At Prairie Sky Group we listen to dozens of business plans for small and medium sized businesses each quarter. We have a belief that focus and execution are keys to business success. Often by asking one key question, we can determine how the client is doing. That question is, “What’s your strategy?”
Strategy is tantamount to focus. Without a clear strategy, it doesn’t matter how much effort or execution you put into your business. You will be pursing any road that is convenient, and often many roads at the same time. This can be confusing to your organization.
For example, if you are a sales person, should you cut the price to get the deal or walk away? It depends on your strategy. Is your strategy to be the biggest or the most profitable? Does your organization start pursuing new market opportunities only to have them fail? It depends on your strategy. Is it to dominate one segment or sell in as many as possible?
Unfortunately, too many CEOs, Presidents, and Owners can’t articulate their company’s strategy. As a result their organizations waste effort and often suffer cultural confusion. It is said that culture trumps strategy in success, but certainly a clear strategy helps culture.
At Prairie Sky Group we often hear confusing replies when we ask, “What’s your strategy?” For example, from one client we heard, “Our strategy is to help people get healthy.” From another we heard, “Our strategy is be honest and work hard.” And from another, “Our strategy is to be the biggest aircraft seat supplier in the North America.” None of these are strategies. The first is a mission statement, the second is a set of values, and the third is a vision statement. So let’s outline the hierarchy of company statements and what they are first.
1. Mission: Why you exist.
2. Values: What you believe in, and how you will behave. (Especially when there is a conflict.)
3. Vision: What you want to become.
All of these are required for growing your business. But what are the elements of a clear concise strategy? There are three.
Your objective is the ends the strategy is set to achieve. This includes a time frame. So for example, “Our objective is to… become the leading online web assessment tool in our segment in four years.” Often we will hear, “Our objective is to grow profitably.” To which we ask, “Which is it, to grow or to be profitable? It’s hard to do both.” So in your objective statement, avoid platitudes, be specific, and include a time frame.
The second element is scope. Scope is the domain in which you play. So for example, “Our scope is to serve US hospital marketing departments.” This provides both a geographic component and a market segment. It helps avoid confusion of whether you would also serve the Managed Care markets or sell outside the US.
The final element is your advantage. This is the most critical aspect of your strategy. We get to this question when we ask, “What is your value proposition?” This is your uniqueness or differentiation. It answers any of three questions for your prospects.
1. Why should I change from what I am doing now? (Process)
2. Why should I by your product? (Product or Service)
3. Why should I buy from your company? (Company)
The second part of scope is answering how (Means) you are going to deliver that value to your customers?”
For example, “Chief Medical Officers say we offer the most evidence-based medical assessment in an easy-to-use online subscription form.”
At the highest level, it is easy to outline what goes into a strategy statement. But a blog post only does it lip service. It’s can be much harder than that. So if you are struggling with top line growth, ask yourself if it’s because you can’t articulate your strategy. At Prairie Sky Group, helping clients with this problem is the first thing we do.
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