What is Your Strategy…In Business


This month’s theme is What is Your Strategy? Each week we will focus on a different part of your life where a strategy is needed. Today we ask, What is your Business strategy? Do you have one? Do you need an audit?

Nearly all the major initiatives undertaken by corporate executives today are called “strategic.” However, strategy is different from vision, mission, goals, priorities, and plans. Do you know what a business strategy is? I liked this quote found at Strategy+Business:

[Strategy] is the result of choices executives make, on where to play and how to win, to maximize long-term value.

Often when a company or an entrepreneur sits to draft the business strategy, too many variables come into play. Keep it simple! Leaders fail to appreciate the necessity of having a simple, clear, succinct strategy statement that everyone can internalize and use as a guiding light for making difficult choices. Another major problem we run into is when a leader is too attached to his/her original strategy to see that an audit is need to update the plans. If you are starting fresh or considering an audit to your current strategy, ask yourself these FOUR questions:

  • Is your strategy focused?
  • Can you summarize your company’s strategy in 35 words or less? If so, would your colleagues put it the same way?
  • Is it realistic?
  • Can you stick to it?

If you can’t answer these questions right away, your strategy probably needs some tweaking. It is our experience that very few executives can honestly answer these simple questions in the affirmative. And this is assuming that you have a strategy, because let’s be honest, many business executives don’t even have a strategy. Perhaps you need an audit. A strategy audit involves assessing the actual direction of a business and comparing that course to the direction required to succeed in a changing environment. Do you have a plan?

No plan is a plan for failure.

We say that a lot. Think about it, if you don’t have a plan for your company, how can you expect success? Strategy starts with focus, which means having relatively few priorities. The more priorities included, the less likely it is that you or your team is going to implement your plan. You should also be able to give a succinct elevator pitch of your strategy. A good rule is to keep it at 35 words or less. It is also very important that your employees and team members are able to give this same pitch. You should all be on the same page. When the overall strategic direction is clearly understood by everyone in your organization, the entire company benefits.

Your strategy must also be realistic. There are things you may wish you could accomplish but that are just not realistic, at least at the current time. A plan must be based in reality to be meaningful for an organization. For example, if your goal for a computer software company is to overtake Microsoft and dominate the software market, it is not realistic! At least not right now. Set up realistic goals and actions to complete those goals, and assess them regularly.

Strategy has to also be consistently applied over the long-term. It is better to consistently apply a mediocre strategy than a couple of poorly executed brilliant strategies. A beautiful strategy is only beautiful if it leads towards your goals. Fortune is in follow through, right?! An organization must develop a strategic plan that includes specific and measurable goals over the long-term. A comprehensive plan will recognize where the organization is today, and cover all the areas where action is needed to move successfully into the future.

If you are having trouble either creating a strategic plan or knowing if you need an audit, give us a call. We can help.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. ~Winston Churchill

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Face Your Fears

_51ys-CCipRL._SY300_This week we are reading, Facing Your Fears by H. Norman Wright, a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist. He has taught in the Grad Department of Biola University and was former director of the Graduate Department of Marriage, Family and Child Counseling at Biola University, as well as an Associate Professor of Psychology.

This little book focuses on how we talk to ourselves when all our FEARS creep upon us. What do you do when you get that nudge of fear? How do you react? How do you talk yourself out of succumbing to the fear? Often it is people who need control in all areas of life have the most difficulty with letting go of fear. Letting go of the need to control takes practice and this little book can help us reset the self talk. Earlier this week we talked about making mistakes. Most of the time FEAR plays a huge roll in how we handle these mistakes. You have to let go of that control, of that fear, to come out of these situations positively.

“The best way to face a fear is a little at a time, from a safe distance,” says therapist H. Norman Wright. Face a fear of heights by imagining the scary situation first. Then, move on to climbing a low structure, followed by a taller one, and so on. Pat yourself on the back once you conquer each challenge.

So what do you do when a fear presents itself? “Research indicates it takes about 20 minutes for the anxiety to subside when a fear is confronted,” Wright says. So perhaps you can just sit with it. We are always so quick to get rid of any emotion that feel uncomfortable. But 20 minutes, we can handle that right? You could also try to write for 20 minutes straight. Just write down anything that comes to mind. Getting all of that stuff out of your brain an onto paper is often all that is needed to overcome the fear. Then move on. Don’t wallow in your fears. Address it or sit with it, and then let it go.

Nobody goes out to FAIL – FAILURE – The very word ignites an uncomfortable feeling within most of us. We don’t want to think about failure, much less experience it. We all want to succeed and achieve. When we “think” we have failed, we see ourselves as unsuccessful, perhaps even deficient or not good enough. There must be something wrong with us! Failure if you want to call it that, will always be with us in this life. LIFE happens, try this self talk:

My challenges and/or frustrations are opportunities I just recognized today.

The only things in our life we can control is the second thought that comes into our head based on the first thought that comes automatically. Try it and let me know how it goes. I would love to hear from you.



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On Being Wrong, Part II

Image courtesy graur razvan ionut/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy graur razvan ionut/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many see being wrong as failure, but I disagree. Being wrong is an opportunity to grow or learn something new about yourself or your business. After reading this book, we got to thinking about how business owners and employees respond and act when they are wrong, because let’s face it, we are all wrong at least some of the time. To quickly recap some points from the book: Being wrong is as essential to life as being right. School and society create a stigma around failure and around being wrong, but Schultz shows how often we’re wrong, how much it feels like being right, and how much that means we need to change our attitude about it.

What to do when you are wrong

Often decisions or actions we’ve made hang over our head like a dark cloud because we don’t know how to handle mistakes. Success sometimes means you have to admit that you are wrong, but our culture does not value mistakes and never teaches us how to be wrong. The first step is to admit you were wrong. When you’ve made a mistake it doesn’t do any good to pretend that you were right. Don’t try to keep it a secret either, because inevitably it will surface. The sooner you bring your issue to light, the sooner you can move on. Be willing to take responsibility for your actions. When you are rigidly unwilling to acknowledge when a mistake has been made or that you were wrong, you look stubborn and unprofessional in the eyes of your team and your customers.

Look critically at your decision. Sometimes we get very attached to the idea of being right. I tell my staff that if you make a mistake, apologize, then make it right and move on. We shouldn’t have the same mistakes over and over again, but we are allowed to make mistakes. But then move on. Don’t let those mistakes hold you back from greatness.

If you have really messed up, the apology is the beginning, not the end. You may need to go further to ensure that people understand this incident will never happen again. And make sure that your apology is heartfelt. I am sure you have heard the famous bedbug letter story, right? This tale dates back to the beginning of the last century.

A guest in a hotel finds himself attacked by bedbugs. He writes an angry letter to the president of the hotel company. Within days, the president sends the guest a heartfelt apology that reads in part, “I can assure you that such an event has never occurred before in our hotel. I promise you it will never happen again.”

Included with the apology is the guest’s original letter. Scrawled across the top is the message, “Send this S.O.B. the bedbug letter.”

Clearly this was not an effective apology. Give some thought to how you are going to handle a situation and make sure the person is satisfied with your apology. It is often better to handle the situation personally.

Sometimes failure is the road to success. If you become so afraid to fail, you may never take a chance in order to succeed. Think about how many failures have lead to great discoveries and success. Successful people tend to have a different view about mistakes than most. Not only are they more tolerant of them, but they often embrace them. Steve Jobs celebrated his mistakes during a commencement speech at Stanford, and J.K. Rowling admitted that she could not have produced the successful Harry Potter series without having hit rock bottom first. You need to rewire yourself to see mistakes as opportunities. Because that is exactly what they are.

Here is something interesting though. Do not over apologize. It seems like I am contradicting myself, but these are two very separate things. If it isn’t your fault, don’t apologize. Don’t apologize for your business decisions when you don’t think they were wrong. Don’t apologize for your pricing. Don’t apologize for your opinions. Don’t apologize for being you. Again, look critically at the situation and ask if an apology is necessary. Often, getting a coach or mentor involved can help determine the right course of action.

Is it possible to embrace our penchant for error? Is there adventure in the margin of error? Schultz says yes.

Make each failure or mistake a learning experience and use the lesson to train your staff. Make sure they understand that even minor mistakes and disappointments can cause major damage to your company’s good name.

“To live a creative life we must first lose the fear of being wrong.”
~ Joseph Chilton Pearce

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Business Spotlight: The Works

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 12.33.42 PMEvery Monday we showcase a business that we think exemplifies outstanding customer service and business acumen. This week we are happy to talk about The Works Bakery Cafe in Portland, Maine!

From their website:

Whether you’re looking for the best breakfast in Portland Maine or a nice lunch. Or a great lunch in Portsmouth NH, the Works Bakery Café provides wholesome food that’s good for you. So, stop by for breakfast in Manchester VT, or lunch wraps at any one of our seven great cafe’s throughout New England. You’ll be satisfying your hunger for a great meal with the satisfaction of knowing you’re getting great food.

One Sunday my daughter and I wanted to go somewhere for a bagel and decided to try The Works. Though the bagels and coffee were delicious, what really struck me was the friendly service. It was an early Sunday morning, and I think we can all agree that sometimes you don’t get the best customer service early mornings, and especially on Sunday mornings, but we were completely surprised by the service we received. The staff was incredibly friendly and went out of their way to make sure we smiled and what we got what we wanted.

So the next time you are looking for a comfortable place for a great breakfast or lunch, be sure to give The Works a try! Let us know how you liked it!

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_front-coverThis week we read REWORK, by Jason Fried.  This business book, by the creators of 37 signals, attempts to show you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. The author’s belief is that you need less than you think to succeed. You don’t need to be a workaholic. You don’t need to staff up. You don’t need to waste time on paperwork or meetings. You don’t even need an office. Those are all just excuses. They definitely toss out the old business rules, which may make some people uncomfortable. Truth be told, I don’t agree with everything they have to say. I still believe in meetings and paperwork. At first I was put off by this book, but I am always determined to find the nugget of wisdom in any book I read. However, some will find these suggestions refreshing.

A few months ago a colleague of mine recommended Rework to me. We had been talking about what would be the best first suggestion to share with a new business owner or entrepreneur. We both agreed that going into business doesn’t have to cost much, and that was the best advice given in this boo. In the beginning you don’t need all the bells and whistles. Minimal costs for a domain name, cost of business cards, and maybe applying for you’re doing business as” (abbreviated DBA, dba, d.b.a. or d/b/a. DBA, a legal term used in the United States and Canada, refers to the trade name, or fictitious business name, under which the business or operation is conducted and presented). These are just the basic necessities for a new business, but Fried also has a lot of useful information for anyone in the business world.

Basically, your goal should be to get your first customer or client. Getting that first client or customer starts the cash flow. There are many avenues you can explore to find that first client. It doesn’t cost anything to go to networking meetings in your community, for example. With today’s technology and social media you can also expose you business world-wide without it costing anything. Remember going into business is about making money. They say if you do what you love the money will follow, it’s true. When you go out to meet people you will find out what their wants and needs are and if your product or service can fit that need.

I found this great video interview with Fried. I like how he treats his people and his office. He stresses that you should  value your time and your teams time. At one point he says, “When you interrupt somebody your telling them whatever they’re doing is less important than your question.” In the book he focuses on an excuse we all make, saying it’s no an acceptable excuse to say you don’t have the time to do something; “When you want something badly enough, you make the timeregardless of your other obligations.” I think he has a lot of good advice.


Rework gives many examples and shares with you how other companies like Crate and Barrel started. With its straightforward language and easy-is-better approach, Rework is the perfect playbook for anyone who’s ever dreamed of doing it on their own. Hardcore entrepreneurs, small-business owners, people stuck in day jobs they hate, victims of “downsizing,” and artists who don’t want to starve anymore will all find valuable guidance in these pages. Check it out and see if there isn’t a nugget of wisdom for you or your business.

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