I’ve been getting a lot of excellent questions from the business owners at the Inspired Management webinars I’ve been giving for the past several weeks.
It seems that everyone understands that strategy is NOT goal setting or financial targets or big projects that will change everything. But there’s still a lot of confusion about what strategy actually IS.
I think one way to focus on strategy is to realize that strategic thinking is all about the future. It starts with a deep dive about where your industry is likely to end up in the coming years. A lot of business owners tend to think that “not much is going to change,” and so they think that they don’t need a strategy or that strategy isn’t for them.
I can tell you from personal experience that that is never the case. Things change all the time. And the biggest threat to your business can sometimes be something you don’t see coming at all.
Strategic thinking is long-term. Your long term vision should be pretty consistent. You need to stick to your guns. Jeff Bezos, who stuck to his vision all through a decade when his company lost vast amounts of money, put it this way:
“If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people, but if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that. We can’t realize our potential as people or as companies unless we plan for the long term.”
If you’ve been running the same hardware store on the same corner for thirty years, you can still profit from strategic thinking. If you’re in stealth development of some blockchain product that will change the world, you can definitely profit from strategic thinking.
Both of those entrepreneurs can use the same basic method to get to a strategic frame of mind. Strategy plays two things against each other. First, there’s your vision of what’s going to change in your industry. Second, there’s what you’re going to do to make sure that you stand out.
The hardware store might think, well people are going to order more stuff online. So I’m going to prepare for that by organizing more services into my business, and by focusing on things that people will want to see and feel before they buy.
The blockchain person might have some vision of how “trust-less transactions” will affect a given industry. So their strategy might be to become “the most trusted source of a trust-less transaction platform.“
You look at how you’re different now. You go deep and think about how your world is going to change, and you’re not afraid to think about the outlier forces that might drive you out of business. And you think about how you’re going to adapt and how you’re going to be different in that new world.
Strategic planning is all about becoming that new version of yourself. You can get ready for my next webinar by thinking through these questions:
What makes me different from everyone else in my market today?
What do I do that takes care of my customers better than anyone else, today?
What’s going to change in my market over the next three, five, seven years?
In that new world, how will I still be different?
in that new world, how will I take care of my customers better than anyone else?
The answers will give you a good foundation for my webinars. Notice, I’m not asking you to think about “success.” I’m asking you to think about how you do business.