If you're like the average consultancy partner, you probably look at strategy in a respectful yet skeptical way. You know it can make or break a business. But most "strategy" work is never put into practice at the end, which leads you to think execution is the real underrated work one should focus on.
I expect to discuss some of it in the upcoming blog posts. But we can't really proceed until we talk about the elephant in the room: What the hell is strategy, anyway?
I wrote this post about it a year and a half ago, which provides a good starting point. In it, I defined strategy as a plan of action to achieve a set of goals. The thing that guides you.
You can create a strategy for pretty much anything. Losing weight. Learning to play chess. Writing a book. And, of course, growing a consulting business.
Although this definition is simple and clear, it is not so helpful for our exploration here. It loses utility when we start thinking about putting it into practice: There are many different kinds of strategies a business might pursue to grow.
As Alex Smith from Basic Arts puts it,
Some brands, for example, manage to grow simply through massive spend. If Unilever launch a new mayonnaise, for example, they can effectively force it into the market thanks to their scale. That’s a strategy. Others might grow via lobbying, or exploiting regulations. Tony Soprano grows his waste management firm by whacking his competitors. All of these things are “legitimate” strategies.
Still, legitimate or not, it’s unlikely you have the resources of Unilever, or the flexible morals of Tony Soprano - so exploring such options is a bit of a waste of time.
That's why he recommends narrowing the definition to a particular type of strategy that every business can pursue: Bringing new value to the market.
Yes, you can succeed to grow your consultancy through overspending, copying competitors, or engaging in unethical activities. But bringing new, unique value to your market is by far the most reliable and sustainable strategy for a firm to adopt.
Every time you discuss strategy, keep this definition in mind.