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Guest Blog - If your company is struggling, your strategic plan is not working for you
September 29, 2016

So, you sat down, played out a workshop, built a strategic plan for your company, put the plan in a binder and put it on the shelf.  Great!  How’s that working for you?

I encounter so many organizational leaders who state they have a strategic plan, usually adding the words “sort of” to their statement.  “We sort of have a plan” they tell me.  “We sort of sat down and kind of worked out a strategy for our company”.  Ok, so let’s ask one question, are you experiencing any challenges in your organization’s profitability or forward momentum?  Yes?  But didn’t you “plan” how to avoid this?

There is one key and most-pivotal component that most organizations do not accurately define in their strategic plans and this is their “competitive advantage”.  I’m not talking the generalization of your products or services but why your company offers something that can not be easily replicated.

For example, answer a few quick questions.

Do you do what you do better than anyone else?

Is there no one else in your region that also does basically the same thing?

Is what you do or make something unique and difficult for others to replicate?  Are you sure that if someone else in your region wanted to make the same thing or better, they couldn’t just copy your product?

Do you know the difference between an opportunity for your company and a distraction?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you haven’t truly defined your competitive advantage.  Maybe you don’t have one.

Commonly, companies that try to define their competitive advantage default to things that don’t actually create an advantage as they can be easily stolen away, replaced or diminished.  For instance:

  • Strong reputation” – Sorry, you can lose it in half the time it took you to earn it.
  • Experienced and engaged staff” – Ya, and none of them have ever left your organization, right?
  • Well-respected senior leaders and strong teams” – And those don’t exist in any other organization?
  • Loyal clients” – Let’s face it, this is business.  If you no longer add value or are not the most economical choice, they’re gone.
  • Flexible adaptive processes” – Really, this means loose processes that are not robust or well-defined.

What should a competitive advantage be?  Let’s look at some examples.

  • Products created using state-of-art equipment that would entail a significant investment for someone else to get in to.
  • Your designs leave companies having no clue how you made that or what special piece of equipment creates the special features.
  • You have a supplier with which you have a strategic alliance and they are the only company in the region that is capable of making what you need.
  • You are a “brand name” that consumers have associated with a specific product or offering (such as iPhone; There are multiple manufacturers of smartphones but only one manufacturer of iPhones.  You can easily switch from LG to Samsung to Nexus but once you’re an Apple user, it’s hard to switch)

Once you have stepped through the efforts of defining your competitive advantage, with the help of a guide, you are in a solid position to ensure your plans capitalize on that advantage and drive your company forward.

Next step, your mission statement...

Russ Webb is the Managing Director of Tridentium Enterprise Inc, a Strategic Planning and Business Development firm located in the Leduc-Nisku region.  Tridentium helps facilitate and guide strategic alliances, innovation, employee engagement and solid strategic plans to weather the turbulence of the economy.  Check us out at www.tridentium.ca