Task 1: Create a Strategy for Winning in Business

(Originally posted spring 2012)

The Art of War!
In my last blog I talked about the 7 Essential Tasks of Leadership. In this blog I'd like to look at the first of those tasks:
Task 1: Having a Clear Strategy!
A clear startegy is knowing what you want; what you're aiming at. It's about knowing your most important goals for the days, weeks, months and years ahead... and having a plan to achieve them.
So what is strategy and is it important to have one?
The word strategy is roughly derived from stratos "army, expedition," and agein "to lead". So in essence, the word implies the "art of leading an army" ...to win in battle. And that is exactly what having a strategy is all about:
“A considered approach and a plan to win.”

If you want to win the football World Cup, you wouldn’t vaguely form a team only to find that half your players prefer rugby and the other half prefer gardening. You set out with a specific aim in mind and every activity should serve that end goal.
If you want to sail to Australia, you need to be clear about your goal and plan everything accordingly.
And so it is in business. Having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, why and how is the starting point of all other action.
This is the key point. Most people I meet in business are incredibly busy... but is all that activity leading anywhere meaningful?
  • A good strategic plan should be a living, breathing document that inspires worthwhile and well directed activity. It should form the blueprint from which all activity flows.
  • It should inspire effective action for today, tomorrow and the future... and be the compass that tells us we're heading where we intended to go.

So how do you formulate a strategic plan?
The first task is to marry up two things:  

1. What matters to you most in business and life – and to know the problems you love to solve.
  • What matters to you most in business and life?
  • Who are you and what do you love to do? 
  • What expertise do you have?
  • What problems do you love to solve?
After all, if we’re paid for providing solutions to problems, we want to be clear what we love to do and why.

2. What problems your potential customers really value having solved - and are willing to pay you to solve for them.
  • What problems are people willing to pay you to solve?
  • Why do they want those problems solved? 
  • What does it give them? 
  • Why might they choose you above anybody else?

Having decided what problems we want to solve and what problems potential customers really value having solved - our solution needs to be firmly directed to the needs of the customer.

In the words of Michael Gerber:
“…it [the entrepreneurial business model] does not start with a picture of a business to be created but of the customer from whom the business is to be created.
It understands that without a clear picture of that customer, no business can succeed.”

In the words of Peter Drucker:
"What is value to the customer?" - It may be the most important question. Yet it is the one least often asked.

It may sound obvious to any hardened business leader, but this stage is so often skipped and crude assumptions made... or businesses carry on doing what they've done for years without re-evaluating this starting point.
Of course, there are many deep and profound questions that could be included here (SWOT analyses etc)…

But the objective is to set out on a journey that is really worth making, over and beyond making a profit. And to make sure that journey has a high chance of success.
I’ve met too many people (and businesses) that have toiled for miserable years, ending up nowhere they really wanted to go.

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