Joe Leech

We don’t have (sorry, I mean need) a strategy

2021 has been a tough year for many businesses, but the societal transformation lockdown has been like rocket fuel for many others.

A theme I’ve heard amongst many of these businesses from telehealth to online groceries to D2C CPG to home energy to cloud-based enterprise SaaS; no obvious strategy other than “keep growing everyone!”

It struck home recently after I was chatting to a Director of Strategy for a super high growth company (2020 $15mil, 2021, $50mil), who proudly told me they “didn’t need a strategy on paper” because the “strategy is obvious”. Oh, the irony!

Let’s talk strategy

So what is the problem? Well, let’s look at the symptoms:

  • Lots of cool ideas that stutter and probably won’t see the light of day
  • Competing and often conflicting initiatives from different parts of the c-suite
  • Executive bikeshedding 
  • The strategy being “Obvious”, and therefore no need to write it down
  • Everyone in the leadership team knew they should have a strategy but not being able to find the bandwidth to write one
  • Unrealistic and often changing expectations for on the ground teams like Ops, Product and Engineering 
  • Those same teams crying out for a strategy to direct their work
  • Those same teams failing to deliver on time or with anything of substance or value
  • Key market changes or needs going unnoticed or dismissed as irrelevant (👋 Kodak & Blockbuster)
  • Burnout across the board and ultimately low staff retention 

The analogy I often hear is that they are “surfing the wave”, but there is a lot in common between surfing a wave and skiing an avalanche. 

Growth is happening to you rather than because of you. A market that is on fire can carry you forward with minimal effort. 

Typically growth looks like this:

Everyone knows a strategy is important, but it’s rarely urgent. When growing fast, that urgency is even lower. 

But what happens when inevitably the market cools or a competitor comes from nowhere and begins outgrowing the market? The avalanche hits. Think Netflix vs Blockbuster. By then, it’s too late, and strategies developed under tons of pressure are often too meek and too late. 

The best time to write a strategy? Last year. The next best time? Now.  

Strategy is important, but it’s rarely urgent (until it’s too late). Carve out to time to write that strategy. In the video up there I go deeper into how you can make time and overcome any reticence and get on with it!

If this sounds like you and you do need help, get in touch.

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I'm Joe Leech and I 10x leaders, the business and the products and services they create. I bring 15 years in tech, $20b in revenue, experience with 30+ startups & FTSE100 / Fortune100 giants. Together we can do great things. Work with me.

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