Strategy … a waste of time or a chocolate hobnob?

February 16, 2016

Paul Kinvig & Susannah Brade-Waring, Business Growth Coaches and Facilitators at Aspirin Business Solutions



Passion is a funny thing – it has started wars, fired scientific discoveries, underpinned world changing inventions, brought down the great people from lofty positions, driven athletes to unheard of performance, set people aflame in their commitment to a cause …

It’s also the quality that is often attributed to business owners & entrepreneurs – the quality that means 9-5 is a Dolly Parton film not their hours of work! The quality that means that if they’ve had a bad day they don’t just walk away and let someone else deal with it.

When that passion is focused it’s not only the strength to get through challenging times but also the power to achieve & exceed business goals………………..

But what provides that focus? Well it’s that often maligned & misunderstood concept of “strategy”.

Now “strategy” tends to divide people down the middle – on one side are those who believe it’s an unnecessary waste of time and as the quote says:

“Strategy is something that gets in the way of doing business.”

On the other are those for whom strategy meetings are like chocolate hobnobs – incredibly moreish! However, they spend so much time strategising that as Winston Churchill eloquently put it:

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

But in reality what is it?  It’s a word that peppers business conversations – you will often see “high powered” meetings take place where the CEO or MD goes “We need a strategy for this….” and the assembled team nod sagely in agreement….then look to each other to see if anyone really understands what it means!!

We overcomplicate strategy considerably – in the Oxford English Dictionary it is defined simply as:

“A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.”

Thus we can really break it down into three simple but powerful constituents that are best looked at in “reverse” or “backwards”:

  • Overall Aim – the most successful strategies are driven by a specific reason.  The most common reason is an increase in turnover – but in truth that rarely motivates anyone.  Growth by capitalising on a new product or service offering is much more tangible and exciting.  Opening up a new market sector – either geographic or a different industry, can be equally exciting.  Other goals may include acquisition of new technology, other businesses or reducing overreliance on a market.  Whatever the reason, the strategy needs to be something everyone can believe in and get behind.
  • Long Term – strategy is not about reacting to the market; it’s about becoming masters of your own destiny.  It’s about taking stock, deciding where to position your organisation and developing a long term plan.  That provides the context for key investments, such as technology, premises and employees.  Critically, it allows you to fully commit to the next 12 months, knowing that whatever you put into place now will still be relevant for the long term goals.  A strong strategy often involves significant performance or direction changes, which don’t happen overnight.  Therefore, strong, clear and consistent leadership is required to keep everyone on board, pulling in the same direction and on track with both the long terms strategy and current tactical activities.
  • Plan of Action – There is an ancient Japanese proverb that says “Vision without action is a daydream” and this is where many strategies fail.  Frankly, the act of balancing long-term goals and short-term needs is challenging.  There is an art in breaking down the strategy into measurable business objectives which will be delivered through focussed and motivated teams and individuals.  A key element is balancing both the business needs and the people needs, in creating the right amount of structure for quality and consistency, whilst retaining creativity and passion.  In short, lofty aspirations and eloquent phraseology need the tangible, practical structure of a plan that people can and want to deliver.

So what is strategy for you?  A waste of time or a chocolate hobnob?

Well, here at Aspirin we help our clients find a strategy that is neither a waste of time nor indulgent but rather focused, stretching and built around the business needs.  We help them to understand their overall aim, create a robust long term strategy and a plan of action.

Critically, we do all of that whilst strengthening and aligning the team so they will pull together to deliver.  After all, the real test of a strategy is when it delivers the desired results.  Worth us having a conversation?

Co-creating excellent results for Waitrose

February 5, 2016

We’re delighted to enter our 6th year of working with the John Lewis Partnership.

During 2016, we will continue to support the Waitrose Maintenance Department (the team that ensures all Waitrose buildings, including your local store, are safe, legal and open) in developing its business growth strategy and the team who’ll deliver it.Paul Kinvig - Business Growth Facilitator & Coach

This week we’ve supported the team in engaging both internal and external stakeholders, building trust, understanding and credibility.  Stakeholder buy-in is critical to the successful delivery of any strategy.

MOMs workshop 2