Every time I speak with a client or mentee for the first time, they start by explaining their strategy. More often than not I have to stop them and explain that what they are describing is not a strategy, but an elaborate fantasy they have created about what they want to do or dream to become, unfortunately that’s not a strategy. Once they get over the surprise, we work on understanding what they really do and the difference between this and what they want to do. When this is clear they can begin to understand the misalignments between the two, and start working on correcting them. As simple as that they have a real strategy.
If you are an entrepreneur or business owner with a clear objective and vision start by analyzing each and every area, team member, and the structure of your business: figure out which of them are not aligned with your main objective and vision, then start working to fix this. Our job as leaders, whether you are the CEO or head of a team, is to identify and correct strategic misalignments. We have to look for them in every functional area of the business, culture, structure, corporate values, compensation structures, business model, priorities, and operations to mention a few. Analyze each and every component of your business because they are all important, and are cornerstones of your strategy. A slight misalignment of one component can convert into a full shift of your strategy.
Once you understand your objective and vision focus your mind on what you are not going to do, this is as fundamental to your business strategy as what you do. It is crucial that while you work on your strategy you don’t forget to think of what you are not going to do. If you think this way from the beginning you will have a strong growth path, while keeping centered on your vision and strategy. Knowing what we don’t want to do will give us the discipline to say no to an “opportunity” that doesn’t align with our vision, before we end up drifting away from our vision in an ocean of opportunities like a loose buoy in open sea.
Companies have a gravitational tendency to mediocrity; those that succeed are the ones who manage to set themselves apart from the pack by focusing their strategy on a radical service differentiator, aligning their entire organization towards it. Everything that they do is focused on this objective: the people that they hire, the systems they create, the way they organize, their compensation structure, they are all aligned with this differentiator. This makes it easy to develop a strategy and stay focused on what will make us most successful.
Developing a strategy sounds really complicated, but the truth is if you want to develop a successful one, you have to make it as simple as possible. Focus on a concept that you dominate and are the best at in the market, make sure you differentiate yourself from the rest, and if possible that no one else does, but at least make sure no one does it exactly the same, or as good as you do. *1* The best things are usually the simplest ones, as da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate Sophistication,” your strategic statement should be reduced to one simple sentence that states the genetic code and competitive advantage that makes you unique. *2* If done right, this strategy statement will be clear, concise, and memorable.
Once the strategy and strategy statement is in place is time to communicate your strategy and execute. Make sure that everything you do as a leader is aligned with your strategy, because if you act erratically and make decisions that are not aligned with your strategy you will send mixed signals to your team, which will negatively affect your image, your strategy, and ultimately your business. Make sure that everything you do is coherent with your strategy, and that you are crystal clear when you communicate it. Just like in our personal lives, our true challenge is to reduce the gap between what we say we are going to do and what we actually do, because this translates to the difference between what we want to become and what we are at any given moment of our lives. Remember we are not what we do once but what we constantly do, and usually how we do one thing is how we do everything.
Written by Iliya Zogovic, President & CEO ONEtoONE USA.