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How to Win – Focus and Speed

Focus your resources and create panic  

Focus your resources and create panic

When you are in the thick of your business, especially if it is a small business, finding time to step back and take stock of where your business is going is very difficult. You are working in the business, packing boxes or trying to find new customers, or doing the books in the evening that by the time you get time to look to the future and evaluate your strategy, it is midnight and you are shattered. Even the large businesses I have worked in, that had more resources at hand to help them build their sales and profits than I care think about, had trouble taking the time to understand what was going to make them successful in the future. 

In one large business I was in, I recall an internal meeting where a new Sales Director had been appointed to lead our sales strategy for the division. In one open meeting with the sales and marketing teams, he was asking for our feedback about how to grow the business. That was good, but it soon became obvious that the new sales director had no idea about his sales strategy. Phrases he made like “I can see we need broad focus to be successful” filled me with a sense of foreboding that this guy was not going to last long in his position. Surely, ‘broad focus’ means no focus or ‘wide angle’ at the very best. ‘Broad focus’ conjures up images of trench warfare, stalemate and no forwardprogress. 

The word ‘strategy’ sounds so grand that it does not seem appropriate to a small business. In a large business, people often make strategy a far more complicated activity than it needs to be, or they think strategy is just for Generals. Simply put, strategy is how you are going to meet your objectives. Tactics are about what you are going to do to make the strategy or strategies work. 

But everyone needs to be clear about their objectives, their strategy and the subsequent tactics to help them win and few know where to start in my experience. A very good place to start in learning from the past. For instance, a great wartime leader was Erwin Rommel. His brilliance enabled his smaller force to drive the ‘British Expeditionary Force’ out of France at Dunkirk which he did by being very clear about his strategy.  Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar used a very similar strategy to Rommel decades earlier at the Battle of Trafalgar. 

Both of these leaders overcame their larger enemies by focusing their resources in a small number of locations and driving hard and fast through those critical points. Rommel surged through the Ardennes with fast, mobile forces, encircling the British. Nelson split his fleet into two and charged through the French and Spanish fleets at two points, and both of them created panic and chaos within their opposition. 

So, their strategies were clear. Speed, mobility and concentration of resources into a small number of highly critical locations. No broad focus. Always narrow focus with as many resources as you can spare behind them. This is the same in business.  A small business does not have the resources to ‘create awareness’ in a potential market. A large business equally needs to make sure it specialises in what it does best and uses it resources wisely to support its strategies. 

But strategy is all very well without having a thoroughly good knowledge about your market, otherwise known as ‘intelligence.’ Although we live in a more competitive world than our ancestors in business, we have far better intelligence available to us to understand our markets than they ever did. It never ceases to amaze me just how much you can find out about your competitors, customers and prospects to help you plan your strategy. 

But the point is that the key to winning is focus. Focus your strategy on a small number of key areas and ensure you dominate them before looking to win in other areas. If you try to do a bit of everything in your market, then you will be easily beaten. And if you still don’t feel confident about developing your strategy, then read sometime wartime biographies and learn from the masters.