start with a little strategy.

Author's Bio: 

Ursula Jorch, MSc, MEd, mentors entrepreneurs starting their businesses and seasoned entrepreneurs in transition to create the business of their dreams. Her coaching programs provide knowledge, support, clarity, inspiration, and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs to empower you to reach your goals. Start with a free guide and other valuable info at www.WorkAlchemy.com