7 Corporate Strategy Myths That Are Limiting Your Potential

Strategy Myths

7 Corporate Strategy Myths

Dr. Chuck Bamford’s new book, The Strategy Mindset, is a practical guide for creating a corporate strategy. Having read more books on strategy than I can remember, I particularly like this one. As I read the book, there were times I found myself arguing with the author. At other times, I was nodding. Still at other times, I found myself with immediately actionable ideas to improve the process at my own organization. And that’s why I enjoyed the read so much.

I think the most controversial part of his book is likely the myths section, where he takes apart existing myths of corporate strategy.

 

“Strategy is about making decisions that will impact the company in the future.” -Chuck Bamford

 

1. People Are Not A Competitive Advantage

Let’s talk about the myths.

First, you say that people are not a competitive advantage. You argue that almost all employees are interchangeable. Good employees are just “table stakes.” Is it not possible to have employees who, on average, are better than the competition?

It flies in the face of so many beliefs that it is just hard to accept. Employees are VERY important as the way that business delivers to customers. However, the moment that you actually believe that your employees are smarter than your competitors’ is the moment that your competitors will start beating you in the market. You have the same (or relatively the same) collection of amazing employees, capable employees, and poor employees as your competitors. All the HR processes in the world today have not changed that dynamic in companies. The employees that you have working in your company are a combination of luck (the biggest factor), HR practices, networking, and did I mention luck!

Bamford CoverI’m not trying to be divisive here, but most of your customers do not generally care (or if they care at all, it is slight) who takes care of their business needs as long as the needs are taken care of. This does not apply to every employee in a company, just most. At every company I have ever worked with or for, there is a contingent of “franchise” employees. Those are employees who, if they left the company, would impact the success of that company quite substantially. We all know who these folks are, and if executives are smart, they take care of these employees to ensure that they stay with the organization. These “franchise” employees are not just the customer-facing employees; they reside throughout an organization.

 

“Employees are not your competitive advantage.” -Chuck Bamford

 

2. SWOT is NOT Strategy

Second, you are not a fan of the SWOT. What’s wrong with the way most organizations use it?

SWOT is the single biggest impediment to doing real strategy that exists, and it exists because certain big consulting firms continue to use it with their clients, and it makes clients “feel good” without really having to do strategy.

SWOT was an attempt to bring some structure to the topic, and as a conceptual approach, it is still fairly robust. Unfortunately, many authors, academics, and practitioners decided that SWOT was an analysis tool and a means for a company to develop its strategy. SWOT is NOT strategy, and it is not an analysis tool.

Anyone can create a SWOT. It is grounded in your own biases and view of the world. In the end, a SWOT is simply the opinion of the person or group filling it out.

 

“SWOT is the single biggest impediment to doing real strategy.” -Chuck Bamford

The Surprising Potential of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur

The Potential of Entrepreneurship

When you hear the word “entrepreneur,” what do you think of? Many may think wealth creation, risk taking, or start ups.

What if it also meant social change? What if it was a way to close the wealth gap? What if we looked at it in a completely different way?

To say Steve Mariotti believes in entrepreneurship is more than an understatement. He is the founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a global nonprofit organization that has educated more than half a million students. He passionately believes in entrepreneurship as a transformational experience that can be used in schools, prisons, villages, and inner cities. His new book, An Entrepreneur’s Manifesto takes a completely different view of the role of entrepreneurship.

 

A Life-Changing Jog

You were mugged by a group of teenagers and it changed you. Not many people would have an event like that and decide to serve low-income teens for life. Would you share this story and how it impacted you? 

Cover ImageI was mugged in 1981 by five teenagers while I was jogging one afternoon along the East River on New York City’s Lower East Side. I only had $10 in my jogging shorts and gave that to them, but they continued to threaten and humiliate me. The mugging caught me emotionally off guard, and I had flashbacks and anxiety afterward. Frankly, I became afraid of tough-looking kids. And there are a lot of tough-looking kids in New York City!

To overcome that fear, I decided to face it head-on by becoming a New York City public school teacher. My first assignment was at Boys and Girls High in Bedford Stuyvesant, which was full of tough-looking kids. Within the first day, though, I wasn’t afraid anymore. They were just kids!

The mugging also got me interested in the huge risk my muggers were taking by assaulting people for small amounts of money. Had they been able to sell me something or ask me to invest in a business deal, they could have gotten a lot more money, and it would have been a win/win situation for everyone.

I began sneaking business lessons into my classes, and my students were riveted by them. They were eager to understand how business works, and that in turn motivated them to learn math, reading and writing. In 1987, I founded the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship to bring entrepreneurship education to low-income youth around the world. To date there are more than 600,000 graduates of NFTE programs from Chicago to China.

“Entrepreneurship education really could change the world.” -Steve Mariotti

 

Anyone Can Learn Business

101 Customer Service Quotes To Better Your Business

Very classy way to display the high standarts of your services the customer can expect of Yours.

Customer First

Every business wants to develop a stellar reputation. Over time, that positive sentiment not only earns repeat business, but also eventually earns trust. Customer service is vitally important to establish and grow that trust. Every interaction with you or your brand offers the incredible opportunity to build a relationship and fortify your position.

In the social media age, your business reputation can catapult you to a beloved partner or sink you to nothing in almost no time flat.

Here are a collection of customer service quotes all designed to remind us of the importance of the customer.

 

“Make the customer’s problem your problem.” –Shep Hyken

 

“If you want customers to know they matter to you, show it by being interested in what matters to them.” –Scott McKain

 

“There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.” –Zig Ziglar

 

“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” –Henry Ford

 

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” –Walt Disney

 

“To understand the man, you must first walk a mile in his moccasins.” –North American Indian Proverb

 

“The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers.” –Shiu Singh

 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” –Charles Darwin

 

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” –Jeff Bezos

 

“There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” –Sam Walton

 

“The way to a customer’s heart is much more than a loyalty program. Making customer evangelists is about creating experiences worth talking about.” –Valeria Maltoni

 

“There is a spiritual aspect to our lives—when we give we receive—when a business does something good for somebody, that somebody feels good about them!” –Ben Cohen

 

“A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.” –Shep Hyken

 

“Unless you have 100% customer satisfaction, you must improve.” –Horst Schulz

 

“Complaints often contain the seeds for growth.” –Skip Prichard

 

“Choose to deliver amazing service to your customers. You’ll stand out because they don’t get it anywhere else.” –Kevin Stirtz

 

“People expect good service but few are willing to give it.” –Robert Gately


“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” –Warren Buffett

 

“Good customer service costs less than bad customer service.” –Sally Gronow

 

“Here is a powerful yet simple rule. Always give people more than they expect to get.” –Nelson Boswell

 

“Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.” –Ross Perot

 

“Always do more than is required of you.” –George Patton

 

“Customers will want to talk to you if they believe you can solve their problems.” –Jeffery Gitomer

 

“The result of a business is a satisfied customer.” –Peter Drucker

 

“The most successful organizations are the ones that make it easier to do business with them.” –Scott McKain

 

“Customer service represents the heart of a brand in the hearts of its customers.” –Kate Nasser

 

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” –Zig Ziglar

 

“Inconsistent customer service is worse than bad customer service.” –Martin Baird

 

“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.” –J.C. Penney

 

“When the customer comes first, the customer will last.” –Robert Half

Xbox Revisited: Develop Your Successful Game Plan

Microsoft XBOX Game

Develop Your Successful Game Plan

Robbie Bach’s book, Xbox Revisited: A Game Plan for Corporate and Civic Renewal, uniquely shares the stories behind the creation of the Xbox, the business strategy blueprints for others to follow, and Robbie’s personal philosophy of civic renewal.

For twenty-two years, Robbie Bach worked at Microsoft in various marketing, management and leadership roles. As Chief Xbox Officer, Robbie led the launch of Xbox. He retired from Microsoft in 2010 and now serves on charitable boards while writing articles on various civic issues.

I recently asked Robbie to reflect back on his many years at Microsoft. What he learned provides lessons for us all.

 

“Without principles, a team has no central rudder to keep it on course.” -Robbie Bach

 

Hitting Rock Bottom

Robbie, the book is a wonderful read as both the inside story of the Xbox creation and then also about your personal goals in what you call your Act 2. As I reflect back on the entire book, though, one email you included in it sticks with me. It was your “rock bottom” email when you tried to resign from Xbox. Tell us more about that.

The period leading up to the Xbox launch was very challenging on many fronts. I certainly was struggling to provide the right type of leadership; the team was like the United Nations with many differing points of view on important topics, and the mountain in front of us was a difficult climb under any circumstances. Ultimately, however, none of that led to me submitting my resignation. The real issue was the impact work was having on my personal life and my inability to manage that situation. It was just another instance of me being unprepared for the challenges presented by the Xbox project, but this one was very personal and cut to the core of my beliefs. I’m a “family first” guy, and when I realized I wasn’t living up to that, I knew something needed to change.

 

The Importance of Accountability and Transparency

What strikes me about this email was this: no excuses, no blaming, just pure personal accountability. You outline what you think is needed and then what you don’t feel you can do. Would other executives be served by being this transparent or did it work uniquely within the Microsoft culture?

E3 XBox Press Briefing Robbie Bach 17 MS_05_2004I am a believer in transparency – it is very difficult to solve problems when you obfuscate the situation with a fog filled with excuses. So I think this is an important skill for all leaders – in business, non-profits, or government. With that said, how you approach transparency and full disclosure absolutely will (and should) vary depending on the situation, the organizational culture, and the personalities involved. I clearly trusted my boss, Rick Belluzzo, to manage this situation appropriately, and he was remarkably helpful during a difficult time. In other circumstances, I might have used a different approach to declare the issues, and I might have pursued the discussion through other channels. Bottom line: being honest with yourself and open to your manager and your team is an important skill to master. Done well, it can fundamentally change the dynamics and attitude of a team in a very positive way.

 

“If you don’t define your purpose, you don’t know what you’re doing or why.” -Robbie Bach

 

Developing a Strategic Framework