Steps To Achieve Your Goals

A goal is the “aspiration“.
A plan is the “what”.
A strategy is the “how”.
A tactic is the “act”.

Understanding the sequence above gives you cclarity in your decision making.

Small-Business: How to Survive Big Competitors (Whitepaper)

Small businesses fear the big players. This is common across industries.
Aspiring and existing small business owners have many misgivings about how to survive.

You can click to download the free white paper.

Or continue to read it here… We welcome your comments below.

Small businesses cite limited resources in assets, capital and manpower as the major drawback
in the midst of very big companies. This can be overcome.

Many of these SMEs give up at the slightest sign of turbulence.
Other intending promoters with good ideas simply shy away, from founding their own enterprise.

However, there is an advantage in the size of a small business.
Big businesses have their own peculiar challenges too.


This paper will remove the misgivings and reveal how SMEs could have their own breathing space
and survive into the future, even in the presence of the big market leaders.

This paper will show scenarios of a few small and big businesses,
on how they have fared across some industries; to highlight some issues.

The paper also gives the basic action points that small businesses should apply for success.
For clarity, the action points are further categorized into internal and external environments.

Other cautionary points are identified to minimize errors and failure.
Credible sources and references are supplied to buttress relevant points raised.


What is meant by size?
Does size matters — either big or small — in business survival and profitability?

The size is of a business is determined essentially, by the number of employees,
the amount of revenue it generates as well as the size of its assets, rights and obligations.

However, these attributes differ from industries to industries. In some countries, the definition differs, slightly.

Micro-enterprises have one or less-than-ten employees.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),
small enterprises would have less than 49 employees.
The medium sized would be between 50 and 249 employees.
The big companies would fall into the category of 250 and more, as their workforce.[1]

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
posits that size could also be defined by the monetary value of government contracts,
set aside for different sized businesses, by the government.[2]

While being attractive, big size comes with its load of responsibilities.

However, the personal goals and the philosophical posture of a small business owner
would determine which direction he or she would over time.

Some choose to remain lean and yet are perpetually profitable.

Others aspire to be big.
As an aside, in some industries, being big is a safer option to take.

Here is a case of two smaller banks that chose to be big but came out with different results.

In Nigeria, a small bank, as at 1990, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) was founded at a turbulent period.
By the year 2011, it had become the biggest bank in Nigeria,
by market capitalization displacing even century-old competitors.[3]
As of 2018, it still ranks amongst the 10 topmost banks in the country–with outposts in some countries. [4].

Across the shores, in the UK, an erstwhile smaller Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS),
founded in 1727, had acquired all it could just before 2008.
It briefly became the biggest bank in the world, but post-2008, it ran into big trouble.

Quoting a BBC documentary in 2018.
“Ten years on… the Royal Bank of Scotland collapsed and
almost took the entire UK banking system down with it.
[5] [6]

Sadly, the bank’s huge assets couldn’t help its precarious liquidity situation amongst other causes.[7]

Small-medium businesses that desire to scale must realize
that it demands high responsibility, disciplined leadership and top-notch management practice.
There must be a sacred respect for the unseen future.

This must temper decision making in business.

The latter, the more serious for SMEs, that rarely have any support,
that could get them out of the woods in case of any eventuality.




*China Construction Bank, China

*JPMorgan Chase, USA

*Berkshire Hathaway, USA

*Agricultural Bank of China, China
*Bank of America, USA

*Wells Fargo USA

*Apple USA

Revenue Range: $102B - $247B
Employees: 123,000 - 487,000
World’s Largest Public Quoted Companies (2018) [8]
* Colorado: $10.2M – 39 ee

*HED Cycling, Minnesota: $10M – 48 ee

*Motawi Tileworks, Michigan: $3M – 33 ee

*OnceLogix, North Carolina: $4M – 15 ee

*Menlo Innovations, Michigan: $4M – 43 ee

*Turnerboone, Atlanta: $21M – 24 ee

*Barefoot Books, Massachusetts: $5M – 20 ee

*OptiFuse, El Cajon, California: $4.5M


Forbes Small Giants 2017:
America's Best Small Companies [9]

ee: means Employees

*MCI WorldCom

*Eastern Airlines


*Trans World Airlines
Five Fortune 500 companies that no longer exist [10]
*Sedna Wireless


*RealTime Worlds


Business Insider: 33 Startups That Died Reveal Why They Failed [11]

The table or matrix above is only for illustrative purposes.
The verifiable and credible resources that were found
are skewed towards main businesses in the United States.

Other countries could make their own inferences.

The table gives a simple picture of realities of success and failure
in any business of whatever size—small or big.

No size of any business is immune to any of the two extremes.

A business may continue to enjoy longevity whether it is big or small.
Any business could also close shop whether it is a day old or decades in existence.

Some of the companies picked for these illustrations are well known, public, private or unknown.

Detailed financial performance and the workforce are not being investigated here.

A business could make a lot of revenue but its costs of doing business over time
may deplete the profits which could result in bad cash-flow; that’s a disaster waiting.

A small enterprise could have a good and repeatable positive return
on its limited assets/resources,with a disciplined philosophy on costs management,
going for it.


This will be broken into two sections.

The Internal and External environments of a business.
It, however, may not be clear-cut, but for the sake of clarity.

These action points are in no way exhaustive and are in no particular order.
They simply highlight what should be done from a vantage position.


  1. Unique Selling Proposition

    What is the USP of the business?
    An SME to a large extent shouldn’t generalize at the growing stage.
    It is better to be known for one singular attribute that sets it apart in its industry.
    Big businesses tend to have more things to deal with
    and this can be challenging to handle in terms of human and material resources.

  2. Innovation

    SMEs should be innovative. It doesn’t have to be radical.
    Their relatively small size gives room to quickly try new ideas
    and validate if such would be profitable or not.
    Innovation can be either tangible or intangible.
    However, it takes a longer time for some big businesses to come to a decision;
    to innovate.

  3. Financials

    These are figures in the books that shows how alive the business is.

    Asset velocity, which is how fast a business uses its asset
    to spurt out net profit must be given due consideration.

    A net asset that yields impressive revenue with quick turnaround
    of the working capital or inventory.

    However, asset velocity ratios defer across industries. [12]
    Working capital and cash-flow management must not be neglected. [13]

  4. Goals and Metrics

    The business must have a set of relevant objectives which must be measurable,
    such that the attainment and otherwise would give a clearer picture about what is going on.

    Adjustments would be made immediately if the metrics
    as designed are not being met, when and how it should be. [14] [15]

  5. Processes and Systems

    Every activity should be documented across the different units of the business.
    These processes are thereby arranged to build a system.
    These two factors are some of the pillars of ensuring
    the business could stay as an entity outside the presence of its founder or manager.

  6. The Power of Small Size

    The nimble nature of a small business is an opportunity
    to walk around the flanks of big companies, to increase its market share.

    Big businesses get slowed down because of bureaucracy,
    internal politics and misplaced ego of some of the leaders.
    These make them complacent and vulnerable over time.

    The small size makes for quick action and reaction.

  7. Measured Pace

    SMEs must try their business activities at a “slow and steady” pace
    in to avoid an unpleasant outcome.

    The smart idea is to be focused and inch gradually into the marketplace.
    At the growing stage, the onus is not to compete directly against the leaders.

    When the financials and other indices are right –depending on the goals of the owners –
    the business could scale up. But speed without control could kill a business.

  8. The Business of People

    The bedrock of any business regardless of size is about giving due diligence to human beings.

    Business is simply about people.

    Any other factor of production cannot exclude human beings;
    granted there are in the offing, the use of Artificial Intelligence and other tools of technology.

    In the beginning, smart small businesses are more employee and customer oriented —
    for success – more than in big companies.
    This is not to disregard premium placed on capital, assets, technology, systems or tools.

    Because these factors of production might be few and far between at the growing stage.
    A carefully sourced team members – that the business can afford —
    must be well motivated and trained, every time.

    Small businesses need more care in hiring because human errors
    can be more costly for them.

    Big businesses can absorb this in a better manner.

    Hiring slowly and firing quickly uncommitted employee —
    within the legal terms of the agreement –
    are the philosophical foundations of good human resources management.

    The relationship between suppliers, customers and regulators must also be well managed.


1. Industry Analysis

To make an inroad into an industry deserves a good SWOT analysis
of the big players and the small ones. It has to be a continuous exercise.
But being customer-focused gives more power to feel their pulse. [16]

2. Barrier to Entry

Realities of the day and the resources at hand would determine
if a small-business could enter an industry and thrive within its own narrow lane.

Barriers to entry in different industries and geographical locations places
must be well understood if there is a chance to start or continue in that line of business or not.[17]

3. Trend and Timing

Determine the trend and the timing that beg for value.

What are the target customers really saying?

A bit of caution:
Timing in business may force a good idea to be shelved since consumers
would not appreciate the product or service at the material time if such is launched.

Big companies are slow to react.

Smaller businesses can capitalize on it.
(See the example of the Nigerian bank above.)

A small business could change the rules of service in an industry.

Though this takes more imagination than having surplus capital.

Accenture says disruption need not be complex; but simple.
They found that:
“While 93 percent of executives say they know their industry will be disrupted
at some point in the next five years, only 20 percent feel they’re highly prepared to address it.
It (disruption) has an understandable predictable pattern”

That would be a welcoming impetus for aspiring or existing small-medium enterprises.
They should initiate and test new sets of offerings within their niche market.

But a small business must find out before dabbling into an idea or industry,
must watch out for the inflection point in their respective industries and geographical location.
This to avoid failure after execution of new ideas.

According to Investopedia;
“Certain unforeseen events can include major economic downturns,
such as the financial crisis of 2008, or natural disasters that affect a particular business
or industry in a meaningful way” [19]

4. Technology Shifts

SMEs must be on the lookout for the evolving and turbulent world of technology.
To some extent, it is a leveler for small businesses and the big ones.
It could also be a catalyst that could retire some traditional businesses or suffocate them at the least.

As young entrants, Amazon and Uber had used technology to shake the publishing and
the transportation industries respectively.
And there are many ongoing examples.

5. Regulators

Government and regulators and their policies must be well understood as they affect all businesses.

Small businesses don’t have the power or the resources to lobby these powerful entities.
However, big businesses are more influential within the corridors of political power.

SMEs must work within the regulatory rules – ethically — to survive.
This needs more creative imagination for survival at different locale, towns, and places.

There are also the subterranean and infamous authorities –
who by their arm-twisting nature — must be well taken into consideration.

6. Sales and Marketing

The publicity drive of a young SMEs should be different, creative.
The approach should be under the radar from the prying eyes of the big players.
Small-businesses can’t compete with the big businesses on the heavy advertising budget.

This would work for two reasons.

1) The activities of the small enterprise wouldn’t be noticed at onset by the bigger players.

2) Due to this restricted approach and limited funds for advertising,
the situation stimulates a more creative approach that could impress the customer segment

6. Imitate the Leader

If some funds are made available, a small-business could experiment
and imitate the big leaders in some chosen aspects of value creation.

This would be done in a gradual manner to strengthen the small business
and thereby making it stronger than other smaller sized businesses.

7. Customer Relationship

The small business owner should initiate and build a good network of prospects,
both online and offline.
There should be a well-managed system of communication and engagement.

For some businesses, this would involve physical engagements
within the neighborhood, town, city or state.

Not all customer relationship could take place on the internet.
The reason why customer care in the real world must be solid for some businesses.

8. The Zero Moment of Truth

There is an opportunity to provide content and dialogue with prospects on the web.
Many big businesses have not yet capitalized on this new consumer behavior.

Winning customers these days could be initiated from the internet
—irrespective of the business is online, a brick and mortar or a hybrid in service delivery.

Prospective customers roam the web even for physical products they desire to buy across the street.

With their ubiquitous phones or other devices,
they want to learn and review products and services – first hand–
on the web, before coming to a conclusion.

Google calls it the ZERO MOMENT OF TRUTH.
According to Google, 80% of consumers do this across all industries.

Quoting Google…

“At Google, we call this online decision-making moment the Zero Moment of Truth,
or simply, ZMOT.

The ZMOT refers to the moment in the buying process
when the consumer researches a product prior to purchase.” [20]


SMEs need to be more focused on goals they can achieve.
They need disciplined leadership, imagination to optimize their limited resources.

They also need to be aware of the business environment from the internal and external perspectives.

Small and medium businesses would go far in serving personalized services to customers.
Specialized and customized products are easier for them to churn out than big companies.

They have more of the advantage of flexibility and adaptability,
whereby effective and quick decision making could be made.

The big businesses struggle with these attributes.

SMEs as employers should be much closer to their fewer employees.
Therefore they can know how to motivate and build closer relationships; which would eliminate bureaucracy.

Small businesses can capitalize on their geographic specialization
since they tend not to spread too far and wide. [21]

Therefore with the aforementioned, they can hold their own
in the marketplace irrespective of the bigger players.


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The 9 Proven Steps CEOs Can Take To Make Business Strategies Work!

In our private lives, we set out personal goals and objectives. Within a family, there are expectations — be it nuclear or extended (depending on the social mores of a place). Every head of the family or a single parent, wish for a certain outcome. And, Oh Yes, the wise ones know that things don’t go as expected.

Imagine a racing car on the track, no matter how well tuned or powerful it may be, without a conscientious driver behind the wheel, will not get to the finishing line. (I am aware there are now driverless vehicles in the offing, by the way).
Likewise plotted flight charts alone won’t carry aircraft passengers to their planned destination. There must be capable pilots in the cockpit whose job is to take them to their destination safely.

But how come many organizations don’t get to where they have planned, despite the best of strategies?

What makes them fail to achieve their strategic goals? I will not quote a specific figure of the failure rate here, as research findings differ widely. However a finding of the collective rates can be looked up at [1]

In my reckoning, there are two major reasons why strategic plans fail.

These are:

  • The bossy mindset of some CEOs, decision-makers and leaders and
  • a nonexistent system of execution or implementation to meet the set-goals.

The bigger the organization gets, the tendency that some top executives over-delegate and fail. They wait behind the big oak table, expecting the organizational structure to drive itself to its destination.
But leaders need to be more involved. Though this is not to support micro-managing.

If you send your kids to school, that is a responsible undertaking as a parent. But it is a smart thing for a wise parent to pay occasional visits to the school; to ask questions and get more information. The periodical result cards are not enough to make full and accurate judgement on the progress of that kid.

Some leaders would rather wait to react to an unfavorable outcome. Unfortunately this is a fatalistic mindset. And it is also an unprofitable way to get results, more so in our fast-changing world. And no organization is spared of failure, if it cannot institute a proper implementation system in agreement with its top executives and the rest of the workforce. It is better to be active rather than being reactive.

Having said that, then, one may ask: what then should be done to bring a strategic plan to reality?

Here are nine steps that must be instituted to achieve results in meeting strategic goals:

  1. Develop The Leadership Mindset
    The CEO and the top leaders must be more engaged with their subordinates, at their respectable levels, in pushing for results. Since you cannot do it all, you must nurture and raise leaders that would work with you. Their contribution would introduce more objectivity and accuracy in decision making.
    On a scheduled basis, you would need to walk down to the “factory floor” at the units or division level. Here you feel things and listen to their opinions and comments. Here most of your job would be; asking questions. No wonder, the highly revered and successful PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi took time out to visit divisions and even engaged business owners who retailed their products. To be a leader whose organization desires to generate good results, the Chief Executive and the leadership can no longer be aloof in their management style.
    Many bring into leadership positions some behavioral ineptitude, ignorance and naivety. A top I.Q. or technical prowess garnered over the years may not even be enough to make achieve good results. And topnotch result isn’t a bad idea either, for shareholders and other stakeholders in the organization.There is also a need to be objective and less sentimental when dealing with people’s issues. The result oriented leaders must be emotional balanced, having behind his or her mind the results expected of the organization.
    As a leader you must make things happen. Goal oriented Executives execute. No excuses… As such, they must stay less behind the big table to get the ship of enterprise to reach its planned destination.
  2. Build The Implementation System
    Your organization will design and document a set of activities, actions and processes geared towards making the strategic plan a reality. It will be a living system since various internal and external variables won’t be static over time, even with the time frame as planned.
    All activities must be well coordinated with the allocated resources and the workforce to accomplish the strategic goals.The system of purposeful action will be replicated across the different departments and divisions of the organization. These will be the sub-systems at various units or divisions. External factors must be considered first before the internal exigencies; and both built into the implementation framework. Areas of conflict will be eliminated through continuous communication and feedback loops.The system should be able to pinpoint issues that need to be addressed urgently.
    For example; are there issues about hiring and wrong staffing?
    Will you bring in needed skills to meet new objectives?
    How does a sub-system of implementation in various units or division read the marketplace and consumer’s trends? And other factors such as technology, suppliers, and regulations; name it…At every leverage point within the overall operational system, the CEO and his or her top team must be able to put a finger on such areas and understand what is going on, in a timely manner.
  3. Encourage Staff Participation
    There is a need to institute both a formal and informal set of events to get comments from the workforce. Specially designated leaders across units, departments or division will meet on a scheduled basis to discuss the strategic plans and what must be done to achieve them.The CEO hand-picks a top team of advisers which should include specialists at the lower rung of the ladder if need be. They help the CEO and the top executives spot each other’s blind-spot so that more informed decision can be made after these joint sessions.Informal meets such as executive and staff retreats is a good idea if it has cost-benefits. Powerful ideas do come up when everybody is allowed to express himself in a relaxed atmosphere. The CEO or his top team should be at such events. The Executives are to ask good questions and be more of silent listeners. Once agreed upon, the valid ideas are put into action by the CEO and leaders at various units and divisions.
    It now becomes a collective assignment for the success of the organization.
  4. Allocate Resources
    The staff must be supported with what they need towards the set goal. Support would come in difference shades. Where necessary additional skills will be brought from outside. Some staff may need further training or mentoring to implement new ideas. Within the workforce, resources should be allocated to develop innovative ideas for competitive edge.Consultants may be brought in to give an objective appraisal and proffer solution in many cases where time is of essence. This also helps for clarity where internal politics and doubts on feedback may slow down the CEO and the top leaders in coming to a decision.Ad-hoc arrangements or permanent alliance with technical partners in certain areas that the company lack expertise should also be effected, after due diligence. In extreme cases acquiring another firm may be the most effective decision rather than inventing the wheel in-house.
    In essence, where a specific outcome is feasible and profitable, resources must be deployed to make it a reality.
  5. Align Organizational Behavior And Culture
    Behavioral patterns that could stall the implementation process across board must be studied and where necessary adjusted. There must be an alignment of organizational culture that supports activities that ensure that the strategic goals are met. The inevitable internal politics must be tamed.The carrot and stick approach may be applied where necessary to induce collaboration as set targets must be met.
    At the individual and group levels, persuasion and continuous dialogue must be the tactic to be used. Change takes time but smart organization and resourceful leaders work with their people to carry them along to create a more successful business organization.Habits die hard and since human beings are not robots; but the leadership would provide the best solution to get their staff cooperation and commitment.
    No staff commitment, strategic failure is a matter of time. A good dose of continuous explanation and mutual understanding with the rank and file on the overall objective of an organization would help a great deal in execution.
  6. Manage The Workforce
    As humans, our idiosyncrasies, biases and beliefs must be taken into consideration. Since people would drive the system, then they ought to be well managed. And pruning of staff may be necessary of those unwilling or unconvinced about the new orientation. The latter with such disposition must be found out and excused from the company.Years back, I recall a new business I started which was brought down by some old staff whom I thought would pick new skills for higher pay. They scared away the efforts of my highly skilled professional I employed to head the outfit. After two days of throwing the doors open, the new manager simply put a call across to me about his departure and walked away. For other reasons I eventually closed down the outfit. Painful. It was a loss.While at this, the Human Resources Department must key-in into the implementation system. Some of their activities would need vital contributions from the top hierarchy and other relevant departments before certain decisions can be finalized. It is a very sensitive department since people are the ones that make strategic plans and goals become a reality.A good reward system must also be instituted. Those who meet set objectives are recognized and rewarded. Those who miss the mark or who seem to be amiss about what is happening, would be investigated to see how they can be helped to perform better. If they fail afterwards, they may have to be given a different task. If they can’t meet up here again, then they should be relieved of their appointment in an amicable manner.
  7. Install Good Communication System
    A thorough network of free-flow of information must be designed for the organization. It must be a well thought-out system. The organizational structure should support an efficient and effective flow of information that work in a timely manner.All tools and resources that will channel vital information between the CEO, top decision-makers and the workforce must be deployed and well managed.
    Channels that follow Up-down, across, and between the organization and outside must be well managed.
    The accuracy and authenticity of information must be verified for decision making. The nodal points of engagement along information channels must be well managed.The style of delivery of information must be amenable to all stakeholders for clear comprehension and understanding.
    Information is sacred — secondary to human beings – and as such it is very important in our lives and in business management. We must carefully engage with it. It must be clear and understood by the receiver in whatever vehicle or form it is deployed. And the purveyor must not be careless about what is broadcast.
    Either way information is channeled; from the CEOs, top executives or within the workforce, communication must be well protected with necessary tools and resources.Transparency should be entrenched to encourage a sense of belonging, conviction and commitment by employees and their unit leaders. However, in discretionary cases, some information may not be broadcast to everybody from top management.
  8. Understand The External Environment
    No business exists in isolation. So the implementation process should feed in from outside to achieve specific outcome. The horizon changes more rapidly than in the past years because of technology.
    Technology continuously causes so much change. In its wake, some industries have been subdued or became moribund while new ones have evolved.The externals would also include the general economy, consumers and social trends. We will also consider regulation, competition, global politics and threats and others. Various trends and players within an industry and outside of it will be monitored.Having a field tour by the CEOs and his top team across the value chain of the business would throw up some nuggets of useful ideas and unforeseen problems as well as opportunities.
    It’s good for management to have an open mind. Strategies may be forced to change, if what you planned won’t go far.Other top leaders should do the same as foot soldiers of the management in their own capacity. All data are fed into the implementation system which the top management and the CEO would work with.To achieve strategic goals, there must be a proper engagement with suppliers and other partners to make execution a reality.
    It is also a safer bet to engage in a diplomatic manner, influencers that play a major role in your industry. For big organizations, lobbying policy-makers — in an ethical manner — should be done in a timely manner as some policies may derail some strategic plans.
  9. Review Milestones and Feedback
    On a continuous basis, there must be a process to determine if milestones are being met and they must be measurable. A value should be put to specific outcome. The various sub-systems within the organization should be accorded relevant criteria of review and feedback.When all these are carried out, a larger and clearer picture can be seen; to know how specific outcomes and strategic plans have been met.
    Where success is achieved, you consolidate on that outcomes.
    When the feedback falls short of expected milestones, it is a waste of energy to bark like a General at war. Though engaging in business is a war of sorts – the Chief Executive and his or her top team will go back to review and push for the objectives to be met.

Final Thoughts

Your well-crafted strategic plan is not enough. Your shareholders and other stakeholders hunger for results. You can drive the operational process with your workforce, to bring the strategic goals to a reality.
That is what is expected of you as a leader and Chief Executive, despite the shifting business horizon. It won’t be easy. But being disciplined and focused with your carefully selected team, you can do it.
And your well instituted execution plans would bring the well-crafted strategic plans on paper to reality.
And as Warren Buffet has been quoted, a little bit of the luck could help also. And that’s being pragmatic.


  1. *Cândido, C.J.F. and S.P. Santos (2015) Strategy implementation: What is the failure rate? Journal of Management & Organization, 21(2), 237-262. DOI:
    Strategy implementation: What is the failure rate? (PDF Download Available). Available from:

How to easily sell to customersIf you haven’t yet received our FREE report  on “How To Easily Sell To Customers”
This is a simplified checklist how to convert customers to buy. No HARD-SELL tactic.
Click this link for it. Lets read your comments after using the ideas here.