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I definitely had to write a post about a strategy. It is unbelievable how many people have no idea what strategy is and why it really matters.

So, here it is, guys, a short and introductory description:

A strategy is a core, the backbone, the bottom line of everything a company does

What do companies like Nike, Apple, EasyJet, Starbucks, Red Bull, Airbnb, Coca-Cola, IKEA, have in common?

That’s right, they all have a great strategy.


So, what’s a strategy?

First of all, let me tell you that we’ll avoid all the typical theoretical definitions of a strategy.

It is not that these more academic definitions are wrong, quite the opposite. It’s just they are often complex for people without a management background to visualize and understand their practical application in business.

But, if you’re curious to see what’s a more academic explanation, head over to this link.

Recalling my days at a business school, it now feels sort of ridiculous to remember the way professors used to teach strategy courses. After all, this always was one of my favorite subjects in management, and I truly believe the strategy is incredibly simple to define, even though it is tough to commit to in a business or life environment.

So, this is what strategy is all about – one word:

FOCUS

Now, you cannot imagine the number of times I’ve seen people completely misinterpreting what a strategy is. We use these buzzwords as “a strategic option”, “I’m thinking strategically”, “our strategic objective”, you name it. But it’s amazing that most of our society has really no clue of what a strategy really is.

Here’s a typical scenario:

When I was working at my first corporate job, I used to help my fellows who were mainly engineers. Often, I’d ask them:

“Tell me, what’s the target of your product? Is it for small companies or, perhaps, for the larger ones?”

Even in this really simple example, you can already figure out what they used to reply, right?

“Both!” – …Oh, Great.

I’d like to share with you some rules of thumb to easily grasp what a strategy is. With these hacks, I’m confident you’ll be able to think strategically in everything you do in life, way beyond managing your business.

The first thing I want you to know is that strategy really means FOCUS, above anything else. In the example above, my colleagues used to think their products had to serve both small and big companies.

They simply couldn’t understand that in order to have an outstanding product and to be highly successful, you cannot disperse your efforts amongst many directions. You have to focus.

It is definitely hard to develop a product if you’re thinking about what small companies need, and trying to merge it with what large companies want. Let’s face it, you’ll always be stuck in the middle.

And this stuck-in-the-middle reality is extremely common whether we’re talking about a business or our own personal life. Most of us will never be able to understand that our businesses are stuck in the middle and that it is the cause of slow or nonexistent growth, not to mention the cases of bankruptcy for the lack of competitive propositions.

This leads us to the importance of saying “NO, we don’t do that“. If you want to know one of the best rules of thumb for a strategy, here it is:

Define exactly the things that you do NOT do. And then, you have to stick to it, as consistency is what really pays off in the long term. Think about what your business can do best and be ready to say NO to customers that ask you to go in another direction.

And, you know, this is hard.

That’s why a lot of people cannot do it, even in their personal lives. Now, imagine when we’re speaking about customers who want to pay you.

It’s too appealing, no doubt, but that is why having a strategy is important. Because the next time you feel tempted to deviate from your strategy, you already know that you have a specific plan telling you that you should never leave the right track, and if you’re determined enough to succeed, you’ll find the strength to say “NO, we don’t do that anymore“.

Does it make sense?

You can find these types of questions and doubts in every category of our society. In our own lives, for instance, we face similar dilemmas. Let’s imagine you want to create a business and become an entrepreneur, but you have a full-time job that consumes from 8 to 12 hours of your day time, with commuting included.

If you ask me if you can and should create a business on the side, my answer will always be “yes, of course, you can and I’m happy to help you!”, but naturally, you cannot possibly compare your potential level of effectiveness with someone else’s who is working on a business full-time.

Preferences aside, the undeniable fact is that the one focusing all his time on the business will definitely have much better conditions to launch and grow a business, not to mention that working in a best-effort approach often leads to giving up due to the accumulation of daily burdens and tasks that suck all your time and energy.


If you still don’t agree with me, let me share this story about Sir Richard Branson

alphagamma What is the true meaning of Strategy entrepreneurship

Some years ago one guy was setting up a major summit and wanted to invite Sir Richard Branson to be one of the main keynote speakers. So, he tried to contact him.

First, he started with sending a formal invitation, without any compensation associated. Some days later, he receives a rejection letter from Richard Branson’s secretary – I’m not sure if it was the secretary, but for the sake of this story, let’s just assume it was his secretary. The letter said something like “Sir Richard Branson apologizes but he cannot accept your invitation…”.

So, he decides to offer a symbolic compensation – perhaps it was a matter of money. But this offer was also refused. And, still, the man didn’t give up. He is determined to have Sir Richard Branson speaking at his stage and, therefore, keeps on increasing the compensation proposal up to 500k$.

And the offers keep on being rejected.

So, after several proposals, he finally gives up, exhausted, and asks Richard Branson’s secretary:

Ok, just tell me: what does it take to have Sir Richard Branson as a keynote speaker?

And here’s the reply the secretary gave him:

At this moment, I have clear instructions from Sir Richard Branson not to interrupt him with absolutely nothing that goes beyond his main priority.

And, you know what? The sad truth is that most people will read this and think:

“Oh, I see, he has so much money that he can manage to easily refuse 500k$. It must be good to be Richard Branson!”

But the blunt truth is this:

Because Richard Branson always understood the importance of focus that he is now in his current position. It is NOT the other way around.

What you don’t know is that he’s been doing this ever since the beginning of his journey. Even when he didn’t have the keynote speaking offers such as this one, he was already prioritizing and focusing.


NO, we don’t do that stuff

You see, we all tend to seek for excuses for others’ success because we don’t want to see what the real truth is. Oftentimes, this truth is quite simple to understand, but because we think it is that obvious, we don’t take it seriously and we fail with executing it.

So, here’s the reality: it all comes down to really simple things such as having the consistency and determination to do only the ONE AND MOST IMPORTANT THING at a time. This is what a strategy is all about.

And what Richard Branson is doing by asking his secretary to reject everything that draws his attention in another direction is, simply, being strategic. He’s saying “NO” to whatever appears because it surely isn’t as important as his main project.

And this capability to say “NO, we don’t do that stuff” is distinctive in successful people and, ultimately, is what separates the thriving companies from those who cannot endure in an ever-changing environment.

Never get stuck in the middle.

The companies that don’t have a unique positioning will never be incredibly good at anything because they will always be competing with other companies that apply 100% of their efforts to the same product.

And, unless you have an unfair advantage, I really don’t see how you can expect to outrun someone sprinting in a straight line if you’re constantly switching routes.

So, I hope by now you understand what a strategy is but, most of all, I hope that you realize how in our own lives we’re constantly choosing to do everything, developing all the skills, targeting all the segments, etc.

It is hard to say “NO”, I get it. But that’s what it takes to achieve whatever you want to achieve in life.

Now that we understand what a FOCUS is, we’ll address a competitive strategy, so you can visualize how to position your company in a specific market and the type of reasoning you must go through.

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