What do you think of when you see the acronym “BS?” Do you think of business strategy? Maybe you should.
I have nothing against real business strategy. I’ve posted on strategy often here. My favorites include 3 stories your business strategy depends on and defining small business strategy. My sense of it, boiling down three decades of small business—plus a fancy MBA degree—is that good strategy always looks, after the fact, like it was always obvious.
Real business strategy is mostly just focus. It’s about what you don’t do, sort of like how a marble sculpture is formed by what’s removed from the original block. Focus on what you and your business do best, what you do better and different, and then focus on a specific set of potential customers and focus again on building exactly what they want or need.
For example, a consultant who responds to an inquiry with “no, that’s not what I do” is executing strategy. A restaurant that doesn’t offer take-out or drive-through service is executing strategy. A gym catering especially to women is executing strategy.
But I do object to strategy as business buzzword, off-putting, arrogant pomp and positioning, a series of meetings, excuses not to get things done, or it’s obvious. Strategy frameworks are cool sometimes, and can make for good meetings; but real business doesn’t have a lot of time to sit around cooking up strategy.
Many years ago, when I was a vice president of a consulting firm named Creative Strategies, I realized that consulting on strategy is as hard to sell as consulting on sex or driving, because those are things most adults are sure they’re innately good at. And if you see strategy as logical focus, maybe that’s true.
One of the perks of having the MBA degree is license to be cynical about business jargon that. So if I say that strategy is mostly either obvious—which is good—or useless; you can’t just dismiss that as ignorance. Well, okay, you can; but I hope you don’t.
I really enjoyed working for Creative Strategies, the consulting firm, and I still think strategy exists in a series of paradoxes. It can be wildly creative, seeing ahead of time what will seem obvious to all after it’s been executed. But success is one part strategy for every 99 parts execution; and that one part will seem like it was always obvious as soon as it’s been executed.
This article was originally published by Tim Berry
Published: May 2, 2014