7. STRATEGY – All Time Essentials for Entrepreneurs: 100 Things to Know and Do to Make Your Idea Happen

Chapter 7. STRATEGY

"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field."

Niels Bohr, 1885–1962 Danish physicist, first to apply quantum theory and awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922.

61: Become an expert

Become an expert by writing impartial and informative articles on issues that affect your prospective customers in specific industry sectors. Offer these articles free of charge to newspapers and trade publications to ensure they have a good chance of making it into print.

By creating this kind of launch platform and reinforcing your credibility, you engage the hearts and minds of your stakeholders and create awareness of your in-depth knowledge of the critical subjects for your industry.

Be sure to follow the editorial guidelines of the publications you're targeting and focus on providing helpful information instead of making a sales pitch.

"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1890–1969

34th President of the United States and a five-star general, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in the Second World War.

62: Stay in control

Keep control of your business focus by continually monitoring and reassessing your long-term plans.

Problems have a habit of snowballing. If things start to get out of control, you lose business momentum and end up firefighting problems instead of providing solutions that help your business grow.

Not being in control quickly becomes time consuming and costly to future business success. So ensure you get back on track as rapidly as possible.

The more you do, the more there is to be done – so be clear about your objectives and growth strategies so that you retain your focus.

"Advertising is about norms and values, aspirations and prejudices. It is about culture."

Anil Ambani, 1959–

Indian businessman awarded Entrepreneur of the Decade by the Bombay Management Association and MTV Youth Icon of the Year in 2003.

63: Create a unique business culture

Invest emotion to the products and services you offer. Create a culture of words and pictures and an identity that customers and partners can tap into.

The world loves a quirky business, one that is founded on fun but with a serious business heart.

Look at how Google advertises job opportunities:

Top 10 reasons to work at Google – number 3: "Appreciation is the best motivation, so we've created a fun and inspiring workspace you'll be glad to be a part of, including on-site doctor and dentist; massage and yoga; professional development opportunities; on-site day care; shoreline running trails; and plenty of snacks to get you through the day."*

When you create a unique culture you foster the involvement for all your stakeholders.

"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra."

Jimmy Johnson, 1943–

American football coach and broadcaster, author of Turning the Thing Around: My Life in Football.

64: Break constraints

Your business may make money from methods and practices that maximize economies of scale to produce products in a tried-and-tested manner – your suppliers aim to do the same. When you want to try something different they often seem disinterested and unwilling to help.

Try not to be constrained by existing practices. Push to get exactly what you want and the products you require to start your business and satisfy the market demand you know exists.

Compromise may mean the death of your innovation, so find a way to get exactly what you want.

"The knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."

Douglas Adams, 1952–2001

English novelist and dramatist, best known as the author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

65: Try something completely different

Expand your experiences by trying something completely different and outside your normal comfort zone.

Join a group, try a sport, take a course, watch a film, try some new food, buy a different book, call a company you admire, wear different clothes, take a car for a test drive or do some volunteer work. You must immerse yourself in a new pursuit to expand your capacity for creative thinking.

All of these activities will give you insights into other people's worlds, push the boundaries of your own experiences and provide you with pathways and connections to new opportunities.

"Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."

Sun Tzu, 544–496 BCE

Chinese author of The Art of War, a hugely influential ancient book on military strategy.

66: Keep competitors close

Get to know your competitors in both a professional and a personal capacity. Competitors are a good source of new customers. In many instances competitors may actually contact you directly, as there may be a need for you to help them with backlogs and overflow business, or with specialized services they are unable to offer.

This works the other way around when you offer a service for the first time and need to ask help from a competitor to get the business closed and retain a client.

Knowing what your competitors are planning helps you organize for the future.

"Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful."

Ric Ocasek, 1949–

American musician, formerly vocalist of The Cars and a producer for several other successful groups.

67: Outsource

You may surprise yourself at the ease with which you overcome many new challenges. However, when you do recognize the need for skills you lack, outsource to find complementary expertise.

Stick to these three golden rules for best practice:

  1. Look for a business partner, not just a provider.

  2. Set and agree clear goals, objectives and expectations.

  3. Develop a business relationship based on mutual trust.

Eventually you may be able to afford to bring the relevant function in-house and run it yourself.

Some very affordable and expert business service companies exist, so look for the right one for your business.

"Business is like riding a bicycle. Either you keep moving or you fall down."

Frank Lloyd Wright, 1867–1959

Architect and interior designer, termed the greatest American architect of all time by the American Institute of Architects.

68: Call someone right now

Pick up the phone and call someone you respect in business or your industry to introduce yourself and your products.

Ensure that your conversation has a reason, is relevant and personalized, and you may find yourself a new client, a new member of your personal network, some fresh information on the industry you work in or someone who can pass on your details to interested contacts.

Networking has an important place in your business. Find someone in your network you haven't yet met and ask them to lunch, so you can find out what they do, how it relates to you and how you can help each other.

"Doctors and scientists said that breaking the four-minute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt. Thus, when I got up from the track after collapsing at the finish line, I figured I was dead."

Sir Roger Bannister, 1929–

British athlete best known as the first man to run a mile in less than 4 minutes, also a neurologist and Master of Pembroke College, Oxford.

69: Move the boundaries

You may make a request of a supplier and they say, "We don't do it like that." Ask them why not – it may be they've never been asked before. You don't want to be pulled down a route that satisfies a supplier's solution rather than your own requirements.

Make sure that you stick to your original product specification however hard it seems at the time.

Difficulty in creating a new product or service means one of two things: either there is no market need, or you have hit on a true innovation. If you're sure it's the latter, pursue your idea relentlessly.

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."

Walt Disney, 1901–66

Multiple Academy Award-winning American film producer, director, screenwriter, animator, voice actor, philanthropist and entrepreneur.

70: Do it better than the competition

Whenever you're applauding a person, a product, a service, an idea or an achievement, always ask yourself: 'Could I do it better?' If the answer is yes, then go and do it.

When your competitors come out with next-generation offerings, find a way to regain the advantage. Continually question the relevance of your core products and services so that you stay ahead of the market.

First-generation MP3 players held a reasonable and growing portion of the portable music player market for four years. Then the Apple iPod was released. Can you name five other MP3 players?

Don't just keep pace with competitors, lead them.