Strategy is... deciding where you want to be in the future and how to get there -- that might be years from now or nearer term. We help businesses map a path for the future and then make it happen.
“If we rely on tactics all the time then ultimately other people will be making all our big decisions for us”
The only key distinction we draw is between strategy and tactics. A strategy is a set of choices that an individual or organisation makes to try and create the future state they want and ready themselves to receive the benefit when they get there.
Whilst we cannot control all the factors governing that future, we can assess the trade-offs that we are willing to make and decide where we will put our energy and resources.
Tactics are processes and routines that we use or a set of responses we take to unexpected situations. Both have their place but if we rely on tactics all the time then ultimately other people will be making all our big decisions for us.
“Often a good strategy is much more about the people we want to be on good terms with than about outwitting and defeating our sworn enemies”
In many people’s minds, strategy is innately linked to war. We enjoyed reading The Art Of War as much as anyone else but in business people don’t have to get hurt! It isn’t always a zero-sum game and often a good strategy is much more about the people we want to be on good terms with -- our customers, our staff and our suppliers -- than about outwitting and defeating our sworn enemies (that’s just a satisfying by-product). After all, if we achieve our aims, do we really mind if there are left-overs for them?
If you recognise any of the situations below, give us a call...
We’ve lost the ability to win…
It feels as though the business has lost direction and momentum. Although sales are still increasing it seems like this is only coming through economic growth and recent acquisitions. Our traditionally strongest business lines are slowly but surely losing share, this is even after we’ve reduced prices -- something which we are now finding hard to stop. Our competitors don’t seem to be making a much better product but it’s a bit cheaper, it’s a bit easier to use and we seem to be struggling to respond. We’ve got some good people in the team but it feels like they are too thinly spread and all our efforts result in things that are just good enough -- we’ve lost the ability to win.
Our customer is changing in ways we aren’t sure we understand…
It feels like every other day there is some new report out about how different things are going to be in a few years’ time. A few of our most valued investors have even questioned whether we have a future. We have spent time thinking about what the future might hold and what we can do but frankly the exercise seems to be getting us nowhere. Everyone we speak to has a different opinion, even though they are all “experts”. People are very happy to give us advice and thought leadership but no one can tell us what we should be doing right now. We have lots of big business decisions coming up, ones that will have an impact for many years. We are concerned about making the wrong choices and saddling ourselves with the wrong structure for the future -- our customer is changing in ways we aren’t sure we understand.
We’re following but we aren’t fast, we aren’t cheap and we aren’t sure who the leader is…
We’ve had some innovative products in our time but over the years we lapsed into a more responsive way of working. Everything we do seems to be based on what we see our competitors doing; our pricing, our product, even the amount of advertising we buy. The market keeps getting more and more fragmented and we aren’t really sure who is winning, apart from “not us”. There are some of our competitors who seem to be gaining share but their system just seems to be to do everything, right now. We can’t afford to keep pace with that.
Our industry is in decline and we’ve only got a few good years left…
Things aren’t like they used to be, that’s for sure. We’ve built our business by concentrating on use cases where we knew that we could outperform others by getting things right first time for time pressured customers. In our business speed and quality matter more than price and so being the best at what we do has served us well for a long time. We keep thinking... whatever happened to all the people who made DVD cases?
We seem to be in the right place at the wrong time…
We think that we can offer our customers things that no one else can but they don’t seem to appreciate our product in the way we expect. We have spent lots of time thinking about the benefits of our product and we have proved that it delivers but we can’t seem to get our customers excited about it. We walk away from sales meetings having answered all their questions, we’ve even had successful trials at their sites, yet still the orders aren’t coming in. Our investors have started murmuring that our growth projections are too optimistic and they might hold back on funding. When we look at the market we are certain of the need and we still seem to be the only people offering solutions. Customers agree time and time again that they have the problems we can solve but they aren’t biting in high enough numbers -- we seem to be in the right place at the wrong time.
We are worried about too much of a good thing…
We’ve spent years building our company in the hope that our vision would be right and the market would love our innovation -- and it happened! We are now faced with three problems:
- Growth isn’t predictable, it comes in waves and we must be ready to go when the next one hits but we can’t afford to carry lots of spare capacity for long.
- The mainstream customer has different wants and needs to the early adopter. As the product has gained popularity we’ve realised that we aren’t thinking like customers anymore -- we are too tied up in what it takes to deliver.
- We never have any time to think!
Rapid growth is what we have always dreamed and we don’t want to blow it by failing to make the step up in size and thinking -- we are worried about too much of a good thing.