Leaders must be nimble and expedient in how they think about strategy. In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, you can’t fall in love with a method and abandon the adeptness to change or evolve when necessary. While a three- to five-year strategy is important and not to be overlooked, successful privately-held companies are exceptional at designing and deploying twelve-, eighteen- and twenty-four-month strategies. They recognize and value the need to be swift and adaptable.

Putting together a strategy is about stepping back from the doing to think clearly about the future. How can you understand your business if you’ve never thought intentionally about it? And how can you make progress if you don’t take the time to articulate your thinking into something that provides a framework of action? That’s the essence of strategy: a framework of action.

Unfortunately, too many organizations fly by the strategic seat of their pants for many years, until they inevitably begin to experience performance deficiency. Sales go down. Profits trend negatively. They keep trying the same techniques, the same intuitive approaches, but nothing works. They come to a moment of crisis because what they know to do intuitively isn’t delivering.

Instead, leaders of organizations should be answering these questions:

  • How are we going to accomplish our objectives?
  • What vertical are we going to emphasize?
  • What product line are we going to go after, specifically?
  • What is our most profitable product line? How do we know it’s the most profitable?
  • Who are our five most profitable customers and five least profitable customers? Why?
  • What is an emerging trend we need to consider and discuss that is directly related to our business but hasn’t necessarily been on our radar?
  • In what area are we “behind the times” and would be better served in getting ourselves ahead of the curve?
  • What internal process, system or area is most limiting the growth of our company? Why?
  • What are our people talking about that we as leaders aren’t talking about because it’s viewed as a “hot potato” and continues to be ignored? Why?

On the last point, remember that “nothing” is not a viable answer. In the family business, just like in any company, there is often something that needs to be talked about that isn’t being discussed because it’s “political” or “off-limits” due to a leadership or organizational value. Talking about it doesn’t mean it will change, but the leadership of a company should explore and examine without boundaries, so they can consider the predictable blind spots that accompany growth.

Leaders who focus on strategy answer these types of questions and more. They look to maximize return, minimize expenses and get people focused. They understand the relationship between thinking strategically, taking a deliberate approach and acting intuitively.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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