Building Your Business Strategy

Posted: August 19, 2010

Diane Kuehn Founder & CEO

You, probably like me, have attended many professional development workshops or educational sessions that all seem great but then when you get back into the office, the implementation of what you’ve learned is difficult or impossible for a variety of reasons. This summer, I had the most enriching, productive professional development experience that has helped me refine VisionPoint’s vision and business strategy.

In June and July, I attended the Women’s Executive Education Leadership Series program (thank you, NC Institute of Minority Economic Development). In addition to the self awareness and development modules taught through Center for Creative Leadership, the bulk of the program was led by Wake Forest University MBA professors. During the session on strategic planning and management, Dr. Page West, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, laid out the concept and roadmap to building a business strategy. I won’t go through the entire program but the highlights are:

  1. Strategy is about making choices – what to do, what not to do
  2. Products and services can be imitated or duplicated…it’s easy to reverse engineer a product or imitate a service.
  3. Activities are the DNA of organizations….it’s the activities that are the foundation of a strategic plan.
  4. Activities are not easily observable and they are much harder to copy.
  5. You need to understand your core competencies….once you have those, then scrub them against a set of criteria to narrow the list down to only those that are sustainable, valuable and unique to your organization.

Once you’ve figured all of this out, determining your business strategy is relatively simple. Now the harder part comes in…building and refining all of those activities that are the foundation for the strategy and coordinating related types of activities. For example, if you are Walmart and being the low price leader is part of your strategy, their strategy must coordinate the distribution activities of offering a local product mix alongside their HR activities which allow them to have instant re-stocks by non-union workers.

Following my own personal development, the entire team at VisionPoint took a two day summit to continue the strategic planning process last week. I’m thrilled with the input and commitment from each person on the team. We have drafted together a vision for the organization, set forth our business strategy to achieve that vision, and are in the process of detailing the activities that ground that strategy. Of course, this process is ongoing and constantly evolving, and as an organization, we have committed to formal planning sessions every six months. I expect that you’ll see more in the months to come. In the meantime, if you have any suggested reading on managing your strategy and making everyone accountable, I’d love to hear about them.