Covid has caused a tremendous amount of turmoil for every organization. Many of the companies I work with have had to make dramatic changes to how they do business. As one CEO I work with said, “One day I had 168 employees, and the next day I had 168 field offices.” As a result of the pandemic, companies have been forced to reimagine how they sell their products and services. As we transition back into a hybrid form of working, several of my clients are revisiting their strategies to adjust them to the new realities of the marketplace. If you face a similar challenge, here are a few ideas that might help you.
The first and most important idea about strategy sounds quite simple, but it is exceedingly hard to implement.
All effective strategy is just valued differentiation multiplied by disciplined execution
In other words, a winning strategy focuses on delivering products and services that meet these four criteria.
- Unique and compelling.
- Highly valued by your target customer.
- Difficult if not impossible to copy.
- You can consistently deliver it with excellence.
Go back and read that a few times, then I challenge you to sit down and figure out exactly how your business meets these criteria. It is not easy.
By the way, this does not mean that your products/services have to have all sorts of fancy new features or special pricing. On the contrary, you can own a market segment by understanding what the customer wants and delivering it better than your competition. It may not be sexy, but consistently nailing the fundamentals is a great way to win and keep customers.
Even the best strategy is useless if your people cannot execute it effectively. No matter what kind of business you run, the success of your organization is directly dependent on the quality of the people that you can get, grow, and keep on your team. Based on my research and working with hundreds of companies worldwide, here is a list of what it takes to attract and retain top talent.
1. Fair pay. This is defined as 10% above or below what they would make to do the same job elsewhere. If you have parity on pay, it goes away as a major motivator.
2. Challenging and meaningful work. People would get out of bed in the morning and go to work for a paycheck, they will jump up out of bed and go do their best work for purpose. Your employees need to feel that what they do is important and they are making a difference to your customers and the world.
3. Cool colleagues. Highly talented people want to work on a team with other high performers. If you put on a team with mediocre people, one of two things will happen. Either their performance will drop to mediocre, or they will get frustrated and leave.
4. Winning culture. Great employees want to work in an organization with a culture that is values-based, where they enjoy the work they do and the people they work with and get adequate recognition and praise.
5. Personal growth. To keep great people you need to invest in their development. Your team members need to feel that they are smarter at the end of the month than they were at the beginning. They expect you to send them to seminars, training classes, and mentor them.
6. Professional growth. To keep the top level employee they have to feel that there is a place for them in the company five years down the road. If they do not see a clear career path, it will go someplace where they are offered one.
7. Leader I trust, respect, and admire. This is the single most important element in attracting and keeping top talent. People don’t quit jobs, they quit their immediate boss/manager.
Allocating Limited Resources
All strategy is based on the allocation of scarce resources (even Google does not have unlimited resources). Therefore, it is critical that you figure out how to deploy these resources equally as important, where you will not allocate resources. In other words, a huge part of strategy is deciding when to say “no.”
An Educated Guess
Although I have conducted many strategic planning sessions, I always have to remember this important fact: we’re just guessing. Even with the best data, tons of market research, and a robust planning methodology, it is still just a very educated guess at the end of the day.
I often see organizations changing their strategy any time the wind blows in a different direction. A competitor brings out a new product, one customer complains about something, the CEO reads an article and everything changes. It is critical to stay focused on your strategy unless the market absolutely demands that you change it.
Lastly, perhaps the most important, is that the world’s best plan is utterly useless if you don’t execute it. I teach an executive-level seminar on strategic thinking and strategic planning at the Wharton School of Business for the last 21 years. Every year I ask my class, “What percentage of companies that have a good strategic plan effectively execute their plan?” The answer every year has been 10 to 15%. There is no lack of brilliant people who can develop uber-impressive strategies. However, there is a huge lack of people who can take those strategies and turn them into reality in the marketplace. So to me, it is important to spend just as much time talking about how to execute the plan as you put into creating the plan.
There are other things I can add to this list. Still, if you do these things exceedingly well, you will set your organization up for success in even the most challenging times.