The concept of business strategy is powerful. People like to use it to impress others with the phrase, and audiences listen up when it’s mentioned. But it’s also overused and — in some cases — a misused phrase.
Business leaders and thought leaders talk about emerging trends in business strategy with each passing year. But must these strategies change over time?
It’s been said that 20 percent of businesses in every industry take in 80 percent of the earnings. This is because they have a time-tested business strategy; one that encompasses basic principles. These principles are based on the ideas of renowned Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz (and incorporated in the U.S. Army Field Manual of Military Operations).
Clausewitz believed that war and business shared a good deal of similarities and both involve a clash of interests. His insights not only influence modern business, but also offer an opportunity for leaders who want to improve global business strategies.
The principle of objective
Every action must have a clearly defined and actionable goal. That’s the first principle of an effective strategy. Though it may sound obvious, I cannot stress the importance of being certain on what you set out to accomplish — and how you plan to achieve it.
Business owners who define clear objectives for their company and employees are usually the most profitable, and by a significant margin. These businesses carry out operations in the most efficient and effective manner because each employee knows exactly what their role is, what they are expected to deliver, and when.
The principle of offensive
Business, like war, is an intense fight for survival — and survival requires you to be on the offensive. As a technology entrepreneur, I constantly make adjustments to thrive in today’s economic climate.
Challenging your competitors and winning battles is the only way to move forward. Every market has challenges, and only by taking them head-on can you create your own space.
History shows you don’t win battles on the defensive. Rather, you need to identify the strengths and, and more importantly, the weaknesses of your competitors. Look for a chink in the armor that can be exploited. Instill a “relentless attack” mindset, and go on the offensive with new products, services and ways to reach your ideal prospect and communicate with them.
The principle of mass
The principle of mass says to: “Concentrate combat power at the decisive place and time.” In other words, it is about exerting power at the right place and time.
Applied to business, this means you should wait for the decisive moment before you seize the opportunity. And when that moment is upon you, only then should you concentrate all of your resources to achieve the desired outcome. This is often seen in practice by businesses that deal with seasonality, where major transactions are carried out over a small period of time requiring a massive allocation of resources.
The principle of maneuver
Remain flexible and have enough maneuverability to pursue innovative and creative ways to better serve customers. Despite all odds, and no matter what the competition does, look for simpler, cheaper and faster ways to serve customers, increase sales and achieve higher returns on investment.
The principle of maneuver requires you to use speed, surprise and economy of effort as key elements to defeat the competition. If you don’t move decisively, you stagnate. And when you stagnate, you risk going out of business. Maneuver is an act of initiative, resulting in long-term business gains and sustainable growth.
The principle of surprise
The most common and classic mistake a business owner can make is to be predictable. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to introduce a brand new product, but it can often be in the form of an improved and repositioned product that has been given a major overhaul.
In order to stay ahead of the competition, develop a competitive advantage with products, marketing strategies, services, processes, sales strategies and with the adoption of new technology.
The principle of security
Protect your valuable assets and resources. Competitors are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities, which they could exploit to gain an advantage.
Social, mobile, and cloud technologies have grown integral to the operations of most businesses, leading to higher levels of innovation. Security should no longer be a deterrent to this momentum; rather, it’s time for businesses to analyze and mitigate risks to acceptable levels and move forward.
The principle of simplicity
In the words of Karl von Clausewitz, “Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war.”
As a strategic leader, you need to make several decisions as you plan ahead. What’s important, however, is that these plans remain clear, succinct and easy to understand if they are to be executed without issue.
By taking these steps, you put yourself in the position to scale your company and maintain an advantage against changing markets and new competitors over time.
Sameer Bhatia is the CEO of ProProfs, a SAAS company that makes delightfully smart tools such as Knowledge Base, Quiz, Survey and more.