Strategic failure Featured

5:36am EDT April 30, 2002
It is getting late; do you know where your company's strategy is?

In spite of all your meetings, strategic planning efforts and company groupthink, are you sure your company has a clear business strategy? If not, it is squandering its resources on the wrong efforts and missing opportunities to grow.

But if your strategy is focused, efforts are much more likely to be successful. Here are 10 ways to tell if your company's strategy is off track.

10. Your brochure makes no sense, not even to you. After showing it to a potential client, you find yourself chattering away to explain it.

9. Your Web site is confusing and few people click past your home page or e-mail you. Clients give you a blank look when asked how they like your new site.

8. Your compensation plan doesn't reward your executives for achieving your company's strategy. Instead spending their bonuses on a trip to Hawaii, they're booking a weekend in Sandusky.

7. When a reporter interviews you, he or she leaves unclear about what your company does. When you read the story, you're not sure the reporter was even interviewing you or writing about your firm.

6. Your closest friends cannot give you good referrals. At a family get-together, your friend tells you about meeting three of your five hottest prospects. Not once does he connect their needs to your services.

5. Your spouse cannot explain what you do. When asked, about your business, he or she turns to you to explain it. When you encourage your spouse to do it alone, you constantly interrupt to correct mistakes.

4. Your customers don't know you're better than the competition. In response to you describing the new features your competitors don't offer, your customers don't react at all.

3. You don't give the same answer twice when asked what your company does. You sound like a politician moving from one special interest fund-raiser to the next: "Just tell me who I'm speaking to and I'll tell them what they want to hear."

2. When your employees are asked what your company does, no two give the same answer. Depending on their department, they answer in terms of what their group does. Often, it is framed in terms of how much better they would be if everyone else worked as hard.

1. The reasons your customers say they buy from you don't match the reasons your sales force says it sells the customers. People don't buy shovels, they buy holes. But worse yet, your customers are asking for building foundations and your sales reps are selling swimming pools.

While the war stories of companies implementing programs based on confused strategies are hilarious, the collateral damage to profits is not. Given that the No. 1 reason people change jobs is the stress of having no control, it's no wonder the underlying problem is a lack of a company strategy.

Simply put, set a straight course for your company's ship and everyone on board can row in the same direction. Andrew J. Birol (abirol@birolgrowthconsulting.com) is president of Birol Growth Consulting, which helps business owners grow their companies. He can be reached at (440) 349-1970 or through his Web site, www.birolgrowthconsulting.com.