Value through Strategy

Appropriate strategies are at the cornerstone of shareholder value since creating value is a function of doing things better than the competition. If you can't out-strategize the competition, then investors will show a preference towards your competitors. Therefore, creating value is very much a function of great strategic execution, done in such a way that you somehow “re-invent” the rules of the game.

“The companies that will prosper and outpace their competitors during the next two decades will be those that will be able to outthink their competitors strategically, not out muscle them operationally. The winning CEO in the future will be the one who can craft a singular strategy that gives the company a distinctive advantage.” - Strategy Pure and Simple II: How Winning Companies Dominate their Competitors by Michel Robert

The link between strategy and value-creation is very profound, yet most people seem to put little energy and emphasis behind serious strategic decision-making. By shifting more of your energy on strategy, you are spending more of your time on things that matter most; i.e. things that will have the highest impact on value. So how can we get the organization to strategize more effectively? The answer is basically a three-fold proposition: Understand Yourself, Understand the Customer, and Understand the Competition.

Understand Yourself : You must understand what drives value within the organization. And strategies change and move so fast, formal approaches to strategic assessment may not work. More informal, quick approaches that focus on the real drivers or value systems seem to work best. For example, “Appreciative Inquiry” is now considered a good model for focusing on what employees, customers, and other stakeholders appreciate about the organization. This becomes the building blocks for fast, effective strategic execution.

Understand the Customer : You must understand what the customer values and what values you can provide for not just meeting the customer's requirements, but turning the customer into a loyal and long-term partner within your business.

Understand the Competition : You must understand the strategy of your competitor's. Markets are now very competitive; you cannot just narrowly focus on the customer alone. You must understand what makes the competition tick – otherwise you're in for some nasty surprises.

“Strategic Planning is seen not so much as a mathematical activity, juggling with various forecasting techniques, although some forecasts remain vital, but as an ability to understand how a business can prosper through skilful positioning in the market place. It is an exercise in vision which must be fostered; the vision must also be informed by a concentration on the need for profit.” - The Visionary Executive: Strategic Planning for the New Business Leaders by Michael Z. Brooke and William R. Mills

One of the biggest inter-dependencies between value and strategy has to do with communication. Its fine to have a good strategy, but it's all for nothing if you are unable to clearly communicate it to those who must execute on it. Keep in mind that strategy is about moving and changing things in relation to the past based on what you understand in relation to customers, competition and other forces impacting your business. From all of this, you must define a compelling vision and future before others, energizing them around this strategy, allowing you to change the organization.

Creating value through strategy requires several dynamics, things like getting close to the customer and a solid understanding of competition. Perhaps the real underlying force for driving value through strategy is getting people to change. This requires that you continuously articulate a vision and strategy that people can truly execute on. Somehow you must be able to energize everyone around a common cause, communicating in such a way that it is our survival at stake – we must do these things if we expect to stay in business!

“A company that demonstrates concern for long-term success in the best interests of all stakeholders (not merely directors or shareholders) is most likely to win the respect of everyone involved in supporting it including employees, customers and suppliers. Instead of being frightened of difference and conflict, instead of pursuing power, wanting to be right, wanting to win arguments, wanting to be better than, we need to learn to welcome difference and conflict, let go, acknowledge that we don't know, that we are traveling and learning, that we will succeed better when everyone wins, that there are, most often, win-win situations. We need to learn to listen with interest and open minds and engage in dialogue. We need honesty, rigor and challenge. This will encourage learning, flexibility of response and creativity and help in solving problems and deciding the most appropriate way forward.” - Making a Difference: Strategies and Tools for Transforming Your Organization by Bruce Nixon

In his book The Art of the Strategist , author William A. Cohen, PhD describes in detail ten principles for strategic success:

  1. Define and commit fully to a set of strategic objectives.
  2. Analyze and move forward quickly – don't sit there and wait for the ideal conditions to unfold before launching your strategic initiatives.
  3. Clearly understand your competitive advantages and focus your resources into these competencies for strategic success.
  4. Push hard on the things that are opportunistic to your organization in relation to the competition – move on your strong points before competitor's erode them away.
  5. Don't be afraid to make some bold moves – experiment to keep competitors off balance.
  6. Keep the organization simple so you can execute. Overly complicated structures and systems will impede strategic success.
  7. Don't forget to develop some exit or alternative strategies since your current strategies will invariably run out of gas.
  8. Take an indirect path to reaching your strategic objectives. For example, you may need to partner with some unfamiliar companies to reach your objectives.
  9. Distinguish the cost benefit of going to market before your competitors. Timing is an important element, but you could get burned with first mover advantage. Pioneers often suffer large losses, paving the way for others to follow on the heels of the so-called first mover advantage.
  10. Don't bail out too soon on your successes. Mature and modest success is a lot easier to manage than short-lived success.

Finally, here are a few key points to consider for effective strategizing:

•  Strategies that have some original ideas, giving some distinction to the organization apart from the competition can be more value-added than a strategy that simply goes head-to-head against the competition on their terms.
•  Strategies that imply a need to change or improve can be more value-added than a strategy that rarely changes what the organization is currently doing.
•  Strategies that are easy to understand can be more value-added than a strategy that is complex and fails to take advantage of the resources that the organization has.
•  Strategies formulated in isolation of stakeholders can be risky, superimposing dramatic changes upon others. Strategies must fit with others who have an interest in the strategy.

Written by: Matt H. Evans, CPA, CMA, CFM | Email: | Phone: 1-877-807-8756

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