Dictionary.com defines strategy as “a plan, method or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.” Wikipedia defines it as “a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.” Each business person has a slightly different definition of what strategy means to them, but almost no one will dispute that having one is critical to running a successful business.
Companies are not successful by chance. They are successful because they have a solid strategy in place and consistently execute, measure and refine their plans for the future. There are a few common, overarching themes among the most successful:
- Delivering quality. Successful companies are known for delivering exceptional quality and delivering it on time. For many, these two selling points are the top defense against foreign competition aiming to compete on price.
- Knowing the customer. Successful companies think about how to make things easier and more attractive for those buying their goods and services, such having a large number of product lines available to create the “one-stop shop.” In addition to a deep understanding of their customers, successful companies also have a deep understanding of their customers’ customers. Companies that consider what the end-user, the consumer, wants now and in the future find themselves ahead of the curve. They anticipate trends in the marketplace so they are positioned to be leaders, not followers.
- Innovating with technology. Those looking to gain a competitive advantage have more than a basic grasp on technology; they make the most of it by using technology to drive profitability. For some companies, that means investing in production processes to make their operations leaner and more efficient, which can translate to a pricing advantage that helps win customers and increase profit margins. For others, technology is used to streamline back-office, administrative functions that may increase the bottom line. For others still, technology is used to come up with a product or service that doesn’t exist in the marketplace, or to improve or add-onto something already out there. Regardless of the application, the strategic use of technology plays a key role in success.
- Outsourcing selectively. Lastly, while many companies still maintain their headquarters in the Unites States, they also make selective, strategic use of outsourcing from other countries. For example, some companies go outside the U.S. to purchase low-tech, low complexity parts and components to help control the portion of their costs most susceptible to foreign competition. This allows their workforce to concentrate on adding value in areas such as product design, engineering, installation of critical components and logistics.
The moral of the story? Don’t leave your success to chance. Plan ahead and have a strategy in place that takes into consideration some of these time-tested attributes that will help propel your company ahead of the competition.
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