Strategic planning

7 Thoughts for the Start Up CEO

Fairly often, I am asked to chat with entrepreneurs about their start ups. I enjoy this immensely and find their excitement contagious!  I had such a call today and thought I'd post some of the feedback I shared.

  1. Find your voice - at some point, something you do will resonate with customers.  Find that "sore tooth" and sell to solve.  Keep digging by asking a lot of questions.
  2. Don't explain what you do - I say this 100 times a week, "It's not what you do, it's what. what you do, does for your customers".  Find an analogy, catch phrase, illustration or imagery that makes the benefit easy to understand and remember.
  3.  Partner up - Finding allies for a young company is critical.  Map out the eco-system and find those with common interests and enemies.  Look for ways to work together, refer to each other and brainstorm.
  4.  Leverage your investors - Money is overrated.  The value in an investor is the experience and relationships they bring to the party.  Ask them for help, introductions and referrals.  Put both their time and their money to work for you.
  5. Disrupt - Find a way to leverage your data, your solution, your service... to disrupt.  Change things, challenge the status quo and push out messages that hit at the heart of the problem.   Find a way to make waves, become known and valued.
  6. Stop emailing  - Email is our enemy, not our friend.  Pick up the phone, invite to coffee or camp on their doorstep.  Nothing replaces a conversation.  Get out to conferences, events and go "old school"... face to face.
  7. Zip it and listen - Ask  10 questions for every statement you make.   Find people that have been there, outside your industry and your comfort zone.  Perspective is valuable and you won't get it if you don't listen.  Join a peer advisory group, get a coach or mentor and learn to zip your lip!

I'm always happy (as time allows) to talk to those at the beginning of the journey.  Let me know if I can help.

Tom Cuthbert

7 Ways to Make the Rest of 2013 Amazing

By Kevin Daum, via @inc

The year is halfway done. Are you on track to meet your year end goals? Here are some ways to make sure you blow through the finish line by December 31st


The older I get, the faster time flies. A month seems to go by like a day. It's hard to fathom that half the year is gone and I am already busy helping clients assess their Q1 and Q2 accomplishments. Some of my clients are ahead of schedule; others are a little behind. Of course, I know of many companies that believe they are neither, simply because they don't plan for the year in the first place. (I would argue these companies are very much behind.)

What's past is past, and the coming July holiday is a good time to take stock of your situation so you can set an action plan to make the rest of the year as productive as possible. Regardless of your position or status, there are actions you can take to drive forward your company, division or even your own career.  Here are seven actions to take immediately.

1. Solve at Least One Communication Issue

Nothing gets in the way of accomplishment more than poor communication. No one has perfect communication. Figure out where yours is falling short. It might be ineffective meetings, how you deal with conflict or how you manage criticism. Ask around and self assess. Chances are you'll find several breakdown issues from which to choose. Pick the one that is the biggest obstacle to your end-of-year goals.

2. Eliminate at Least One Useless Practice or Policy

Nearly everyone has daily activities that are inefficient or even unnecessary. These practices often go unnoticed due to habit. Sit with a colleague and list out the actions in your day or in a company process. Brainstorm together how to eliminate or refine the process for efficiency. The more bureaucracy you remove, the more you'll wonder why you were foolishly doing things that way in the first place.

3. Remove at Least One Useless Item From Your Budget

This is a great time to trim the fat. Take a day and go through your entire budget line item by line item. You're bound to find some left-handed smoke shifting or baconstretching service you really don't need. At the very least, figure out how to finally empty out that storage facility that no one has touched for five years. Then you can reapportion the funds toward something that is truly useful and appreciated.

4. Commit to at Least One New Experiment

Once you complete tips #2 and #3 you'll have some extra resources. You might use these to take some new risk that could propel things forward in a big way.  Experimentation is necessary for exponential advancement. It might turn out to be a wasted effort but even failure can be valuable for learning. At the very least, you'll learn what doesn't work.

5.  Make at Least One New Major Connection

It doesn't matter whether you are focused on sales, operations or development. Adding smart people to your circle can help you grow faster. Bring on the employee you have been coveting or go engage the mentor or advisor you have always wanted. Build the team that will take you beyond your expectations.

6. Add at Least One New Competency

There is always some skill you crave to help you advance. If you don't start getting good at it now, you may never get there. According to Malcolm Gladwell you'll need 10,000 hours to master it; if you are pushing 50 like me that doesn't leave much time. (Actually, a company can achieve the requisite hours before the end of the year by assigning 10 people full time for the next 6 months.)

7. Inspire at Least One Colleague

You can accomplish far more with support from others. Find people who are floundering and help get them on track. By unlocking the key to inspiring them you'll inspire yourself more in the process. You'll feel good about moving them from a place of mediocrity and together you can take pride in accomplishment.

Are You in Over Your Head?

By Doug Dickerson via Leader's Beacon

If you’re going through hell, keep going. – 
Winston Churchill

A story is told of a group of friends who went deer hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under the weight of an eight-point buck.

“Where’s Harry?” he was asked. “Harry had a stroke of some kind. He’s a couple miles back up the trail,” In disbelief the others replied, “You left Harry laying there and carried back the deer?” “Well,” said the hunter, “I figured no one was going to steal Harry.”

That humorous story sets up a not so funny real life scenario involving the state of mind of many of corporate leaders in today’s workplace. Writing in Forbes (, Susan Adams opined about a recent Booz &Co. survey that revealed that “many corporate leaders are not able to keep their priorities straight. They are also pursuing strategies they don’t believe in, and many of their strategies fail to build on the things their companies are especially good at, compared with competitors. It’s like everything that can go wrong already has gone wrong for them.”

More than 3,500 managers from around the world took part on the Booz survey. Here is a sampling of the results:

·         A majority, 64%, said their biggest frustration was having too many conflicting priorities.

·         54% said they don’t believe that both employees and customers understand their strategy.

·         Only 33% said they thought the company’s “core capabilities” support their company’s strategy.

·         Just 21% said all their businesses “leverage their core capabilities.’

·         Only 20% said they think their company has a “right to win” in all markets where it competes.

From these findings we get an idea as to why so many corporate leaders feel the way they do and the need for strong leadership to correct it. The issues are complex and the solutions are varied. If you feel like you are in over your head then here are three solutions worth considering.

Organizational values should be shared not sacrificed. At the heart of your business is a set of values that define who you are, the product you deliver, the customers you serve, and how your will conduct your affairs. It’s the creed of your business that transcends ‘what’ you do and answers the question of ‘why’.

Until everyone is on the same page as it relates to your values you will never carry out your priorities. If managers and leaders are feeling the tension of competing priorities then it’s time revisit your values in order to get to the root of the problem. Values are the glue that binds you together and without them you will always have tension.

Organizational priorities should complement not be in conflict. Not even the best corporate leaders will be able to execute their plans successfully if the company’s priorities are not in harmony with its values and embraced by everyone. When competing agenda’s and ego’s interfere with what’s best of the company then there will be problems.

Everyone has priorities as it relates to individual performance. That being said, those priorities should not run contrary to the overall values and priorities of the organization. They should complement it. If you don’t fully embrace your core values then you will never fully execute your priorities. Why? Priorities flow out of values.

Organizational communication should give clarity not lend to confusion. The lifeblood of your organization is clear communication –on all levels. Many of the concerns expressed by the survey respondents can be traced back, and in part attributed to, poor communication. If the lines of communication are not open and clear it makes keeping priorities straight much more difficult.

Tony Robbins said, “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” This is a great point to consider going forward. Wise leaders will make every effort possible to communicate core values clearly so that they are known and embraced internally, and as a result known and appreciated by your customers.

The challenges of corporate leadership are as complex as they’ve ever been. But in the search for solutions we must not be our own worst enemy by engaging in approaches that are self-defeating. Values should be clear. Priorities should be mutual. Communication must be clear.

What do you say?

© 2013 Doug Dickerson

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Six Simple Questions For Strategic Planning

Whether you are developing a corporate strategic plan or setting your department’s strategy, there is a direct correlation between the simplicity of a plan and the chances of adhering to it.

Why stack the odds against yourself with an overly complex or unclear plan? A sound plan and a simple plan are not mutually exclusive.  If you are going to work on a plan, your plan should work for you.

Cut through the clutter by answering six simple questions about your business or team:

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. Where are we going?
  3. How will we conduct ourselves?
  4. What will we do?
  5. How will we measure our success?
  6. What improvements or changes must we make?

Don’t be deceived by the simplicity of the questions. They require deep thought, good supporting data, and honest discussion in order to articulate concise answers.


Now that you’ve seen the questions, let’s take a look at how a worldwide manufacturer of golf clubs might answer the simple six questions to develop a strategy:

1. Why do we exist?

To bring confidence and winning strokes to golfers across the globe.

2. Where are we going?

We will be a trusted club in the golf bag of 75 percent of the world’s ranked professional golfers.

3. How will we conduct ourselves?

• Innovate in all we do—the big ideas and the little ideas.

• Respect our teammates and the profession we serve.

• Pour our hearts into our work. Every club is a reflection of us.

4. What will we do?

• Penetrate new markets.

• Boost brand exposure.

• Drive organizational efficiency.

5. How will we measure our success?

• Penetrate new markets.

  • Increase sales from $5 million to $10 million in China and Japan.
  • Increase sales by 15 percent in the European market.

• Boost brand exposure.

  • Achieve number 1 or 2 ranking in all professional player surveys of best brand of clubs.
  • Triple the number of brand impressions in Asian markets by year-end.

• Drive organizational efficiency.

  • Reduce manufacturing waste by 10 percent by year-end and by 20 percent over three years.
  • Reduce expenses as a percent of sales by 5 percent by year-end and by 15 percent over three years.
  • Improve average employee engagement score to 4.5 by year-end and to 4.8 (top 1 percent in industry) in three years.

6. What improvements or changes must we make?

• Penetrate new markets.

  • Hire new sales leaders for Asia and Europe.
  • Double pipeline of player endorsements in Asia and Europe by year-end.

• Boost brand exposure.

  • Sign three new sponsorship deals with top 100 ranked players by year-end.
  • Double the number of tournaments for which we are a primary sponsor.
  • Sponsor 10 junior golfers’ clinics in each geography.

• Drive organizational efficiency.

  • Train all employees on innovation techniques.
  • Review lowest-performing products.
  • Implement passionate performance engagement model to drive employee engagement.
by Lee Colan

Answering these questions (and making corresponding budget adjustments) will get you started with a solid plan you can adhere to.

Bio: Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. is a leadership advisor. He co-founded The L Group, Inc. in 1999 to equip leaders to execute their plans and engage their teams. Colan has authored 12 books. This article is an excerpt from his soon-to-be-released book, Stick with It:  Mastering the Art of Adherence (McGraw-Hill, April 2013). It’s an enhanced and expanded 10-year follow-up to his bestseller. Learn more at