Tools: Print | Comment | Share

Understanding Strategy

When it comes to setting the direction and objectives of your business, what you do isn't nearly as important as how you do it. With that in mind, here's a little refresher on strategy development and execution. Share and enjoy.
  1. Start with the business plan!
  2. Use your core competencies effectively
  3. How to develop a consumer-oriented marketing strategy
  4. How to connect your high-level strategy to your business operations
  5. Implementing your strategy
  6. Use benchmarking to measure how well your strategy has performed


Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

Increase Profitability with Benchmarking

Regardless of the industry you operate within, if you want to truly identify your company's competitive advantage, you need to be able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your business, and how the strategies you have chosen affect your profitability.

It's simple enough to list all of your company's strengths and weaknesses, but to do this effectively, you must benchmark, or compare, these items against those of either your competitors or even against your own past performance. If you're new to the concept of benchmarking, there is a helpful resource on what it is, and how to do it, which can be found here.

By comparing and analyzing your company's performance in this way, you can begin to understand which of your management decisions have been the most profitable to your business, and which have missed the mark. In this way, you can begin to focus in on your company's return on investment (ROI), and look for ways to make the decisions that bring the highest return thus increasing your profitability.

More on ROI and other useful financial ratios to help you improve your business are on the way.

In the meantime, subscribe to our site today (it's free) and keep up to date on all the latest tips and techniques to increase your profitability.

Labels: , ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

Startup: Get the Business Plan Right

Most aspiring entrepreneurs fail to recognize the importance of the business plan. If you want to be successful in business and in life, you need to be able to define your goals and targets and measure your progress as you aim to achieve them. For entrepreneurs, this is where the business plan comes in. Getting this important first step right will help to give you the focus you need as you grow your business and it makes it easier for potential customers to understand who you are and what needs you're fulfilling.

The business plan articulates your business idea and your reason for being. It includes an analysis of who's in your target market, who your competitors and potential competitors are, what sorts of laws and regulations you must consider, and of course how you plan on financing your operations (and why you think your venture is worthwhile in the first place!)

Yet, why do most small businesses fail to accomplish this important first step? Is it that they're put off by this "extra" work? The point is, articulating what your business is and how it will remain profitable and sustainable shouldn't be considered an extra workload, but rather a necessary part of your business strategy. Furthermore, you should periodically re-assess your plans to determine if the internal (resources, capacity, targets) and external (competitive, governmental) factors have changed since your last assessment.

If you want to give your business more focus and learn how to create your own business plan, you'll probably find some examples helpful to get you started. There are some free business plan samples available at, a resource which also features tips on how to improve and refine your business plans and grow your business in the way you intended. If you're still at a loss for creating a business plan that suits your particular business, post your comments below, or e-mail me at web (at) and I'll be happy to help.

Labels: , , ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

Bridging the Strategy and Operations Gap

A challenge for business leaders is the ability to connect their company's strategy with the operational side of their business. The shortfall, in most cases, is the inability of leaders to break down the organizational strategy far enough to be able to understand the details needed for the higher level plans to work.

In an interview conducted last year with Strategy+Business, Jack Stahl, former CEO of Coca-Cola suggested that situational leadership is the key leadership component that can help bridge the gap between strategy and the operational details.

Situational leadership is, as the name would suggest, a form of leadership which states that different circumstances call for different types of leadership. This type of leadership, proposed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, suggests that there are four different types of leadership styles, each best suited to its own set of circumstances:
  1. "Telling" - these leaders outline the roles and responsibilities of their subordinates and manage them closely. This is perhaps the most common of the four leadership styles.

  2. "Selling" - these leaders engage their subordinates more than the telling-types, and while the decision ultimately rests with the leader, the leader is also receptive to input from the staff.

  3. "Participating" - these leaders delegate all of the decision-making responsibilities to their subordinates, and only act as a participator or facilitator of the discussions.

  4. "Delegating" - as with the participating types, these leaders delegate the decision-making responsibilities to their subordinates; unlike the participating types however, these leaders do not participate in or guide the direction of the the discussions.
Surely, the telling-types are the most common examples of leadership, and the selling-types perhaps the most inspirational, but can a case be made for either of the last two leadership styles, the more hands-off participating and delegating styles?

Stahl seems to think so. CEOs must have a thorough and detailed level of knowledge of their business, and their company leaders must have a more thorough picture of the operational aspects of the business. To bridge the gap between the organization's high-level strategy and its detailed-level operations, leaders must be able to recognize which of the four styles of leadership will work for any given situation. Having leaders who have the ability to connect the strategy to the details is paramount, and having them be able to adapt to any circumstance and employ the appropriate style of leadership is equally as important.

Read the full interview.
Learn more about Situational leadership.

Labels: , , ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

Use your core competencies to your advantage

If an outsider to your business were to ask you what your core competencies are, would you be able to list them? Core competencies are the key aspects of your business; the things that you do really well and if understood properly, can transform your business and even your industry.

Too often, when leaders think of the key skills and functions of their organization, they list things that are either too detailed or too task- or product-specific and miss out on the bigger picture. Your core competencies are not merely the things that you do well right now, but are the things that can be leveraged in the future to further expand your business to new levels.

In his 2006 article, Competing for the Future, management expert C.K. Prahalad gives the example of Sony, famous for initially pioneering transistor radios, but whose real core competency lie in miniaturization. Sony's ability to realize this key strength helped enable them to expand their business by continually creating new products to miniaturize. This is a great example of how a company can use its true core strengths to its advantage by expanding its business and building market share in industries it didn't even initially compete in!

When thinking about your own set of core competencies, try to think of the bigger picture. What processes have you put in place which help you conduct business right now? How can you leverage those processes to improve the way your conduct your business or develop new products that appeal to your core set of customers or even new ones? By thinking more broadly about the key skills of your business and having open and candid discussions about these "real" skills with your employees, your organization will be much better positioned to grow and thrive in an ever-changing business environment.

Labels: , , ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

How to create a marketing plan

If you're running a business and are looking to market your products or services for the first time, there is an excellent article online with a comprehensive step-by-step guide detailing what you'll need to do and how you'll need to do it.

This thorough guide from the KnowThis website shows you how to do a situational analysis, a target-market and competitor analysis, as well as how to promote, price and distribute your products. Some of the more interesting sections include tactical marketing strategies, and of course, the actual implementation plan.

At 22-pages long, the guide is quite extensive, but if you're trying to market your product for the first time, this detailed guide should be quite helpful to you and your business.

Read the full tutorial here.

Labels: , , ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

Tying strategy implementation with strategy creation

Abhay Padgaonkar has written an insightful article on strategic planning and how meaningless it is without careful consideration of how to actually do the strategic implementation. He writes of the problems that come with formulating strategic plans that are unnecessarily long and too abstract, thus making them all the more difficult to implement.

Some of the more common excuses most company's make include: the preference toward status quo, lack of effective leadership at the higher levels, and an unwillingness to look at old problems in new ways.

The article goes on to explain how these companies can put together a strategic action plan that is as attainable as it is succinct and straightforward.

Read the full article here.

Labels: , ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

Developing a consumer-oriented marketing strategy

Not long ago, marketing activities were constructed to simply promote product sales and focus on building market share; strategies that focused on how companies could move the most units of merchandise were considered the right way to go. In today's competitive business environment however, marketing activities are constructed to fulfill the needs of consumers.

Consumer-oriented marketing strategies give the marketing manager the tools required to examine which stores/distribution channels should carry the product; the price-sensitivity of the product or brand, and which segments of the population are the purchasers of the product.

Therefore, for an organization to take on a consumer oriented approach, it will have to ask the following questions:
  1. How is the market segmented? For instance, are the primary consumers brand loyalists, cost-conscious, or conspicious consumers looking to purchase luxury items for status?

  2. What is the profitability of each of these segments? Once the segmentation of the market is known, the organization should then determine the size and profitability of each of these segments. The potential for large, underserved segments of the population to exist is there and organizations that have clearly identified these potentially profitable segments can find great success.

  3. What are the common characteristics of the consumers in each segment? Now that the company has defined the segments and the profitability of each one, the marketing management must then look at the characteristics, habits, values, and influencing factors of these potential customers. By doing so, the managers can better predict whether the segment is more likely to grow or to shrink in the future. This will undoubtedly have an impact on future campaigns and marketing strategies
A final point worth mentioning is that marketing management should also ask themselves if the existing customers are actually satisfied with the current products and services offered by the organization. Ideally, this is done after the market segmentation has taken place; this way the organization can better tailor its offerings to the needs of specific customers.

By determining who the customers are and customizing and tailoring their offerings to these customers, marketing managers can benefit by: a) fulfilling the needs of underserved consumers; and b) creating long-term value and growth opportunities for their respective organizations.

Labels: , , , , ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

How to sell: Developing the killer instinct

Jason Steadman, sales executive and CEO of Entronics USA, has compiled a list of ways that describe how he has found success in selling his company's products and services to other organizations.

The advice he provides is a culmination of the experiences and lessons he has learned from a Special Forces officer named Kurt Semko. Steadman suggests that in order to achieve sales success, one must:
  • Be creative by looking for new opportunities for business
  • Look for ways to help your potential clients, and not just try and sell to them
  • Don't try to oversell your products or services; only sell them what they need
  • Learn to read people - a very important (and attainable) skill for any sales person
  • Don't show off; nobody likes a braggart!
One of the more interesting points in the article is that it is inevitable that you will fail before you succeed; in fact, you pretty much have to fail before you can succeed according to Steadman, who compares this aspect of selling with a player at bat in baseball:
"What matters is moving on, making the necessary adjustments, and stepping up to face the next client believing that you will close the deal."
I recommend this article by Steadman which contains a brief foreward by author Joseph Finder, whose book Killer Instinct is based upon Steadman's real-life success stories. The complete article is available here for you to read.

Labels: , , ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

How to solve a problem (in seven easy steps)

If someone were to ask you how you go about solving a problem or making a difficult decision, how would you reply? Would you say that you go about the task by the seat of your pants? Or would you stop, think about it for a good while, and simply say that you didn't exactly know?

In order to achieve success in your organization, the ability to solve problems in an organized, structured, and timely manner is absolutely crucial, regardless of your rank within the company. This article provides a structured approach to problem solving, one that can be applied no matter the situation.

The seven steps to structured problem solving are outlined below:

1. Identify and clearly define the problem

This is of course your first step. After all, a decision only exists because of a problem. The first thing that must be done is to clearly identify what the problem is; what is it doing (or not doing) for your business; who is affected by it; and what the desired state should be.

2. Establish your objectives and priorities

Rarely is there a time when you've got only one problem to deal with. Once you've determined what the new problem is, the next step is to prioritize it in relation to the other ones currently on your plate. Determining this priority involves three considerations: urgency, current overall impact, and future impacts on your business.

3. Consider possible causes

It is important to look for the root cause(s) of your current problem. Doing so will undoubtedly help you determine what the underlying problem really is.

4. Develop alternative solutions

Before deciding on a solution, draw up a list of feasible alternatives that will meet your needs. Perform this step within your time and budgetary constraints.

5. Evaluate the alternatives and communicate them with the stakeholders

Now that you've determined your set of alternatives, you will need to evaluate the pros and cons of each one on the basis of the following three conditions: i) your level of certainty on the potential outcomes; ii) your level of uncertainty on the outcomes; and iii) your best estimate of the risk involved with the outcome of each alternative.

Another important aspect of this step is to ensure you've communicated your alternatives to the relevant stakeholders who are affected by the outcome. You will most likely need their buy-in here.

6. Choose the best alternative and implement it

After examining the alternatives on the three conditions listed above, select the one which best addresses the problem defined in the first step and be sure to check that the selected alternative is the one which best meets your objectives and priorities. Again, communicate this decision to any relevant stakeholders.

7. Measure the results

The final step is to observe the results of the implementation. Was the decision the right one to make? Can it be improved? You cannot assume with full certainty that once the decision is implemented the outcome will fully meet the desired objective. This is why you must use a system of control and evaluation to ensure the outcome is at least consistent with the desired results -- some optimization after the fact is therefore not out of the ordinary. This follow-up phase is therefore a necessity.

Of course the execution of these seven steps will vary based on the amount of time, money, and/or resources that you have available. However, by using this structured approach to solving problems, you stand a better chance of realizing your objectives and achieving success.

Labels: ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

Seven ways to improve communication skills

Effective communication skills are essential to organizational success; this should come as no surprise to anyone. However, most people fail to realize the importance of improving upon their own communication skills.

An interesting article from PaulsTips offers seven straightforward ways that these important skills can be improved upon.

The seven strategies are:
  1. Keep the message simple
  2. Know your audience and its level of expertise on your topic
  3. Communicate with sincerity
  4. Don't confuse your audience and your message with big words when simpler words will do
  5. Personalize your message; make it one-on-one
  6. Brevity is key: keep your message short and to the point
  7. Respect your audience; don't talk down to them!
The article is a quick read, yet it contains valuable information on how to improve one's communication style. Read it here.

Labels: ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Tools: Print | Comment | Share

Creating persuasive presentations

There's a great little article from Fast Company Now that discusses the most effective strategies to use when trying to create a persuasive presentation.

According to the article, the top five strategies (with the percentage of firms that actually use them) are as follows:
  • Sharing facts: 73.5%
  • Offering a solution: 62.1%
  • Sharing a new idea: 52.8%
  • Telling a story: 51.6%
  • Changing a perception: 50.9%
Among the other successful strategies are: the use of humour, building trust, and creating an emotional appeal.

Read the full article here.

Labels: , ,

Permanent Link  |  View Comments
Read more... »
Read more... »
Read more... »
Read more... »
Read more... »
Read more... »
Read more... »
Read more... »
Read more... »
Read more... »

Browse the archives via the tag cloud found above in the Leader's Toolbox below.

The Leader's Toolbox
books  business  communication  culture  decision making  emotional intelligence  ethics  finance  HR  management  marketing  meetings  motivation  negotiation  organization  performance  presentations  pricing  productivity  resistance to change  strategy  time-management