Have you asked yourself
"Why Is Strategy Important?"
The business strategy of a company provides the big picture that shows how all the individual activities are coordinated to achieve a desired end result.
It is through the strategy process that the overall direction of the business is set. This is based on the opportunities and threats in the outside world and the internal strengths and weaknesses of the business.
Your Strategy As A Reaction To Environmental Changes That Have Happened Or You Expect to Happen
As the external environment changes, perhaps due to changes in customers or competitors or perhaps due to the wider forces - political, economic, social, technological, environmental or legislation based - it is important to come back and ask some fundamental questions.
The more the external environment changes, then:
- The more opportunities there are likely to be for the well prepared company; but
- The more threats the unwary and the unprepared will face.
Even if the basic environment is stable, actions and intentions of competitors change and companies need to review what is happening, prepare for any real or potential competitive manoeuvres and find new insights into ways to create value for customers.
What Encourages A Company To Develop A Strategy?
First let me clear up a misunderstanding.
Whatever you do in your business, you have a strategy.
I'm sure that you have an objective, even if it is to just survival to earn a basic level of profit that allows you to feed and house your family. And I'm sure that you do things that you believe will move you closer to achieving your objective.
The problem is that the strategy you are following may not be very good.
It may not take into account clear threats from competitors or the business environment. You may not have spotted a great opportunity that could mean that you could do much better.
Why You Need A Business Strategy
Certain things may give you the push to have a more formal and structured planning process for your business. It's often a good idea to bring in a strategy consultant or business coach to help you and give you an independent, objective view of what is happening.
- Increased competition
If you have a new, big competitor who has just entered your market or is preparing to enter the market and has the potential to be a serious threat, it is the right time to take a good, hard look at your business and the way it should compete in the future.
Perhaps the new competitor has taken over one of the existing businesses (or even several in an attempt to consolidate your industry) and it's clear that they have a very different approach to business and different goals.
Perhaps the new competitor has a different business model and has significant advantages to the customer.
Perhaps the competitor has entered the market from overseas and brings with them a major cost advantage.
- Changes in customer needs, wants and expectations
Customers can be very fickle and what they look for can suddenly change.
Some years ago, one Japanese car manufacturer experienced a surge in demand because their car came with a cup-holder.
If the customer value criteria buyers use to make their buying decisions change - either adding or taking away one element, or the weightings between elements change - it is essential that the company reviews its offerings quickly and makes the necessary changes.
- Poor performance and fear of failure
If the business suddenly starts to perform badly, then you can expect external stakeholders like the bank or third party shareholders to put pressure on the managers to take a detailed review of their business and put together a plan of action to improve future performance.
- There is a planning advocate
A new senior manager has been recruited who is a big believer in strategic planning. Alternatively one of the influential existing managers becomes aware of the benefits of strategic planning - from reading a book or from talking to other people who have seen the benefits of strategic planning.
What Stops A Company Having A Better, More Formal Strategy?
- There is no recognised need - performance is very strong
If business is good, the assumption is that the management team is very effective, knows what it is doing and future performance will remain high. The inevitable question is "Why change a winning formula?" although that has led many companies to grow complacent and to lose any competitive edge.
- There is no knowledge of how to put together a formal strategic plan or to hold effective strategy workshops.
There is an element of mystery about strategic planning and a feeling that it has to be more complicated than it really is. If the management team don't know where to begin, and they don't know a good strategy consultant or coach, they may be very reluctant to approach somebody else.
- The management team has a closed mindset.
Unfortunately managers can become blinkered because they have spent so long in this one industry that they believe that there is only the one way to compete.
The logic is that if there is only one strategy that everybody uses, there is no value in reviewing or refining it. Instead it is much better to focus on operational improvements.
- There is no strategy advocate.
If no one puts the idea forward, it won't receive any attention.
- There may be a fear of change.
A new strategy implies change and that can mean that people feel that they have as much to lose as they do to gain. On that basis, they may have little incentive to consider preparing a strategic plan.
What Strategy Do You Need?
I'm not a big fan of big, long, written strategic planning reports that are done once and never looked at.
First, you get tremendous value from the strategy process and stepping away from the day-to-day issues and looking at the long term future. Thinking about what may happen makes you much more aware of the symptoms of change to avoid the boiled frog problem.
Second, your strategy should normally focus on competitive startegy and how you can win customer preference over competitors. This is a startegy based on establishing a differentiation advantage.
Third, you want a short strategic plan that becomes a living document and guides the decisions and actions made by you and your team. As things change it is updated and kept constantly relevant to what is happening in the business.
Strategy Is Important Because...
It is the source of long term profits.
You are in a fight with competitors over the profitable business of customers and the battleground is uncertain and constantly evolving.
Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu said
"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."
Strategy is how you get to know your enemies, yourself and the terrain on which you will fight.
My Differentiate Your Business Blog
I write a specialised strategy blog in which I have taken this article on why strategy is important and extended it.
Please see Why Is Strategy Important
Strategy & The Smaller Business
I've written a free report called The Profit Tipping Point which looks at the five strategic pathways to profit and how a differentiation strategy can put you in the best position.
You can get it at The Profit Tipping Point
You are invited to take a 30 day trial in my
business growth system at www.ProfitableGrowthStrategies.org for $1 or £1. You will discover many ways you can increase your profits
by selling more, more often to more customers.
Other Articles On Strategy
This is one of a series of articles on strategy including:
I also have a separate blog on How To Differentiate Your Business which is packed with practical tips on how to develop a winning strategy