Could your strategy be not to double your business / kill the opposition / become the biggest / ….. ?
I was given an interesting dilemma by a CEO who I once worked with. He’d done the work with his leadership team to bring control to their operations – the first layer of our Build on Purpose model.
In fact, he gave me what felt like a really innocuous bit of feedback. “I feel like I’ve got a lot more control.”
Sure, there were still occasional surprises and emergencies – life will always give you that. But they tended to happen less frequently.
Innocuous feedback. But I loved it. It’s hard to rise to building, to strategising, to creating when the CEO and leadership team are regularly needing to firefight, or when there’s an operational or sales dependency on them.
That’s why we focus on bringing control there at the outset. And have him feed back that the work we’d done brought him control was genuinely heartwarming.
And also the start of my challenge…
Once there was sufficient control in the business, I started to probe and question what their next growth or innovation work should look like. When you have operational control, you’re in the perfect place to start to execute strategy.
New customer segment? New offering? M&A?
Nothing stuck. And nothing was provoked. The line I kept hearing (paraphrased) was “My team and I have good balance. The company is running well. There’s not a huge amount of stress. We get home on time. It’s a good business.”
It felt like I was trying to push a company where the CEO and team were in balance to follow the growth / disruption / “more” norm.
Like I was trying to force ambition over quality of life.
And that wasn’t a good feeling.
Sometimes, there is ambition. And that’s a good thing. Sometimes there’s disruption. And sometimes, that can also be a really good thing. Sometimes there’s growth. And that can often also be good.
But don’t simply assume you have to do these. Do them for a reason. Do them when you need to (which may also sometimes mean sooner than you think you need to).
Businesses do have to evolve. There are often things that need fixing or innovating, and they can’t be ignored. The environment they’re in, and the competitors they have, ensure that this is the case. If you go for too long without making strategic moves, you’re unlikely to survive.
So I know my client will pursue new strategies. I suspect it will relate to new segments, new offerings and further environmental alignment. I have no doubt of it.
But now is not the time. They will do it intentionally when the time is right.
In the meanwhile, running a business that doesn’t take over the lives of everyone who works in it is actually a beautiful thing. I have enormous respect for the CEO who had the self-control to say “let’s just be good at what we do for a while, and enjoy real balance”.
More CEOs should evaluate whether at any point in time, that should be what they and their business do …
How's 2023 started for you? Is strategy consistently being executed? Are you not having to firefight or get involved in more deals than you should? We're looking for a group of 5 CEOs (10 to 100 employees) to join us on this workshop to talk through how to make your strategy, purpose and values happen. Join us.