3 Reasons YOU Say Business Strategy is Difficult

December 20, 2011

Interviews, Strategy Concepts


Shoud this stop you from having a strategy?

Should this stop you from having a strategy?

Is it not knowing enough about your customers or lack of good ideas that keep you from creating and executing growth strategies for your businesses?

Well, no.

I have engaged in some heated debates recently on the topic of “what makes strategy difficult?”.  And in the debates I have had with entrepreneurs and business owners, three common themes have floated to the top as reasons why we have trouble with business strategies for our businesses.

Generally, at the start, we all want our business strategy to outline a successful plan for our business to grow.  If we can maintain it easily thorough ever-present change so that it continues to provide us with an accurate compass leading to success, that’s a bonus.  On these points, we have general agreement.  So, if there is an understanding that we should have strategy or that a clear business strategy can help us direct our business, what makes it difficult to do?

It’s Nebulous

One of the most common reasons that business owners gave for thinking that business strategy is difficult is that it seems “nebulous”.  I had to look up an official definition, and found that this would make the idea of business strategy “unclear, vague, or ill-defined.”

Strategy is seen by some of us as a trial-and-error process where we each just try to figure out what works for our business.  It’s not a clearly outlined process; more a bit like tea-leaf reading.  Of course we get to feel great about the trials that go well, but then we also get burned by the tests that fail.  Yes, we learn from our failures, but do we have to always run random tests?  Can’t we be a little more precise with our testing and risk taking?

So, why the trial-and-error mentality?

That comes from the fact that we have just too many questions about our business and environment.  And, what makes this difficult is that most of the questions we have are broad and macro and hard to define how they will impact our businesses.  We might have questions about the political environment and impact on our business, or impact of a new competitor.  But they are just broad questions that aren’t specific enough to answer.

Picking A Direction

A second barrier to creating a business growth strategy is similar to the “nebulous” problem discussed above, but not when we have too many questions and don’t know how to get answers, but when we have too many ideas.

I have been told that the hardest part of “strategy” is the initial decision of which way to go.

If you are like many of the entrepreneurs and business owners I have talked with, there are far more ideas you’d like to pursue than you realistically can.  You are probably carrying around ideas for marketing, pricing, supplier management, customer target changes.

You are constantly juggling priorities and trying to decide what must be done now, what can be done later, and what probably won’t get done at all.  And, most probably, these are day-to-day activities and decisions.  Maybe not really long-term strategic thinking.

And how can we pick the right one(s)?  How will we know it’s the right one?  Do we trust the trial-and-error model above?  If not, how to we take a first step, that is if we move at all?  What if we get it wrong?

These questions can lead to the last of the three barriers to business growth strategy . . .

Fear of the Decision

A third common barrier to creating and executing a business growth strategy is the fear of the decision itself to pursue one strategy over another.

One of Michael Porter‘s classic quotes regarding strategy is that:

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do

And, we are sure that if we have read something in our market wrong we won’t fit in; if we miss the target, or have the wrong target, we may be one of the vast majority of businesses that don’t make it.

A missed first step in our strategy might be the last step we take.  Can we take those risks.

Because there’s nothing that will tell us definitively which choices are the right ones for our business, do we not take any action at all?

A Dire Outlook Not Needed

But, I would argue, there is a way out of this.  There are ways, simple ways, to provide more clarity to the nebulous, to prioritize the ideas and to reduce the fear of the decision on one strategy vs. another.

Most of the conversation here at StrategyDIY is to help entrepreneurs and business owners to tackle these challenges and create self-made business growth strategies.

If you are interested in the tools to overcome these barriers and build a growth strategy for your business, sign-up below (get the free report) and stay connected to StrategyDIY.

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