Author: Shari Burk

Shari Burk

About Shari Burk

As the owner and founder of Vision Platform, Shari Burk is captivated by the power of aligning purpose and action, which has fueled her career as an accomplished inventor, entrepreneur, author, and public speaker with extensive experience developing, facilitating, and delivering business strategy for maximum results. Shari is an expert in combining the core elements of a business plan, a strategic vision, and implementation plan. She is an inspiring, results-minded leader capable of developing clear criteria for company-wide decisions and action plans that fuel growth, optimize resources, retain the best talent, outmaneuver the competition, and enhance customer satisfaction.

Resist Business B.S.—How Can We Rebel (and Get Credit for Being Brilliant)?

In my previous article, we discussed how strategic intent answers Why?, how strategic objectives answer What?, and how tactics answer How?. The trouble comes when strategic objectives and executional tactics are developed without answering the Why question first. This is a classic mistake, but one that can be avoided.

How to Answer Why?

Create a set of decision criteria by defining the core elements that naturally drive your company forward. This is your Why. These are the guidelines that are often underdeveloped when evaluating a potential project or strategy.

Values

Your values should not change over time if they are authentic to the company. Otherwise stated, if you are not lying to yourself when you define your values, they will ring true as long as your company exists.

Your company values should represent the executive team you have assembled to date. These values are a natural part of your company’s DNA. This means that your leadership team will act accordingly even if they won’t be rewarded for their behavior or when no one will see their actions. When your values are reflected in all your future projects and new hires, the values of the company will hold true over time. This type of consistency will result in a powerful company filled with people who are motivated.

Target Audience

Identify who the decision makers and decision influencers are in your target audience. Once you understand who they are, figure out what they need, if their needs are being met by the competition, and if you are honestly capable of meeting their needs.

Over time, you will continue to refine these segments of your target audience and identify the most profitable segments to pursue. As you gain insight with experience, even the way your target segments are grouped will also likely evolve beyond basic decision-making titles and into a more psycho­logical delineation. This will help you effectively target the most profitable groups and choose projects that will serve them. Without this definition, how can anyone hope to make the right decision about a project?

Big Goal

If everyone is on the same page, you still need to get them all moving forward. Creating a goal that is difficult to reach is an effective tool to motivate your staff to attain new levels of achievement.

The big goal should motivate a plan for developing all the short-term and long-term projects needed to ensure you reach it. It should also be used as a guideline to evaluate every aspect of your organization.

Collective Purpose

This one is a powerful motivator as well. By uncovering your organization’s purpose, you’ll energize all those who share it. You can think of it as the reason you all show up for work every day. It’s much more motivating for the entire staff to operate from a meaningful purpose rather than perform solely for cash. Multiple studies demonstrate that a paycheck alone will rarely carry you through the rough spots a company will face in the long term.

Defining your organization’s core purpose clearly is an effective tool in motivating your staff to reach for new levels. It should also serve as a guide for evaluating all decisions and new innovations and projects for every area within your company.

I facilitated this exercise for a virtual company at one point. They were relatively successful already but wanted to reach new heights. Once we nailed their core purpose, the executive staff couldn’t sit still. Within minutes, all of them were standing up and walking around the room; excited conversations were breaking out all over. A camaraderie they never anticipated was formed immediately, and the physical distance between them in real life became much smaller in their minds. They understood they actually had a sort of brotherhood that was forged around a common driver. Needless to say, morale, productivity, and profit increased.

Unique Differentiator (Position in the Market)

Positioning your company in the market is one of the most crucial guidelines for the success of your business. It’s worth spending some time on.

The positioning statement builds the bridge between the needs of your buyer and who you are as an organization. It positions you in your market so that you are entirely different from your competition and remain deeply meaningful to your audience.

It ensures that choosing your company is an easy decision for your potential customers.

Positioning is crucial because it identifies the place in the market where you can dominate. It should guide all aspects of your company so that everyone remains focused on maintaining the position you can own.

Once you are confident in your positioning, the next step is to evaluate every project you may consider.

If your audience/buyer changes (or their needs change), if your competition changes their positioning, or if issues and trends change in your industry, you’ll need to revisit this statement. It should be crafted to last a long period of time; however, this is a fast-paced world, and change is rapid. Revisit this annually.

Decision-making often has under-utilized aspects. I hope this list will help you defy the all-too-common lack of success in projects. Please contact me for more information. At Vision Platform, we believe work shouldn’t be a considered a four-letter word and we’re hoping to change that.

Ensure your company develops these elements and shares them companywide. This is a brilliant resistance. Let’s start the business revolution.

Want to learn more from Shari? Check out the recording of her recent webinar below to hear more about a rebellious approach to strategic planning!

 

Resist Business B.S.—Why Wouldn’t We Rebel When Strategies Fail?

According to executives, nearly half of all strategic initiatives fail.

Various studies conducted since 1995 consistently show executives will admit their strategic objectives have failed on some level almost half the time. I am not surprised by the failure rate, but I am thrilled by the honesty. When we can admit a problem, we can begin looking for a solution.

Strategy fails for two reasons: either the strategic plan is flawed or the strategy is a mess. The root cause of both failures is confusion around about what strategy is and what it is not.

Conceptually, strategic intent answers the question Why?, strategic objectives answers What?, and tactics answers How?.

The trouble comes when strategic objectives and executional tactics are also considered strategy.

We’ve all seen a set of tactics presented as a strategy. This is a classic mistake, but one that can be avoided when these concepts are understood as separate but connected elements in an overall business framework.

Most business leaders are very comfortable with the idea of creating a plan for executing strategic objectives. They know how to break a broad objective into smaller objectives, and then assign the necessary tasks and deadlines to individuals to accomplish those goals. This sounds like a straightforward process and is impressive when the plan is presented in a whiz-bang slide deck. Yet those same business leaders are surprised when the execution of that plan doesn’t quite proceed as they’d intended, or at least about half of them are.

Unfortunately, without answering the Why question first, there are no criteria for evaluating those objectives or how they will be executed. The leader can either do nothing because they cannot make a clear-minded decision on their own, or they’ll do what most leaders do: make the best guess and hope it doesn’t fail. Suddenly, it becomes apparent where the high failure rate of strategic initiatives comes from.

After years of observing weaknesses in traditional strategic approaches, I’ve developed a better method, a proven method, that will clear up the confusion and optimize a company’s business resources. I’ve attempted to share the thought processes behind that method in my book, Candor (request a free copy on my website). I will offer here one of the most glaring examples of where companies have run amok in separating the why from the what and how of branding.

How Our Why Was Lost to Brand B.S.

It’s generally understood that brand, as the term is now used, began in the twentieth century. Linguistically it has a long history, but as it applies to the stakeholder’s image of a business, it has a fairly short one. All its diverse origins and evolutions could be investigated, but it’s not necessary to go that deep into history to gain an effective understanding. Simple definitions are the most useful.

The short story about “brand” goes like this: As the mass-produced products from the industrial revolution came to market, it created an identity problem in the local store. The following question arose: How does one differentiate a new, modern product (like a healing salve, for instance) from the local product everyone has trusted for years? The problem of communicating the unique value of any given product was born. Eventually, this created an entirely new industry category that became part art and part soft science, which is now referred to as branding.

Brand equity, brand personality, brand valuation, brand experience, etc., are all useful terms, and they help us discuss many crucial aspects of the sophisticated marketing approaches we have developed over more than a century. Brand has a strong upside that fueled economic engines around the globe for years.

Brand also has a downside. As the idea of brand evolved, it grew in strength as a separate entity from the business itself. This caused a dual vision for those who were in charge and misperceptions grew. The ideas of business and brand became more and more disconnected. Separate departments formed with separate directors. Silos began to emerge within the corporate culture with conflicting agendas and goals. Branding’s power grew to a point where the old ways of running a unified business were left in the dust.

Unfortunately, branding lost its head and became ego driven. It seemed to be able to generate its own power with little accountability to the rest of the company. The old way of doing business appeared to be dead.

A perfect example of this would be Coca-Cola (Coke). In blind taste tests there is no obvious favoritism, according to results published in the October 14, 2004, issue of the journal Neuron, but in taste tests where the brand is visible, Coke is preferred by 75 percent. Coke is a powerful icon worldwide.

Making a needed product that performed well and satisfied its user was no longer the priority. In fact, belief in the strength of branding made us consider whether a quality product was even necessary. Even those of us who made a living by marketing and branding started to drink our own Kool-Aid.

We no longer felt the need to actually tell the truth about the products or offerings, because the brand was the thing that people would buy. We no longer needed to obsess over the product; that was the old way of doing things. Now, all we had to do was tell the potential buyer what to think through great branding. With enough really smart creativity, we would motivate the purchase.

The hard thing for me to admit is that it actually worked for a period of time. Most of the buyers jumped on the branding bandwagon and were genuinely influenced by the grand illusions presented by marketers.

If You Want to Rebel, You’ll Need to Know Your Why

Knowing your authentic Why has a clear benefit. If you can write down the reason why your company makes the world a better place, share it companywide. Use it to make all your business decisions. You will be more trusted than your competitors, and you won’t have to settle for traditional methods that produce traditional results.

Want to learn more from Shari? Check out the recording of her recent webinar below to hear more about a rebellious approach to strategic planning!