By Renie Cavallari

In my new book, aspire…to lead, available now on Amazon, I talk about nothing but strategy for an entire chapter. It’s that important. And in this time of looking forward, it is important to think of strategy in the right way. Strategy is your roadmap. It is the way to travel in order to reinforce your vision and mission, and it is the direction your team will follow.

In my opinion, it was Madeline Albright who said it best. As Secretary of State she stated, “I am tough on strategy and easy on tactics.”

Here are the 15 steps to starting 2015 off on the right foot.

Identify your top 5 Most Important Strategies

Questions that help you explore your strategic direction:

1. What can you learn from your competitors? Studying your best competition can help you to set yourself apart. It can help you evolve, grow or sustain brand relevance.

2. What can you learn from your customers? Find out what they want, what they need or something they didn’t even know they would like.

3. What can you learn from your associates? Determine what they value and whether you are delivering it. Get their opinions on everything from their leaders to the service they deliver. Nothing speaks to front-line service like the people who deliver it.

4. What gaps do you need to close? Optimize profitability by identifying and seeking remedy for any and all of them.

5. How will you engage your people? Engaged and happy people deliver on your higher purpose and brand promise, helping you carry out your strategy.

6. What are the 5 things you need to improve this year? Take a look at what matters most concerning the value of your brand or asset and focus on those.

7. What will you change or disrupt intentionally this year? As you disrupt, change and improve, consider any possible obstacles, challenges and threats and how you will neutralize or overcome them. Also consider the outcomes of this intentional disruption and what it will mean to you, your team and your brand.

Strategies actually come to life through tactics, those agile and specific actions that carry you through to accomplish your goals. Think of strategy as your journey and tactics as the steps you take to reach your ultimate destination.

Design the “how” you will get it done

After you determine your “what needs to happen” (strategies), you must figure out how you will get there (tactics). Here are some tips to get your detailed plan in place.

1. Strategies answer the question: sustain brand relevance. For example, if you want to drive additional food and beverage revenues, you might ask the question: “what must we do to meet this objective?” From here you might determine:

  • “Increase average check.”
  • “Reposition our 3 meal restaurant to attract the local market within 5 miles of our front door.”

2. Do your homework. Study everything you need to know from every angle. Many times we want to just get moving and this can cost time on the backend. Though acting fast is important, a well-thought-out strategy minimizes the failures and their related costs.

3. Know your customer. Make sure your product or service is unique, competitive and appealing to your audience. How will your strategy engage your customers or employees?

4. Think through and map out your tactics, those priority action steps. For instance, if your strategy is to increase your average check, your priority tactics might include:

  • Review the current upsell process
  • Evaluate moments to suggestively sell
  • Hire a hospitality training company to help you re-engineer your approach and re-train your people
  • Establish an incentive plan to reward high performance levels

5. Be present, focused, patient and adaptable. Always seek to identify room for improvement, making adjustments without creating chaos. A good strategy is focused on goals and measurable objectives while the tactics remain agile.

6. Never stop learning. Stay alert and open to new information. Know what your customers want and strategize to deliver it, even as the market is constantly changing.

7. Share your vision with your team. Get them excited about the direction, help them understand what is in it for them (WIIFM) and then engage them into the approach.

8. Look for small moments of progress. Progress drives momentum.

Strategies are at the foundation of skillful and effective disruption. And remember, hope is not a strategy.

If you’d like to read the first chapter of my book, we’re offering it for free download on the Aspire site. Get it now!