As a former client of Quest Fore Inc. Ken Cuccinelli had always known the company had great people and produced a great product. That’s why when the company came up for sale in 1999, he jumped at the chance to lead the 47-employee strategic marketing company forward.
Cuccinelli, owner, chairman and CEO, liked what he saw in his new business. However, there seemed to be something missing. The company needed processes in place and a strategic direction to help guide it.
“What they needed was better processes and financial controls as well as a strategic plan,” Cuccinelli says. “They were working mostly on a project-to-project basis. The first thing we wanted to do was move the company from being a project company to more of a strategic partner with our clients.”
Cuccinelli helped the company grow to that next level by adding direction.
Smart Business spoke to Cuccinelli about how to implement a strategic plan and add more value to your business.
Develop a strategy.
The important part of having a strategic plan is if you don’t have a plan, you don’t know where you’re going. If you’re just searching for the perfect wave, you might get lucky and find it, but you may not. Unless you have a plan and a direction, those day-to-day decisions that we each have to make if you’re not matching them to where you’re ultimate goal is, you may be taking yourself in the wrong direction. That doesn’t mean that a strategic plan doesn’t need to be looked at and revised at all times, but the bottom line is, you’ve got to know where you’re going or any path will get you there.
The real challenge people have is, they mix up strategy and tactics. That has been one of the elements of what we’ve been trying to help people understand. A strategy is more of a higher level of what we want to attain.
It gets to be a three-fold input. You have to talk to your employees because they see and hear things you don’t see and hear. The second thing is, you have to try to meet with your clients without any goal of selling, but just listen. How’s everything going? How are we doing? What could we do better? What do you foresee as your upcoming issues? In five years, what do you think is going to impact your business? You are trying to extract that information.
The third thing is to try and listen to what your competitors are doing. Maybe they’ve seen or heard something you haven’t and you can pick it up. Then you have to try and bring those three pieces together on a regular basis.
Measure your plan.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. The strategy doesn’t need to be complicated and it doesn’t need to fill tons and tons of books, but it needs to be the direction where you want to go and it needs to be understandable by everybody involved in it. When that happens, you’ll find that employees and staff will come up with the right kinds of programs, because they’re going to see how it’s going to get them closer.
A good strategic plan has three elements: it has a competitive analysis, it has an internal analysis, and it has a market analysis. Each of those has to be done to have a good strategic plan. Who are your competitors? How do you rank against your competitors?
We actually funded a third party to talk to all of our clients to see how we were doing and clients who we didn’t win bids on to do a lost-order analysis. We found out from that study that we had competitors we didn’t know about and people we thought were competitors were really not competitors. People really need to know who truly they’re competing against.
Know your value.
Value is a function of benefits divided by cost. You need to, from a strategic point of view, truly find out what your value is by knowing what your benefits are. You’ve got to talk to the clients. Look at each of your customers and study their business a little bit and see where it’s going. Is there consolidation going on? Is there technology advances going on? Be aware of what they are and see how you can help them get through those changes because change is pretty tough on a lot of companies.
There are three steps in any kind of selling process or in any relationship. The first one is people have to be aware that you exist. The second one is, they have to have a favorable opinion. The third thing is, they know now that you exist and they like you, then they’ll change behavior. So many people try to go into the behavior change piece right away. If you think of your own dating or relationships and things like that, it’s a multistep process.
HOW TO REACH: Quest Fore Inc., (412) 381-6670 or www.questfore.com