Tag Archives: strategic planning

The 5 Myths of Business Strategy

By Rich Horwath

strategy myth

Consider some of the most popular myths: Lightning never strikes the same place twice—it does. There is no gravity in space—there is, just less. Humans only use 10 percent of their brains—actually, a lot more—yes, even men. Pigeons blow up if fed uncooked rice—they don’t.

Which myths or half-truths have permeated your organization and what effect have they had on your business? Running a business on myths, flawed business principles, and baseless assumptions creates needless confusion and a lack of strategic direction. A study of 10,000 senior executives showed that the most important leadership behavior critical to company success is strategic thinking at 97 percent. As a good strategy is at the core of any organization’s success, it’s important to understand the strategy myths that may be holding back your team from reaching greater levels of success.

Arm your team with the strategy myth busters and your business will soar higher. Click To Tweet

Strategy Myth 1: Strategy comes from somebody else.

“We get our strategy from the brand team/upper management.” This is a common refrain when managers in other functional areas are asked who develops a strategy. It’s also wrong. The strategy that you execute should be your own strategy. Why? Because each group’s resources are going to be different. For instance, the sales team has different resources—time, talent, and budget—than the marketing team or the IT team or the HR team. How they allocate those resources determines their real-world strategy. It’s important to understand the company, product and other functional group strategies to ensure that your strategies are in alignment. However, their strategies are not a replacement for your strategies.

Myth Buster: Identify the corporate strategies, product strategies, functional group strategies and your strategies and seek alignment.

Strategy Myth 2: Strategy is a once-a-year process.

In a recent webinar presented to more than 300 CEOs entitled, “Is Your Organization Strategic?,” the question was posed: “How often do you and your team meet to update your strategies?” The percentage of CEOs that meet with their teams to assess and calibrate strategies more frequently than four times a year is only 16.9 percent, with nearly 50 percent saying once-a-year or “we don’t meet at all to discuss strategy.”

A study of more than 200 large companies showed that the number one driver of revenue growth is the reallocation of resources throughout the year from underperforming areas to areas with greater potential. Strategy is the primary vehicle for making these vital resource reallocation decisions, but as the survey showed, most leaders aren’t putting themselves or their teams in a position to succeed. If strategy in your organization is an annual event, you will not achieve sustained success.

Myth Buster: Conduct a monthly strategy tune-up where groups at all levels meet for 1-2 hours to review and calibrate their strategies.

Strategy Myth 3: Execution of strategy is more important than the strategy itself.

A landmark twenty-five years study of 750 bankruptcies showed that the number one cause of bankruptcy was flawed strategy, not poor execution. You can have the most skilled driver and highest performance Ferrari in the world (great execution) but if you’re driving that Ferrari on a road headed over a cliff (poor strategic direction)—you’re finished.

A sure sign of a needlessly myopic view is that everything is an “either or,” rather than allowing for “and.” Strategy and execution are both important, but make no mistake that all great businesses begin with an insightful strategy. 

Myth Buster: Take time to create differentiated strategy built on insights that lead to unique customer value and then shape an execution plan that includes roles, responsibilities, communication vehicles, time frames and metrics.

Strategy Myth 4: Strategy is about being better than the competition.

Your products and services are not better than your competitors. Why? Because “better” is subjective. Is blueberry pie better than banana cream pie? It depends who you ask. “Is our product better than the competitor’s product?” is the wrong question. The real question is, “How is our product different than the competitor’s product in ways that customers value?”

Attempting to be better than the competition leads to a race of “best practices,” which results in competitive convergence. Doing the same things in the same ways as competitors, only trying to do them a little faster or better, blurs the line of value between your company and competitors. Remember that competitive advantage is defined as “providing superior value to customers”—it’s not “beating the competition by being better.”

Myth Buster: Identify your differentiated value to specific customer groups by writing out your value proposition in one sentence.

Strategy Myth 5: Strategy is the same as mission, vision, or goals.

Since strategy is an abstract concept, it is often interchanged with the terms vision, mission and goals. How many times have you seen or heard a strategy that is “to be no. 1,” “to be the market leader,” or “to become the premier provider of…?” Mission is your current purpose and vision is your future purpose, or aspirational end game. Goals are what you are trying to achieve and strategy is how you will allocate resources to achieve your goals.

Misusing business terms on a regular basis is like a physicist randomly interchanging element’s chemical structures from the Periodic Table. You can say that the chemical structure of hydrogen is the chemical structure for gold, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct. Starting with an inexact statement of strategy will derail all of the other aspects of your planning and turn your business into the equivalent of the grammar school volcano science project with red-dyed vinegar and too much baking soda.

Myth Buster: Clearly distinguish your goals, strategies, mission and vision from one another.

If left unchecked, strategy myths can cause you and your business to fail. A ten years study of 103 companies showed that the number one cause of business failure is bad strategy. Arm your team with the strategy myth busters and your business will soar higher than a pigeon with a belly full of uncooked rice.

Rich Horwath is a New York Times bestselling author on strategy, including his most recent book, StrategyMan vs. The Anti-Strategy Squad: Using Strategic Thinking to Defeat Bad Strategy and Save Your Plan. As CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute, he has helped more than 100,000 managers develop their strategy skills through live workshops and virtual training programs. Rich is a strategy facilitator, keynote speaker, and creator of more than 200 resources on strategic thinking. To sign up for the free monthly newsletter Strategic Thinker, visit: www.StrategySkills.com.

Let’s Watch a Movie

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

When someone says, “Let’s watch a movie,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do you immediately think of a group outing to go watch the latest flick? Perhaps your preferred viewing venue is the more cozy environment of your living room couch. Could it be that watching a movie is a solitary experience for you, one you enjoy parked in front of your laptop computer?

Whatever it may be, there are a multitude of options for watching a movie—and a diverse list of business enterprises that support those variations.

Consider the following options for watching a movie:

  • Drive-in Movie Theaters: This is not likely where you would start your list, but, yes, drive-in movie theaters still exist—and there is resurgence of interest. According to drive-ins.com, there are 520 drive-ins operating in the United States today.
  • Single-Screen Theaters: The traditional theater with a solitary screen is also waning in popularity and in numbers, but it is not a thing of the past either. Close to where I live is a one-screen theater that has been making a go of it—and attendance is increasing.
  • Multiplex Theaters: The multiscreen theater is the premier venue for the off-site (that is, away from home) movie-viewing experience. These theaters offer multiple titles and varied viewing times. For major openings, they can show films simultaneously on multiple screens and with staggered starting times.
  • Network TV: This is the least costly option for those willing to wait to watch a particular movie. With an antenna, viewing is essentially free, sans the electricity to operate the TV. If you have cable or satellite, the effective cost goes up, but still there is no incremental per movie charge.
  • Movie Channels: Some movie channels are included as part of a cable/satellite subscriber package, whereas others require a monthly subscription. These are great ways to watch current and classic movies—and everything in between—providing you are willing to scrutinize the programming schedule for desired titles.
  • Pay-per-View: This is generally available on cable/satellite systems, allowing for the viewing of movies (limited to what is offered and when it is showing); there is a charge for each viewing. Essentially this model combines the scheduling and admission elements of a theater with the comfort of home viewing.
  • Video-on-Demand: On-demand is pay-per-view without the schedule. Start a movie at any time, on any day.
  • Local Video Rental Store: Video rental stores function like a library for movies—except that there is a cost for each rental. Most stores are fairly limited in their titles and may stock few copies.
  • Mail Rental: Netflix (90,000 titles) led the way with this option, with Blockbuster (80,000 titles) and others following. This service allows customers to order a movie online and have it mailed to their home, often by the next day. Watch the movie and mail it back – with free mailing. Although advance planning is required, it is less hassle than driving to a video rental – twice – and there are many more titles and copies available.
  • Download Rental and Streaming Video: This is much like the video-on-demand option, but it utilizes the Internet for distribution (think YouTube, with high quality, for movies). Currently Netflix and Movielink (acquired by Blockbuster).

What does all this mean? Plenty—and it can apply to any industry or business.

The movie distribution business is highly fragmented with many competing variations. Each of the options listed has a threatened existence. Some of them are arguably obsolete, requiring innovation and determination to remain viable. Many are feeling competitive pressures that endanger their existence. For those on the leading edge, technological advances could render them obsolete in an incredibly short time.

Let’s revisit the list again, with these issues in mind:

  • Drive-in Movie Theaters: This is an obsolete option. Those that have survived have adjusted their business model and reinvented themselves to make it work. Over 500 have done just that.
  • Single-Screen Theater: This option is one step removed from the drive-in. Those that have stayed open have figured out how to market themselves and fit into a desirable, sustainable niche.
  • Multiplex Theater: The leader among off-site movie viewing, and the conventional business model, the multiplex is facing increased and intense pressure from the remaining options on the list (except for network TV).
  • Network TV: This is the last distribution node to obtain a movie after its release; therefore, it is typically the last option we consider. How would you like to be least preferred option and garnering decreased interest? Enough said.
  • Movie Channels: An option for many, but increasingly viewed as limited in comparison to the next five options.
  • Pay-per-View: You get to see movies closer to their release date then the preceding options, but the titles are quite limited in selection and somewhat restricted by schedule.
  • Video-on-Demand: This solves the scheduling restriction of pay-per-view, but still suffers from limited titles.
  • Local Video Rental Store: Who wants the hassle of going to a video store to rent a movie, especially without knowing if your title will be available? Succinctly put, this model is rapidly approaching obsolesce. This is precisely why Blockbuster ventured into rental via mail.
  • Mail Rental: Netflix changed how we rent movies, but this model will quickly fade. Downloading movies will soon make this option passé.
  • Download Rental and Streaming Video: This remaining option seemingly has no immediate threats, but it is a technology-based solution and technology changes rapidly. As such, a pervasive threat to this business model could erupt at any moment and with little or no warning.

Fragmented Industries

Many industries are likewise fragmented. Some businesses are stuck in the past. These companies, mired in obsolescence, are still in business because they have done what the drive-ins and single-screen theaters have done: somehow they reinvented themselves, found a niche, and marketed effectively.

Then there are organizations that are trapped in their business plan, traveling down a narrowing road. Perhaps their distinctive advantage is their staff, but they can’t hire enough qualified employees. Maybe they have staked their future on an uncertain and questionable strategy. Others are loaded with technology, but the next competitive technological innovation could render all that they have as something that no one wants.

This analysis is not unique to movie distribution. It exists in every business, in every industry, and in every economy. Some will survive and some won’t.

The key is taking what you have and using it to your advantage, perhaps in a way that no one else has thought of. It could be your location, your staff, your technology, your niche, your management team, your leadership, or something else. If you have none of these options, then perhaps it’s time to morph into another line of business, be it within or apart from the industry in which you are currently a part of.

Regardless of your situation, with determination and innovation there’s always the opportunity to reinvent your business. Click To Tweet

Regardless of your situation, with determination and innovation, there’s always the opportunity to reinvent your business. The one solution that won’t work is to do nothing at all.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

Five Ways to Leverage Your Talent Brand to Attract Great Candidates

How your company can leverage what employees and candidates say about you to attract top talent

By Jeremy Eskenazi

Have you ever struggled to hire the right people? Do most of the people you interview seem like a questionable fit at your company? It might be a symptom of not using your employer brand to your best advantage. An employer brand is what employees and candidates say about your company and the work experience when you’re not in the room. It’s not something you can go out and buy, or have a fancy branding exercise to develop and replace if you don’t like the one you have. Much like branding a product, your employer brand takes on elevated meaning and a predisposition to buy or join. In what is currently a competitive talent market, effective branding creates a sustainable competitive advantage and can make a huge difference in who is interested in working for you.Your employer brand takes on elevated meaning and a predisposition to buy or join. Click To Tweet

If you’re not sure what your employer brand is today, think about employer review websites online that are popular in North America and many parts of Europe. If you’re not familiar with the concept of these sites, they’re user-driven platforms that encourage people to anonymously record their experiences with a company as a candidate or employee. They can write whatever they want, even if it’s negative, and they can encourage people to run in the opposite direction. The flip side is that reviewers can also sing your praises and wax lyrical about you. Unfortunately, much like any user-driven site, anonymous contributors are usually either delighted with something, or were very upset; so you tend to see wild swings of positive or negative comments.

An employer brand is not necessarily changed overnight, but every time you interact with a candidate, you create an impression. Now multiply these impressions dozens or even hundreds of times. This is a powerful force. This is your professional brand and your opportunity to create (or start to re-create!) the first experience.

The people, symbols, and meaning we try to attribute to the company can be a powerful tool in communicating where the organization is headed. The brand management process helps you to unearth the organizations’ brand expression in the marketplace. The five ways to leverage your employer brand are:

1. Asset Assessment. Be honest: what are your strengths and weaknesses? How large is your company¾do you need people who thrive in an intense corporate environment or do you want people who are happy to have a more stable career? What benefits do you offer? Is there opportunity for advancement? Knowing this and being able to clearly articulate it is so important.

2. Employee Involvement. What is your organizational culture? Is it vertical, with top-down direction and little front-line input, or are decisions made on a broad collaborative basis? Is there opportunity for creative thinking? Knowing how your employees interact today and empowering them to tell the story of how they contribute is powerful.

3. Competitive Assessment. What other organizations can your candidates work for? You need to know who your competitors are and what they offer. If another company offers higher wages, can you compensate with profit sharing or better benefits? Are there opportunities for you to be creative about your offering based on what your competitors are packaging for candidates?

4. Brand Positioning. You need to know where your organization fits in the overall market. Does your company compete on price, or are you targeting the upscale market? Are you known for promoting from within? Does your company have a reputation for treating women and minorities fairly? The comments left online are a good starting point for this, as are any internal surveys you run.

5. Brand Expression. This is the combined result of all of the ‘brand signals’ that are present in the marketplace and are picked up by consumers and candidates. Every element of your employer brand needs to be in alignment. For example, if you claim to care about the environment and candidates are offered Styrofoam cups when they come in for an interview, you’d be surprised how much that can alter perceptions of your company and what you stand for.

In today’s competitive global economy, these five steps can help you find the candidates you need. Remember that candidates can be both internal and external. If you bring the right talent into your team, they may be interested and have versatile skills that could allow them to try new jobs at your company. They may be ready to take on a new role and be promoted, or they may be excellent at their current job. The point being: there is active work required to engage your current employees as brand ambassadors as well—they too represent and can carry your employer brand far and wide.

Remember, you can’t “make” an employer brand. An advertising agency can’t help you create a brand. They can help create a brand message. Whether or not you know what your brand is isn’t the issue. It’s knowing the what the themes are that people use to talk about your organization. Then you can manage the expression of the brand—and how people receive it—as part of your brand as an employer. You can do this through your goals, vision, and values, and the taglines that best explain what your company is about.

It’s easy for someone to throw out “we aspire to be the best place to work”. Your employer brand cannot be solely aspirational—it has to be accurate for where your organization is today. When your position is too aspirational, people will likely be unhappy when they encounter you—both candidates and employees. If you were in their position, don’t you think you’d feel let down too?

Jeremy Eskenazi is an internationally recognized speaker, author of RecruitConsult! Leadership, and founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique Recruitment/Talent Acquisition Management and Optimization Consulting Firm. Jeremy is not a headhunter, but a specialized training and consulting professional, helping global HR leaders transform how they attract top talent at some of the world’s most recognized companies. For more information on Jeremy Eskenazi, please visit: www.RivieraAdvisors.com.

Quit Fishing for Publicity, Reel in the Media

By Russell Trahan

There is an old proverb that goes, “Give a Person a Fish, and You Feed Them for a Day. Teach a Person to Fish, and You Feed Them for a Lifetime.” The same can be said about publicity. If you do publicity once, you’ll only get business for a day. However, if you do publicity with frequency and repetition, you’ll build a business that will feed you for a lifetime.

There are several other ways fishing is similar to publicity, there are a few:If you do publicity once, you’ll only get business for a day. However, if you do publicity with frequency and repetition, you’ll build a business that will feed you for a lifetime. Click To Tweet

Knowing What You’re Fishing For/Knowing Who Your Target Market Is

First, you have to decide what you’re fishing for, then you go where they are. If you’re fishing for trout you would go to a lake. If you’re fishing for salmon you head to a river. And, if you’re fishing for Mahi-mahi you would gas up the boat for some deep sea fishing. The same is true for your target market. Once you decide who your target market is, you go where they are. If you want name recognition in front of business decision makers you would go to trade, industry, or business association publications. If you want the attention of single parents you would go to women’s magazines or mommy blogs. Every market has magazines and blogs they read regularly. Know who your target market is and where they’re located and you’ll get a bite every time.

Having the Right Lures/Position Your Expertise

In a lake you would want a bobber and lures to attract the fish’s attention. In a river or stream you might want to use a fly-fishing pole. On the ocean, of course you’d want to be fully strapped in with a strong line and reel. The same is true to positioning your expertise in a way the reader wants to see it. You may think that since Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and BusinessWeek are all business publications you can send the same press release to all of them. Consider their core reader: Entrepreneur says who they are in the title; Fast Company attracts the reader who wants new, now, next; and BusinessWeek is the old steady blue-chip business person. So, if you tailor your press release to the reader of the publication you want to get into you’ll have them jumping out of the water for you.

Using the Right Bait on Your Hook/Using the Right Content in Your Hook

Whether you use a worm, eggs, or chum depends on the fish you want to catch. The same is true for the content you use to hook the media’s attention. If you don’t get the media’s attention, your target market will never see your content, so you have to present your content in the right way. So many people make the mistake of presenting themselves as the story. What the media cares about is what you can do for their reader; who you are and why they should listen to you comes second. Press releases should not be advertorial or self-promotional; they should be educational, informational, and content-driven. Lead with your unique stance or controversial opinion. Offer the media additional information on a story they’re already running and they’ll be itching to take the bait.

Telling a Fish Story/Using Your Publicity

Every fisher has a whopper of a story about the one that got away, but just as many have trophies mounted on their walls to prove their skills. The same is true with your publicity; you’ve got to tell a good tale about it, otherwise you might as well cut bait and walk away. Start an ‘in the media’ page on your website. Nothing impresses a potential client more than knowing the media considers you the go-to source for information on your expertise. Even if your business is just in the local market, don’t shy away from national press. Showing a local realtor you’ve been in a national real estate magazine will be just as impressive as being in the local newspaper. Use the publicity you receive in your social media as well. If you’re a B2B business you would want to focus on LinkedIn, or if you’re B2C you could use Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or others.

If you’re hoping to build business name recognition, increase market awareness, or boost sales, you first need to drop your line into the water. Wading in to the mainstream media doesn’t have to be a scary situation. Knowing who you want to hook, and having the right bait in your tackle box will land you publicity without much of a struggle. Regardless if you’re standing on the banks, using a row boat, or in a trawler, it’s about positioning your content in front of your target market in a format they want to hear, then just sit back and reel them in. You’ll have a net full of media placements to use in your marketing for a lifetime.

Russell Trahan is the Owner and President of PR/PR Public Relations and Author of Sell Yourself Without Saying a Word. For twnety years PR/PR has enjoyed a track record of getting 100 percent of their clients placed in front of their target market. For more information, please visit www.prpr.net.

Strategic Triage

The Keys to Surviving a Significant Strategic Disruption

By Jill J. Johnson

Jill Jhonson-strategicDespite the best of intentions and a solid strategic plan, leaders can sometimes find their organizations in the throes of an unexpected major crisis that threatens their enterprise survival. Whether it is the culmination of changing market forces, a self-inflicted incident or the result of a catastrophe brought about by an unexpected event, enhancing opportunities for enterprise survival are paramount. The most effective crisis management strategies focus on addressing the critical elements that will enhance the survival potential of your enterprise during a significant strategic disruption.

In a medical disaster, health care professionals use a triage process to assign degrees of urgency to patients to establish priorities for treating them in order to maximize the number of survivors. The same principle of using triage in your enterprise can be a powerful approach for effectively dealing with a crisis situation in any business setting. The goals of Strategic Triage are the same: to determine the priority of your actions to make a significant difference in your outcome.

There are three critical elements of focus to weather an extinction level event. You need clarity to make rapid decisions. Your leadership activity must identify the most significant priorities necessary to stabilize your immediate situation so you can act on them. Your conversations need to engage candid dialog with your team.Determine the priority of your actions to make a significant difference in your outcome. Click To Tweet

1. Clarify the Key Decisions to Be Made

 Once you recognize you are in a strategic crisis, focus your critical thinking on the key decisions that will matter the most to resolving it. This includes gaining clarity to understand the underlying dynamics that led to the crisis. To do this, you need to rapidly obtain candid information about your true situation. How serious is this? Do you have the proper data to understand the magnitude of the crisis, and the options you have for addressing it?

Planning in a turbulent period requires a deep assessment of your business environment. This may be the time to bring in trusted advisors to provide you with insight about options to consider. Just make sure they have the depth of expertise to truly offer you options to resolve your crisis. You do not want to be part of their learning curve when the stakes are high.

Identify the critical strategic information you need to make decisions. Be clear about the outcome you desire. Do you want to save lives, save jobs or save money? This clarity will serve as your guide when you evaluate your options and choices. Assess your assumptions and understand the market forces at play that will determine your ability to resolve the crisis. Concentrate your critical thinking to focus on the things that matter most to resolving the short-term issue without blowing up your entire enterprise. Focus on the very heart of the key decisions you will need to make. Everything else is extraneous and a potential distraction when you are in the throes of a real strategic crisis.

2. Establish Clear Priorities

The success of any Strategic Triage effort is to clarify the most significant short-term priorities. Developing clarity among all participants will help them stay focused on the activities which will work to immediately stabilize the situation. All too often, without a clear focus, if left to their own devices, team members will use their own judgment to focus on activities they deem important. Unfortunately, if they lack good critical thinking skills, they are likely to focus on efforts with minimal impact.

Establishing clear priorities for your leadership team and employees provides each of them with a clear focus for engaging in efforts that improve the potential for your enterprise survival. These priorities establish a framework for decision- making and minimize any focus on irrelevant issues or activities that will not resolve the problem.

Ensure all your team members and corporate assets are in proper alignment. Everything that is essential to addressing the issue should be deployed toward resolving the crisis. Use everything.

3. Engage in Candid Dialog

Engage your key leaders in a candid dialog to identify what they immediately need from their key employees to stabilize the situation or resolve the crisis. Ask your team members to identify your potential options to work-around the gaps caused by the crisis. Use your clarified priorities to give them guidance. By taking control of your communications you will also be better able to manage your message and focus your talking points during the emergency.

In times of strategic crisis, candor is paramount. This is not the time for pretending and wish-crafting your troubles away. Identify what you need from each of your stakeholders to resolve the crisis or to stabilize the immediate situation. Identify the most crucial leadership skills you need to deal with the most pressing issues. Do you have the talent in-house or do you need outside resources?

Evaluate your team’s willingness and capability to step-up to fill the leadership void. Assess your team’s resolve and commitment to turning the situation around. Are they willing to do what it will take to solve the crisis? You need to know who you can rely on when the stakes are high.

Be sure to engage with your key stakeholders both inside and outside your organization. By having a candid dialog with your critical stakeholders, you optimize your potential to gain their support and influence to work with you in addressing the crisis. They may have additional ideas and insight too for how to best address the situation or minimize disruptions.

Final Thoughts:

Whether it is the loss of your primary customer, the death of a key employee or surviving the zombie apocalypse, maximizing your options and prioritizing your efforts are essential. Managing your own panic and terror will help you focus your critical thinking on the key decisions you need to address and finding the right advisors to assist you in weathering the storm. By doing so, you will maximize your options for weathering the storm and then recalibrating your strategies to optimize your future outcomes.

 

Jill J. Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than 4 dollars billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.