Implementation Is the Next Step in Strategic Planning


46fda804fa21b4a8c242cf63558a688bStrategic planning is just an abstraction without proper implementation. Implementation is where, as the saying goes, “the rubber meets the road.” The rubber would be the strategy, and the road the path to growth.  Implementation, like a professionally crafted storyline involves the who, where, when and how.

So, if your strategic plan is on a solid footing, your management team can get it on the road with all the resources and organizational buy-in it requires for the successful journey. That journey is what implementation is all about. Therefore, implementation is a carefully crafted process that ensures the strategic plan will be more than a plan. It will become part of the organizational culture because:

  • It involves specific ownership and clear statements of responsibility.
  • Implementation plans are communicated to your staff with a clear statement of how they contribute.
  • Implementation is treated as a separate and special program not to be bogged down in daily business operations.
  • Goals and actions are sufficiently focused and realistic in scope so as not to be overwhelming.
  • The plan contains no fluff or meaningless statements of vision, mission or value statements that promote lip service but no buy-in.
  • The planning document is understood not to be an end in itself, but is at the forefront in every aspect of the strategic planning process.
  • There is highly visible accountability and ownership along with measurable progress tracking.
  • The accountability for implementation is coupled with actual empowerment and delegation of authority — the means and tools to implement the plan.

Implementation allows the organization to transform the abstract to action with buy-in and practical implementation techniques.

Leveraging A Platform Strategy for Growth


Screen shot 2012-02-10 at | Feb 10 | 2.40.01 PMIn a classic tome on new product development (Revolutionizing Product Development, Free Press, 1992), Steven Wheelwright and Kim Clark describe an “aggregate product plan.” Today, we refer to this approach as a platform strategy.

A platform is a set of core building blocks or a common technology that allows a company to develop a series of products and services. The core architecture is shared across derivative products in a number of ways. For example, Pillsbury has perfected a process to make refrigerated dough (the platform). Utilizing a platform strategy, the company then develops and sells derivative products into a number of markets: bread, cookies, and biscuits. Similarly, Toyota incorporates quality through automobile engine design (the platform) into a number of products across a variety of market segments: value (Scion), mass market (Toyota), and luxury (Lexus).

The advantages of a platform strategy are countless for a business. First, the firm can optimize their capital investment by leveraging the core technology across several market segments and for a long period of time. Of course, lower capital investment for product derivatives leads to streamlined operations and higher profitability.

Second, introduction of new product launches are managed in a more controlled manner. Timing of commercialization of derivative products is known and planned based upon the platform strategy. Upgrades and feature additions are also logically planned and leverage the core technology.

Next, markets can be segmented to take advantage of the breadth of a platform and to overtake the competition. Often the platform concept allows a firm strategic advantage due to overall market share. Consider the example of Pillsbury once again. If a competitor introduces a new refrigerated pie crust dough, Pillsbury’s platform expertise and market knowledge allows the company to respond rapidly to regain competitive strength.

Finally, a platform strategy allows a firm to focus on customers, markets, and technologies as core capabilities. Too many start-up firms fail because they have no framework to introduce follow-on products and service. Leveraging a platform strategy builds in future upgrades and product releases based upon the firm’s known expertise.

A platform strategy is a great way to leverage a company’s core strengths. To learn more about how you can add a platform approach for business growth, please contact us.

Smart Strategy Behind Twitter’s Newest Acquisition?


271_1310601711Why would a company want to pay $350 million to acquire a company that has reported less than $10 million in revenue? According to a recent article in the New York Times’ Deal Book, Twitter had some very good reasons for wanting to buy the advertising technology company, MoPub. More importantly, though, is that it provides Twitter with the ability to bring even more to the technology table.  MoPub provides mobile publishers with a hosted ad platform.  The services it offers are a real-time ad exchange and a service that pairs advertisers with app developers who can place ads within programs. This focus is one that can open up a whole new revenue stream for Twitter.

The twitter management team sees the acquisition providing a windfall of future cash flows and is also a defensive move such that Twitter can now manage the MoPub solution solely for its own benefit.

The soon to be public Twitter is hoping the $300+ million price tag was worth the investment.  In time, observers can pass their own judgment on the merits of the deal as Twitter begins to publish its financial results after it goes public.

Corporate Development Timing


moonmanIt sounds obvious: every corporation is always seeking ways of further developing its business model. Those who are able to prioritize those efforts in an uncertain economy are the ones who leave a formidable mark not only on the industry in which they dominate, but the business and financial sectors as a whole. Of course, economies ebb and flow, but it’s about weathering those natural shifts. The only certainty? The fact that nothing is ever certain. What worked in 2008 may be the worst possible scenario for 2013. It’s about timing and bringing a corporate development effort full circle when the moment is right.

The challenges are different for each business; markets shift and risks emerge and evolve. Even today’s tax dynamics would be unrecognizable to the CEO of yesterday. While it’s absolutely crucial that corporate development first protect the corporation, questions about social responsibility, the environment and transparent business practices are now part of the game plan. Underestimating these elements is a risk no CEO can afford.

The success of any company, whether it’s a small business or a global corporation, must have protective mechanisms in place that will protect it. If the leaders can’t identify the various risks, there can be no realistic protections in place. How will the capital requirements change in the coming years? Can the business model accommodate those changes? Better still, is the company being led by those who are willing to step up to the plate and make those hard decisions when necessary? What a leader could have done in the past might not be a realistic approach today. Corporate development efforts often require a bit of a “fearless leader” mindset. It goes much further than simply having strong leadership abilities.

Corporate development isn’t a static effort; it plays a significant role in a corporation’s ongoing approach. As part of its strategy, a healthy organization may develop an internal corporate development team or may consider outside help in areas such as strategy consulting, tax structuring, legal compliance, financial considerations and marketing and operations.

Even with a solid business foundation in place; one that has served its purposes well over the years, there comes a time when corporate development is not only inevitable, but a welcome strategy.

Developing and Refining a Business Model


schoolcrossingProfessor Steve Blank, who teaches business courses at Stanford University, sat in with a founder and an investor during a startup pitch and related how asking his students to blog as they started real companies gave him the idea for a startup tool. It would guide them along a better path and keep them connected with investors and mentors. The result of this session was LeanLaunchLab, an integrated view of startup management that has gotten many new businesses on the road to success and has spawned a new market all its own. LeanLaunchLab went live last year and has served thousands of startups.

At the heart of LeanLauchLab is the business model canvas. The idea behind this tool is that a business model is ultimately a make-or-break entity, and therefore anything that helps startup founders map it out, reform it, and strengthen it ultimately gives them a great deal of value. The model encourages startups to take a holistic view of “customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, resources, activities, partnerships, and costs.”

Of course, this model itself is a strong foundation for a startup tool, but other components to success include making progress towards goals and adapting as needed. LeanLaunchLab mixes in auto-population with defined experiments and testable metrics that encourage revision and continual maintenance. Best of all, it acts as a “virtual board meeting” that puts a startup’s adherence to its business model out for every stakeholder to see, meaning that keeping important partners in the loop is easy.

Traditional Versus Fast-Paced Innovation



Innovation is inherently risky, especially in today’s fast-paced marketplaces.  Traditional innovation proceeded slowly: First, find out what causes the customer pain.  Next, experiment with different technologies and market sectors to develop a new product.  Then, build models and test prototypes with potential customers to study acceptance and pricing strategies.  Finally, move into a planned product launch addressing early adopters through laggards in sequence.

True innovation is extremely rare.  Business innovations often involve more than simple novelty.  Innovation requires a confluence of customer needs being met with novel technologies and competitive marketplaces that are receptive to the new product or service.  Invention alone does not make an innovation.

Traditional innovation is now a notation in the history books.  In a recent article in Harvard Business Review (March 2013), Larry Downes and Paul Nunes coin the term “big-bang disruption” to describe innovation in our fast-paced, interconnected world.  Rather than marketing a well-tested new product to a sequence of market segments, innovation are tested en masse and survivors garner windfall earnings.  Big-bang disruptors can seemingly come out of nowhere and beat the competition in the blink of an eye.

While traditional disruptive innovation focused on the low-end customer who previously did not participate in the market, big-bang disruptors combine existing technologies and services to offer new and innovative products and service.  Consider, for example, Amazon’s ability to capture 20% of all book sales revenue by combining existing web and pioneering e-book technologies in a new way.  And to think the Kindle was not even introduced until 2007!

An essential component of all innovation is experimentation.  The difference with big-bang disruption is the speed and number of experiments.  Because the cost is trivial, innovators run many experiments in parallel and in live markets.  Technology makes these multiple, concurrent experiments possible and technology can make a successful innovation turn into a very, very successful product.

Creating a Winning Strategy: Aligning Company Vision with Market Opportunities


rock_concertThe path to achieving strategic business goals — whether pursuing operational excellence, or growth opportunities — requires a certain amount of change. So is change necessary to win in today’s competitive economy? W. Edwards Deming, the so-called father of the quality evolution flatly  informs us: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”

This is a stark warning to those companies and leaders who are stuck in their ways. Change must be embraced. If it’s avoided the inevitable outcome, according to Deming, is an eventual collapse and failure of the outmoded firm; supplanted by more innovative companies that better serve customer needs. Therefore it seems wise to heed the common platitude: change is the only constant.

So what does it take to make a business not only succeed but flourish? First, there needs to be a clearly articulated vision and strategy. The strategy should be informed by the vision of the company. The vision is where the company sees itself going, based on its strengths, and market opportunities.  To fully realize the company vision, however, a well crafted strategy must be designed, communicated and followed.

Given the company culture, the strategy is a playbook that aims to inform the planning process to guide operational activites. This achieves alignment such that everything works together toward achieving the company’s strategic goals, bringing it closer to its vision. After agreeing on company goals — targets to aim for — a strategy can then be formulated to navigate the market to successfully achieve these ends.

Without a formally thought out and articulated strategy that guides and informs daily decision making, there would be a chaotic environment, indecision, waste and inefficiency. A failure to execute a rational strategy will lead to lackluster company performance. Clearly, it is critical to have the right strategy.

Contact us to learn more about how Garrison Street can deliver results for you.

A Growth Strategy as a Core Focus


shoeA sound growth strategy is an important component to any successful business venture. A company without a growth strategy risks losing market share as other, more competitive, businesses emerge with aggressive expansion plans.

Here are a few growth strategy tips.

1. Focus on what works. Consider your current portfolio of products and/or services. Which ones are selling the most? Which ones have the highest market share? Focus on those offerings in terms of marketing and expansion. It’s tempting to have a “pet” offering that a company absolutely loves. But if the market doesn’t love it, focus on something else.

2. Make growth part of the company culture. Executive management, as the leaders of the business, has to decide that growth is imperative. Communicate that goal to stakeholders, employees and shareholders. Ensure that business growth is a key objective of the company, and that everyone who is part of the company understands that. The successful business grows as a result of a growth-oriented mindset.

3. You don’t know until you test. You may think that you have a winner with a new product or service, but the fact of the matter is that you won’t know until you test it. New offerings should not be assumed to be successful. Instead they should be tested to see if they work. This is not only true for new additions to your portfolio, but to new advertisements and marketing strategies as well. Test these new initiatives out first, before investing excessive capital into them. By focusing only on what is successful, the company has a higher probability for growth.

A solid growth strategy, complete with a marketing campaign oriented towards maximizing top line income, is absolutely necessary to the long-term success of any company.  Contact us for further insight on effective business growth strategies.