Strategy is the “how.” Strategy equals the specific plans for hitting your goals and achieving your vision. The term comes from military use: The plans for defeating the enemy and winning the war represent the “strategy.”
As you look forward, it’s essential to develop or revisit your organization’s vision or picture of success. The vision acts as the destination point for your organization. Once the future target is established, the strategy can be developed.
Your company needs a strategy, a specific plan that defines your current position against your future destination, accounts for your weaknesses and strengths and outlines actions needed to move your organization forward. Effective strategic plans become the common denominator that aligns the team around a focused effort.
Two key components of a strong strategic plan are cost and customer value. Properly defining your organization’s approach in these areas can separate your company from your competitors.
The organization that offers greater value to its customers becomes the company of choice. Greater value doesn’t mean just offering more of the same things that your competitors offer. More service, more quality and more offerings aren’t necessarily greater value, and it’s almost impossible to offer those things with fewer costs. Consider Amazon. It doesn’t offer anything that brick and mortar retailers don’t already offer; it offers a different way to shop. It has a different strategy, and customers choose Amazon because of the value in the difference.
Seeking a competitive strategy that offers greater customer value often starts with reducing or even eliminating the things that customers don’t really value. In our industry, we place great value in laser straight, diagonal mow lines, deep, sinuous bed edges and string trimming that leaves no edge untouched. But do our customers value these things? I’m not trying to be heretical, I’m just asking, “Do we really know what our customers value (versus what we value)?”
There are far greater opportunities in redefining customer value than in doubling down on industry standards. What can you offer your customers today that your competitors are not offering? What single value is more important to them than anything else?
The other side of a strong strategy is to pursue a path of reduced costs compared to your competitors. Lower costs can come through greater productivity, selling a different scope or lower overhead. Any cost reduction strategy that includes shortchanging the customers or just working harder will never be sustained. Greater productivity through employment of lean manufacturing principles and/or reduced overhead through redefining customer value may represent a real advantage.
Where do you start?
Start with a vision—the “what.” In other words, answer what you are trying to achieve in terms of revenue, market segments, geography, profits and quality of life. Once the vision is clear, it’s time for the how: a strategy.