Strategy For the Small Business Preface
Since a young age, strategy has been a mainstay in my vocabulary. As a child, I tended to react quickly and impulsively, thereby striving for action over inaction. On numerous occasions, my parents counseled me on thinking through the second and third order effects of the decisions I made. It forced me out of linear thought processes and into systemic thought patterns. Seeing the world through a bird’s eye view, my attention to detail diminished while my overall perspective grew.
During the early part of my career, I was placed in situations where I could evaluate and participate in long-term organizational thinking that would not have been expected of an early career professional such as myself. Under great tutelage, I facilitated vision and strategic planning sessions. I brought an ability to tie day-to-day activities to the direction in which the company was moving. It began with the simplistic planning of developing vision statements and the setting of goals to achieve those visions. I carried that skillset into different industries. Eventually creating my own mental model of what strategic thinking comprised of.
With the progression of my career, I gained greater clarity and began to perceive a lack of strategy around me. First, I believed that the apparent lack of strategic thinking was owing to it being held tightly at high levels. I did have the expectation that it would eventually trickle down through the actions taken, but that never materialized. Confused over the overarching ineffectiveness of the organizations I was a part of, I took to researching the topic more.
With a background in the military and a family of historians, the great commanders of history became the first spot I looked into. Captivated by Caesar’s Gallic wars and expansion into new territories, the fascination shifted to Napoleon and his ability to use speed and concentration of force to claim a constant flow of victories. Thereafter, I fell entranced with Ulysses Grant and his untethering of the army’s supply chain to wreak havoc across the Confederacy.
My study of the past whetted my appetite on how it would be relevant today. With Michael Porter and his Five Forces, I shifted to the great strategic thinkers of modern time and then onto the numerous works of Roger Martin. After perusing Richard Rumelt’ s “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy,” my mind was opened to the hidden world of complex strategic thinking in a business setting.
This process took me beyond seeing strategy as a self-focused be-your-best approach to factoring in the competition. Achieving self-actualization is admirable. However, it takes away from the aim that the purpose of a strategy is truly to understand the customer and provide greater value to them than your competitor.
To some, the focus of beating your competition seems barbaric. However, overwhelming, or even damaging your competition is the cornerstone of your sustainability. Be it a for-profit or non-profit organization, winning keeps you alive. Approaching your strategy in this manner will provide you with better insight into the value you generate, and it will set into motion the flywheel of future successes.
This approach to strategy is well known, especially amongst the large corporations that typically enlist the Big 5 consulting firms to set their direction. Taking many of the consultancy best practices, I developed my strategic planning model. Testing this model showed that it was not only scalable to medium-sized organizations but was even more effective when applied to small businesses.
The reason for the increased effectiveness based on an organization’s size was due to the key aspects of time and resources. Large companies can pay a consulting firm to develop new strategies. But they are pitted against other large companies that are doing the same thing. However, small businesses typically do not develop thorough strategies because they are treading water. They lack the resources to pay a firm. Also they have neither the time and expertise to do it themselves, leaving them open to assault.
The goal of this work is to explain the strategic process. A guide to lead you toward being able to execute it yourself. I wrote this for small businesses. For owners, founders, or even team leaders on how to position yourself in the market. How to rise head and shoulders above your competition.
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