𝗟𝗮𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗦𝘁𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗴𝘆: 𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝘆 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝗶𝗱𝗲
Updated: Mar 25
A plan and a means. While both are obvious, neither is easy.
The constant demands on founders make it difficult to carefully define your strategy. It likely feels as if there is no time to plan with so much to accomplish. Then once you conceive something incredible, you need to convert that vision into action. Amazing ideas are useless without effective implementation.
“Vision without execution is hallucination.”
– Thomas Edison
Here are some major considerations for fostering strategy:
Introspection. Take time quarterly to work with the team leaders, investors, advisors, mentors, and peers to look at the big picture. Internally, consider what the company needs to reach the next level. Externally, review market changes and how to get in front of them.
Ideally, have someone review your industry and vanity metrics to verify that they are aligned with your strategy; choose someone who is not afraid to challenge you if there is a discrepancy between where you are headed and where you should be going. In other words, have someone in the room who will tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear.
Ask yourself, “Are we approaching the right problems in the industry?”
Alignment. You developed the right plan for expansion. Now confirm that everyone is working in the right direction. Perfect alignment can expedite growth, making you a market leader, a valuable partner to clients, and able to efficiently apply resources to expansion versus overhead.
Imperfect alignment means that you are likely wasting time and resources, and sometimes even losing customers as they do not experience your products and services the way intended.
Ask yourself, “Can everyone at the company easily recite our vision, mission, and values?”
Evolution. As your strategy evolves, imagine the company in one year. One approach is to consider a pre-mortem, a thought exercise around imagining the demise of your company and identifying the causes for its demise. Another thought exercise is a pre-parade around visualizing the success of your company and recognizing the causes for its celebration.
As your business expands incredibly fast, so too will roles and responsibilities. For instance, the head of customer service may be supporting ten customers at first and then one thousand customers a couple of years later. That person’s title may not have switched, but their roles and responsibilities are incredibly different.
Ask yourself, “Do we have the right people with the right skills to reach the next level?”
Invest in Yourself. As a founder, you may need to level up, add expert leaders to the team, and delegate responsibilities you enjoy or have a tough time separating in the company’s best interest.
Ask yourself, “What role should I take in the best interest of the company?”
Push your limits to keep searching for ways to develop:
Keep learning. Take new classes. Read content from your industry and experts in other verticals. Meet different people. All these sources can spark, inform, and challenge ideas.
Journey across the past, the present, and the future. While trying to predict future possibilities, don’t ignore the lessons of history. Learn from your company’s mistakes, and seek sage advice when facing new challenges.
Recognize your feelings. It’s easy to say that you will ignore your emotions when making decisions. I encourage you to acknowledge your feelings and how they may impact strategy. Most people who change the world are passionate, so embrace and understand that influence.
Seek opportunities. Expert strategists imagine growth from various sources, including an immediate crisis. Disaster forces us to pivot, adapt, and it may lead to unexpected prospects.
Find forgiveness. Strategy is not a once-in-a-lifetime thing or the tackling of everything at once. If you make a mistake, forgive yourself and learn the lesson. Most successful founders make a ton of missteps, including strategic ones.
Whether you or another leader, the same person responsible for devising an incredible strategy may also be expected to be responsible for executing those ideas. Planning and implementing are two completely different skill sets, and it’s worth a moment to recognize the distinction.
That said, if you are responsible for implementation, keep these areas in mind:
Decisiveness. Each milestone or shortfall around revenues, headcount, new products, industries, or locations must invite scrutiny when implementing strategy. You may need to train people, leverage external resources, or add experienced managers and directors to fill the gaps and scale effectively.
You also may realize the tough position of adding more senior people and/or firing people to get the right mix. These people may have been instrumental in your success but will they be capable of handling the next stage. These changes should be made thoughtfully, respectfully, and resolutely to move forward.
Stages. When teaching people new skills, you would develop and explain ideas based on their age group or level of development. Teaching math to a preschooler is much different from teaching it to a college student. The same is true with companies.
The effectiveness of any strategy depends on the next stages of the business. When planning, ask the following questions: “Is our current path the best one for our company now?” “How do we measure success?” and “When will the plan need to be reviewed next?” Search for ways to move forward without committing fully to any next stage, so you can measure progress and outcomes before deciding the next steps.
Outside Advice. Lean into advisors, investors, fellow founders, and clients for input on new strategies.
“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy,
if you’re playing a solo game,
you’ll always lose out to a team.”
– Reid Hoffman
Seeking feedback accomplishes two objectives. One is to hopefully receive useful feedback. You get useful feedback from key stakeholders who know something about the company but are not biased by legacy or politics. The other is to prepare key stakeholders for an upcoming change. Involving them in planning encourages their later support because they feel part of the process.
Key Takeaway: Conceiving, applying, and evaluating strategy are distinct talents. Know your strengths, find the best way to move forward, and decide who owns the results.
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