Entrepreneurship and strategic planning: the enabler

Bienkowska 2017_

Press conference following the State of the Union Address by Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the EC, and Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Member of the EC, on Industrial Policy Strategy. Date: 18/09/2017   Location: Brussels – EC/Berlaymont. © European Union , 2017 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Jennifer Jacquemart.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Diogo Parreira, President of the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises (JADE). The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect The European Sting’s one.

Entrepreneurship is a common word in our daily lexicon. It is about exploiting resources to produce concrete new ideas. It is about re-thinking what it is done and find better ways of doing it. It is about improving and enhancing the goals we give to products, services, organizations, etc. The European ecosystem of start-ups, incubators, innovation centres is growing very fast.

On the other hand, there are also a lot of small business dying every day. Indeed, having an idea is not that hard in a world full of opportunities. Structuring this idea into a business model is a bit more complicated. Planning it to be sustainable and successful in the long-term is even more difficult. This last step seems to be one of the main pains for small businesses and for the start-up universe.

When we talk about entrepreneurship, we often associate it to brainstorming and thinking out of the box. Seeing the same things from different perspectives. Discussing scenarios to come up with different ideas. That is true – but it is only the first step. The vision for the future, through a clear strategic planning, is crucial. A lot of times, unfortunately, it comes too late.

Why is the strategic planning so important?

The knowledge coming from hundreds of Junior Enterprises – organizations managed and composed of university students that aim to foster and develop their entrepreneurial skills –, show us 3 main ideas to encourage the strategic planning in an entrepreneurship environment:

  1. Be sure you have the foundations aligned

More and more often organizations foster diversity in their teams, assuming that diversity brings different perspectives that will lead to richer solutions and outputs. Differences may come from backgrounds, nationalities, expertise… and are powerful sources of inputs. Globalization helps destroying the idea of homogeneity. However, a basic alignment is needed. It is important to have the concepts clarified, the conviction shared and goals set. Otherwise, managing, structuring and taking decisions in an organization is much harder.

Strategic planning is an enabler to go into a deep diagnosis, to listen to the people, to collect insights and perspectives. It is about defining foundations that everyone in the organization should share. Having the pillars, building a house is much easier.

  1. Continuity, continuity and continuity

Mainly younger generations are always looking for more challenges. They start, learn, improve themselves in a professional and personal point of view, but then they also leave and go to other challenges. Indeed, when we talk about the entrepreneurial environment, the people turnover is quite high. When this happen, it is more likely for the knowledge to get lost and for an organization to either die or stagnate. In a market that changes fast, learning, adapting and improving is very important. Thus, continuity is key to succeed.

Having a clear strategy defined gives the guidelines in a mid/long-term perspective. If converts the one-year basis idea into a broader vision.

  1. Know the meaning of the things you do

When we start a business or setup an idea, there are many things to be done in a short amount of time. The first years are very demanding and complex. It is very easy to get lost in details, operational work and to lose the focus on the purpose of an organization, its strategic goals or core business. Having a team that works without knowing the answer to the “why-question” is a first step to demotivation and lack of a clear direction.

The strategic planning gives the big picture – showing the reasons for the actions we implement in a daily basis. It is about understanding the meaning and the direction, about focus and results orientation. Therefore, the frame helps to understand what needs to be done, but even more important, why it needs to be done.

There are two parts when talking about strategic planning. A first one made up by market research, deep diagnosis and benchmarking. This is often done. Then, there is a second part, which is the strategic definition: the goals, KPIs and action plans – that is often, sadly, either ignored or forgotten. This does not destroy the necessary flexibility to grow fast: it brings focus and orientation to succeed in a fast-changing environment. Although, a variable should be raised here: time.

Strategic planning is not a question of defining goals only in a 10-years perspective. We can (and should) plan in shorter periods. In some contexts, planning in a 2-years basis is more than enough. Others will need to go for a 5-years or even 1-year. The important is to not forget the idea of planning in a strategic way, according to the organization goals and purpose.

Following what is written, strategic planning is very important for us in JADE, the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises. We always encourage our Junior Enterprises to define their strategies and we will be defining our own for the next 3-years.

About the author

Diogo Parreira is the President of JADE – the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises. He is in charge of managing the strategic planning of the Confederation; enlarging the Junior Enterprise concept across Europe; and enhancing the international relations of JADE.

Diogo has graduated in business administration from ISCTE Business School (Portugal), currently finishing his master in International Management with a major in Strategy at Católica Lisbon. He was Vice-President of his Junior Enterprise, ISCTE Junior Consulting and President of JADE Portugal – being the responsible for defining a 5-years national network strategy that aims to double the number of Junior Enterprises and ensuring their faster and sustainable development.

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