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What’s your strategy, Boss?

Know yourself, know your adversaries

You run the company. It may be yours. So, since there is no stressful quarterly board presentation, no tight arsed SOB MD flying in to chew you on the numbers and you are working so hard, it’s so easy for business sense and strategic management to give way to day-to-to-day management. So here is a little exercise. It’s one of those cool ones like imagining the audience you are stressed about talking to from the conference podium are in their underwear. Imagine you have a Boss. An unforgiving son of his mother. You probably had one at some point in your career. Hell, these days it’s probably your banker. Anyway, this imaginary figure of authority always asks the tough questions and you simply do not want to be caught unprepared. He is asking, “What is your strategy?” Do you know? Did you lay it down five years ago and then forget about it as you had more important things to attend to such as writing proposals, visiting clients, appraising staff, balancing the books, answering the phone and emails? All the stuff above is, of course so much more important than actually knowing why you are doing it. When I ask this question at the first meeting with prospects, I usually get something along the lines of a smile bordering on the condescending and something like “Andrew, you know the theory is OK but we have a business to run”. In some cases this is a cover for a guilty managerial conscience. In other cases it stems from empirical managers or business people thinking that a business strategy is up there with quantum physics and as such beyond their grasp, so let’s just get on with running the business. In so many cases this ends up as just running around in circles or, worse, running the business into the ground.

Strategy made simple:

Ask yourself three questions:

1. Where are we today?

2. Where do we want to be in X months/years?

3. OK, How the heck do we get there?

That’s it basically. Get as philosophical and as detailed as you like, but this is the essence. Of course, you then need to think along the lines of, “What sort of obstacles would we encounter? Is there anybody that would go out of their way to stop me?”.

Before you get to the strategy questions, ask an even more important one:

What is my business?

This may sound borderline stupidly simple but take a minute: Are you selling coffee or are you selling an image of those that frequent your caffeine enriched beverage purveying establishment? Can you see how different your strategy needs to be depending on the answer?

Define, no, distill the essence of what it is you do. Then decide where you want to end up. Then work backwards to how you are going to succeed. And as you are starting from what you ideally want to achieve, don’t be surprised if you find that you have quite a way to go. Don’t be afraid to question the way you do things today. This will lead you to the “How do we get there” answers.

Oh, and by the way, check your ego at the door. It makes a crappy adviser when it comes to managing change, especially if you need to change your decisions and directions you set.

 

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Greetings fellow managers

Wipe the mud off your thoughts

I have spent the last seventeen years in entrepreneurial and management roles and I must admit the last three or so have been the most interesting. Indeed we live in interesting times.

I spend part of my “free time” as a guest lecturer and as a trainer and the resident faculty usually wrap up the session with a “Thanks Andrew, for telling my students that the theory I’m teaching them is fine but…”. Don’t get me wrong, you need a sound theoretical base. Then you need to grab it by the proverbials and drag it into whatever reality you are struggling with and make it work for you. As a manager in a global corporation I was called upon to rightsize my operation when the fan was hit. It was painful. It was hard. It cost sweat, blood and tears and definitely impacted the old sleep patterns. But I adapted. I learned from other peoples’ mistakes and successes and found my own way. In another life time when I started my own company I set the ground for myself to learn from many creative mistakes of my own. In both cases I would have been grateful for some solid practical input that would help me with my perspective and  if possible offer a few recipes and tips. There is so much pomposity by what have come to be known as consultants that people have lost faith in the role. Oh for some simple truths straight from the horse’s mouth.

I hope I can offer some pointers through this forum. When I consult (for want of a better word) I usually ask more questions than provide answers. I find that intelligent people in managerial roles, be they sales managers or general managers, process improvement managers or cost managers often get buried under that every day sheer-sluggery that saps creativity and represses knowledge, tools and techniques.

So, from one busy, oppressed professional to another, please feel free to join me in giving ourselves the necessary wake up calls, reminders or simply tips that should, in most cases, make us raise a palm to our forehead and say, “Of course, I know that!”. And then bloody well go and do it!

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them

Andrew

 
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Posted by on 16/08/2012 in Welcome

 

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