Sunday, November 14, 2010

Strategy Matters

This is the first blog post regarding the 10 Things I Accidentally Learned on the Path to Growth and is a topic many of us as small business owners take for granted. After 25 years in this business, it has become more apparent than ever that strategy truly does matter. It isn't how things typically start. Certainly not in my case.

Many of us began our businesses because we were good at what we did and decided we could make a business from it. We are typically good technically or as sales people and begin to hire a person or two to help us serve more folks. In my case, I started the technology business as a hobby because I really enjoyed computers. 1985 was the start and there was not grand plan, no long range strategy, just myself and my bride (who wasn't all that sure of the idea) that started to sell and service Apply computers.

It was just me for the first five years and then I hired my first employee - which changes everything. No longer can I just do whatever whenever and be able to expect others to read my mind. That is how I tended to run things for quite some time. But osmosis doesn't really work, and people can't read my mind, so it was time to begin making some changes.

Over the years I have had to change how I lead. And one of the major adjustments has been to define and let people know about strategy. That requires thinking about things far beyond the normal day to day tactical operations which is where most small business owners are most comfortable. After all, we can fix most anything and sell what we need to without a strategy can't we? That is true for a while, but soon you hit a ceiling and one major reason is that others are not sure what the plan is or how to really help the company grow.

We have to identify that "house on the hill" or "BHAG" as it is oftened called if we want others on our team to be able to help join us in taking the company there. They can't just figure it out as we often think they should. It needs to be defined and written and shared. It must be measured and updated and adjusted. It is hard work but vital to keep the company growing.

What it really means is that we must begin to think like a CEO. There are bad connotations to that role today, but it isn't the role that is an issue, but the people who fill that seat. For many small businesses - no one is sitting in that chair and no strategy happens. CEO thinking is strategic. It is forward looking and future facing. It is very different from how most of us are wired today. But it is critical. Here is a table showing some of the areas I believe we need to consider and the differences in the role of CEO think vs President or GM think.

We don't default to thinking like a CEO as the entrepreneur that founded the company. That is somewhat foreign territory for us. But if we want to take our company to the next level, we have to learn to think differently. We must begin to think strategically. That transformation does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort and a desire to learn. But it can happen, and when it does, your company will be poised to go to the next level.

Many of us lie about whether we truly have a business when the reality is we really just have a job. The way to transistion from a job that makes us......
  • wear too many hats
  • work too many hours
  • handle too many things
  • makes us a slave to change how we think and run our company. That is why strategy matters. It is the only way we can break out of our cycle of being controlled by the business and change it to what a business must be - one that serves the owner.

CEO thinking is not easy - but it is essential. HTG is committed to helping our members get there. We hold our CEO Forum twice a year to help focus owners on transitioning from the day to day to strategy. That is the leap we must make.

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