Cover Story

Develop a strategy for your strategy
“…find a path that will allow you to apply your unique expertise and resources to making the most of available money-making opportunities.”


Competitive advantage is derived from recognizing and responding to developments in your marketplace faster and more accurately than your competitors. Strategy experts in Fortune 500 companies know that the strategy setting process must reflect the conditions of the marketplace in which one operates, as well as your company's influence within it. Minnows have different options than sharks or whales and the minnows' strategies must reflect that reality.

To effectively plan to succeed, the business needs a strategy for making a strategy. This article identifies four categories of strategy setting: Classical, Adaptive, Shaping and Visionary.

Small businesses and solopreneur consultants would use one of the first two. Think of Sony and IBM as two companies that had visionary ideas that shaped the global marketplace and influenced the habits of a billion consumers.

Classical is the strategy setting style recommended when operating in an industry and business environment that while predictable is nevertheless beyond the businesses' ability to control or significantly influence. Strategy planners analyze the current business situation and use that information to set reasonable business goals and identify the most favorable competitive market position that can be expected by leveraging available resources and not to mention your client list, experience, expertise, relationships and reputation—plus they identify and assess barriers to entry.

Classical strategy planners then refine and strengthen competitive positioning through standard techniques such as the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) matrix, and project the likely results elicited by the new strategy forward into successive quarters. Goals and the strategies developed to achieve them might be followed for maximum three years, or until changes in the business environment or within the business itself encourage the planners to set new goals and strategies.

Some industries are based on fast-moving, changing market dynamics and uncertain economic times demand a more fluid and experimental approach. In such environments, long-term plans are essentially useless. The Adaptive strategic style is most appropriate under these conditions. The adaptive style gives business owner a roadmap to follow as goals and tactics are continually refined in response to shifting conditions.

Planning cycles may last only one year. Initiatives are short-term, quarter by quarter, because making money is about what's hot now. Trendy hair stylists, the hottest nightclubs and bars, fashion forward retailers and entertainers from Lady GaGa to Nicki Minaj base their business planning on the adaptive style of strategy setting.

Big data will not tell adaptive style strategic planners what will be hot in six months. On-the-ground brand representatives, party promoters, recognized style leaders and bloggers known to have credibility with the target customers give feedback on trends that might have significance, and are ripe for a mini-marketing campaign that might bear fruit. The adaptive style planners then evaluate the trends and use the feedback to make informed decisions.

The adaptive style encourages companies to set up their organizations to test and roll out a variety of products and services as quickly and efficiently as possible, constantly adapting in the light of sales figures and social media feedback.

Some strategies are bound to fail, but numerous cost-conscious experiments made in quarterly or twice-yearly campaigns increase the likelihood of success and minimize losses when a trend is over-estimated. Success is defined by carving out the best position in a volatile marketplace.

Setting strategy begins with an accurate assessment of your industry and local business environment. Depending on the business conditions, solopreneur consultants or small business owners would enact the most appropriate strategy. From there, it will be possible to find a path that will allow you to apply your unique expertise and resources to making the most of available money-making opportunities.

Kim L. Clark is a strategy and marketing consultant who works with organization leaders who must achieve business goals.

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