1. A strategy is not optional; it’s mandatory – if you wish to thrive. If you are not clear on what kind of business you want to be, and how you intend to succeed, you will simply end up competing on price.
  2. It’s more important to be great at what you do than it is to operate in a great market. Many companies want to get into China or India, for example, but the only they’ll make any money is if they have one or more compelling advantages that the other players can’t match.
  3. A strategy is made up of four elements: (1) Your #1 goal; (2) Your playing field – your target customers, products and services, key channels and geographical reach; (3) How you win – your key competitive advantages; and (4) Your agenda for action – the handful of priorities that you’re working on to deliver your strategic ambitions. Can you say what your strategy is now, and what you intend it to be in, say, three years’ time?
  4. There are five generic ways you can win and be advantaged: (1) Product leadership; (2) Price leadership; (3) Convenience leadership; (4) Service leadership; and (5) Solutions leadership. What kind of leader are you now, and how will you lead your market in the future?
  5. The best way to determine the most profitable type of leadership for your business is to work out where two factors intersect: (1) Your key skills and capabilities; and (2) The key needs and wants of your target customers.
  6. Action speaks louder than plans. Success generally goes to businesses that learn – and apply those lessons – the quickest. Don’t wait till your offer is perfect, get it out in the market and refine and adapt as you learn.
  7. Less really is more. You should not have more than a handful of priorities at any one time. It’s far better to move three things a mile than 100 things an inch. You can always come back to your other ideas later.
  8. Be fixed on the vision, but flexible on the journey. It’s likely that you will need to constantly change your sails to harness the power of the fickle market winds, but you can only do this if you’re clear on your destination. Expect your initiatives and tactics to change, but be relentless in pursuing your objectives.
  9. Remember, nothing fails like success. Many companies struggle not because they’re bad at what they do, but because they’re great at what they do. It’s just that their markets shift – look at Kodak, for instance. As a result, you should be constantly checking your strategy and assumptions if you want to stay on top of your markets.
  10. Take the time to observe and think. When Steve Jobs came back to lead Apple he was asked what strategy he was following. His answer: I’m waiting for the next big thing! What will be the next big thing in your market, and how will ensure that it becomes an opportunity rather than a threat for your business?

© Stuart Cross 2012. All rights reserved.