June 21, 2012
I was having coffee one day last week with a friend who has spent most of his career on the small start-up side of the life sciences industry. I, on the other hand, have spent many years within large global companies. The topic of our conversation that morning, however, occurs with similar frequency in both types of organizations: strategy is often put on the back burner as other seemingly more critical tasks take its place.
I know firsthand how frustrating that is within large organizations that should, by all accounts, have enough resources to “get it all done.” I could completely empathize with the difficulty he was having with one of his largest clients. I challenged him, however, on one point: setting a sound strategy before acting is even more important for small organizations, which frequently put strategy on the back burner because they just don’t have enough resources to get it all done. I say this because I have always been a believer in the premise that strategy is more about what you’re not going to do than what you are. If you utilize your strategy correctly, it will allow you to prioritize activities and say “absolutely not” to the ones that on the surface seem cool and fun but have nothing to do with your strategy. The more disciplined you are at ensuring all tasks and activities support your strategy, the more efficiently you will achieve your goals.
Because resources (human and financial) are much more limited within small companies, it is even more important that you are clear with yourself, your employees and your vendor partners about what you will and will not do. Developing a strategy that you share with all of your key stakeholders upfront is the absolutely best way to accomplish this. The exercise of strategy development also aids you in making in some cases tough decisions about how you will best meet your customers’ needs. It is an exercise in prioritization and trade-off. And an exercise that I contend must be completed before you begin investing human and financial resources in tasks and activities — if you want to maximize the long-term success of your business.