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Heaven can wait, strategy not so much

Friday, April 26, 2013

A little while back I noticed a flashing warning indicator on my car's instrument panel telling me that it was time service my brakes. I thought, "I'll call tomorrow when I have more time." Tomorrow turned into next month... and then the grinding started. When I finally got the brakes repaired, the repair bill was more than four times what it might have been had I heeded the warning light and not procrastinated.

Business leaders often procrastinate establishing or updating their business strategy. Refining strategy is uncomfortable because you have to acknowledge the goals that weren't met or the activities that slipped by the wayside. As well, it is sometimes less tangible than the metrics on your dashboard. For many busy executives, it seems impossible to take the time away from a hectic schedule filled to overflowing with customer fires, internal crises, delivering for customers, or closing new business. But what are the consequences of NOT stepping off the runaway train and spending time preparing for the future?

  • Customers grow tired of inadequate service and take their business elsewhere. If you're lucky they don't take their friends with them.
  • You are so busy serving existing customers that you don't have the capacity to bring in new customers, forestalling growth.
  • Without new customers, you have no way to compensate for inevitable customer churn.
  • Your employees are ineffective at best, and at worst, begin to burn out and leave. How much would it cost you if 50% of your employees were ineffective 10% of the time? For 200 employees, you may be losing a minimum of $1.5M each year!
  • Your competitors pass you by.
  • Worse yet, you burn out yourself.

Postponing the development of strategy may be a short-term strategy in and of itself, but it is ineffective. Unfortunately, the treadmill you're on keeps running, dragging you with it, until you choose to get off and re-adjust. For your business to succeed, you need to allocate time each year to evaluate and update your long-term strategy. In addition, you also need to set aside a smaller amount of time each month to test and refine it. By ensuring that you are regularly evaluating and refining your strategy, you ensure that your customers, competitors, or the market don't leave you behind.

This time for strategy must be sacrosanct; otherwise, it gets put off like my brakes until the penalty is much greater than the prevention. During the month of December, many customers are unavailable and you may find that you may be able to create opportunities to evaluate your business strategy. Schedule the time and "Just Do It!”


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Categories: Chief Customer Officer


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