Secrets of Strategy - Part 1 of 2
A step-by-step guide to creating a growth strategy for your business that can be the difference between feast or famine.
I'll bet you think you already have a strategy.
And well you may, but strategy as a concept is just like love: much used and little understood. Many businesses (and that includes small entrepreneurs, large corporations, non-profits, community organizations, governments, NGOs...the works) neither know what strategy really is, nor how to get one.
And even if you do, in fact, have a strategy-is it the right one? The best one? This is so important-marketing guru Jay Abraham says-and I agree-a superior strategy badly executed will beat a bad strategy well executed, any day.
It's easy to say, "This is big company stuff. We know what we need-why should we do all the extra work." While a "strategy-less" group of marketing tactics may work well and produce good results, is it taking your business in the best direction? You may be making money, but are you making the most money possible? Could another suite of tactics implementing a superior strategy produce far better results?
Which brings me to the point of this two-part article: how to formulate strategy. In the next 1500 words, I'm going to present the first half of a basic system for identifying high-impact strategies in your business. (Just the first half? Yes. While I strive to make this as simple as possible, it still takes a bit of explaining, and editors and readers alike detest long articles!) So Part 2 will finish the outline, and in future articles, I will discuss each system component in finer detail.
Let's begin with a working definition of strategy.
Strategy is the guiding principle on which are based a series of interlinked decisions regarding the selection and deployment of resources and tactics, whose purpose is realizing a vision and achieving decisive objectives in a competitive and changing environment.
This definition tells us a few things:
1. Set your vision
2. Gather environmental and competitive intelligence
3. Take stock of your organization's strengths and weaknesses
4. Select your "grand strategy"
5. Establish decisive objectives
6. Rate and rank your "SWOTs"
7. Match your internal and external factors to identify strategic alternatives
8. Select specific strategies for implementation
Of course, there is one last step: turning your strategy into tactics and game plans, and execute. We won't get into that in this article.
Step 1. Establish your vision.
People complicate the idea of vision. A vision is simply a story describing how you want things to be in the future. Some people can tell these stories easily-they know exactly where they want to be and what it will "look" like.
Others need help. The best approach is to answer a series of questions regarding what your organization does, who are it's clients or beneficiaries, what its impact is, how big it is, where it is, how it operates, when all these things will occur, and so on. As a result of answering these questions, your vision will emerge.
Of course, you may already have a vision. If so, now is the time to insure that it is relevant and powerful.
The test of a good vision is if it inspires; not only you and your management team, but all of your stakeholders: your partners, employees, clients, investors, vendors, lenders, your community, your government-and perhaps the public at large. A great vision inspires, and it also provides direction. Every action you take should further your vision. If it doesn't, don't do it.
Step 2. Gather environmental and competitive intelligence.
To develop the best strategies you must understand the world outside your organization. Quantify and qualify, not just absolutes, but trends. And importantly-identify changes in the status quo. Key areas for focus include competitors, technology, market size and trends, your clients' industry health, macroeconomic trends, availability of key resources (people and materials) government regulations and other political considerations, and changes in demographics and psychographics-like customer taste.
Devise relevant measures for each of these key external areas. For instance, examine your competitors for revenue, profit and market share growth (or decline), product and service changes, shifts in marketing and sales strategy, changes in geographic distribution, strategic alliances, and major customer announcements.
Macroeconomic factors include the obvious such as interest and employment rates and trends, production and consumption statistics, along with finer grained-industry issues such as new home buying-which impacts a wide variety of businesses, or defense spending-which impacts a completely different set of sectors.
Step 3. Take stock of your organization's strengths and weaknesses.
Now it is time to shine the light on your organization. Examine each functional area looking for strengths and weaknesses. Identify strengths that will help the company realize its vision, and weaknesses that will impede its goals.
The following is a starter list of focus areas:
Other areas to examine include:
Step 4. Select your Grand Strategies.
This "grand strategy" approach is based upon industry/product revenue growth rates. It is specific to a business unit with one major industry and/or product focus. If your business is more complex, you may repeat the process for each focus sector.
First, consider your industry and product sector growth rate. Is it growing or declining?
Second, consider your competitive strength within that sector. For this analysis Competitive Strength has two components, the size and trend of your market share, and your organization's financial strength; specifically either cash flow from operations, or access to capital.
To simplify: strong market share + strong finances = strong competitive position. Either strong market share or strong finances = average competitive position. Neither strong market share nor strong finances = weak competitive position.
This defines a two-by-three matrix of strategic choices from which to select your grand strategy.
Strong sector, strong competitive position
This means that you are in a growing market, hold a commanding market position, and have cash with which to maneuver. Your strategic choices include:
Strong sector, average competitive position
Here you are in a growing market, but have either a commanding position, but limited cash-or vice versa. The exact choice available to you depend on your situation. You can:
Strong sector, weak competitive position
You are in a strong sector, but have relatively small market share, and limited or no cash. Your choices include:
Weak sector, strong competitive position
In this case, you dominate a weak market and have cash to exploit your position. You should:
Weak sector, average competitive position.
You are in a mediocre position in a weak market. Depending on your exact circumstances, you can retreat, use what's left of your cash to buy your way out with new products, or try to enroll a strong partner. Choices include:
Weak sector, weak competitive position
Sorry to say, you are in a bad place. In a word-retreat! You can do this by:
Also, as above, attempt to create strategic partnerships and joint ventures, but it may be difficult to attract partners to a market with poor fundamentals. At this point you might say, "...sell the customers? Sell the company? No way. I'm holding on." That just isn't a strategic point of view.
Strategy says you can make more money doing something else-so you best start thinking about it.
In general, these choices are listed from most attractive to least. Your organization's best choices will be based on your particular circumstances.
By now you have formulated a vision, gathered analyzed your external environment and organization, identified relevant strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and begun to zero in on a grand strategy. That should keep you busy for a while.
In The Secrets of Strategy, Part II, we'll complete the process.
(c) Copyright Paul Lemberg. All rights reserved
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Lemberg is the president of Quantum Growth Coaching, the world's only fully systemized business coaching program guaranteed to help entrepreneurs rapidly create More Profits and More Life(tm). To get your copy of our free special report with detailed steps on how to grow your business at least 40% faster, even when you aren’t sure what to do next, visit Pauls Business Coaching Article's page.