About 15 years ago, someone told me, “A strategy isn’t just what you decide to do, it’s what you decide not to do.” And a couple of years ago, serial entrepreneur Steve Messer added something to the effect of, “As an entrepreneur, you need to balance unlimited opportunity with finite resources.” (To read about Messer, click here.)
I don’t know about you, but the entrepreneur in me really wants to do 100 things at one time (surprising once you find out I started my career as a CPA). But I know that this is a recipe for disaster and a sure-fire way to piss off your team. Of course, the challenge is picking those opportunities that are “right” for you and your company.
I recently came across a great article from CFO Magazine on this very topic, “How Not to Grow.” Here were my top three takeaways and ideas from the piece:
1. The article cited Steve Jobs’ statement that if Apple had pursued the idea of a tablet (as a follow up to the Newton) too early, the company would not have had the resources to build the iPod. So, even Apple has to worry about resources? I guess I’m not alone. This quote also reaffirms that timing is everything. Ten years ago, the world was ready for the iPod, not the iPad.
2. Coinstar has had success with its DVD rental company Redbox, but they are already planning for the day when Redbox growth slows due to movies being even more widely available at home. This told me that you have to consistently evaluate how the prospects of your products and services will change down the road and adjust your strategy accordingly.
3. The average success rate of a new product or service is under 50 percent. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. At NY Report, we are currently working on a new product launch. On the one hand, we are doing what we can to ensure that the product is on the right side of the 50 percent marker by conducting focus groups and surveys. On the other hand, we are being cautious by keeping a tight lid on expense related to this new product.
While we spend much of our day dealing with clients, colleagues, and putting out fires, it is important to remember that long-term planning and strategic issues are the keys to sustainable success in our businesses (and ultimately, our lives). Figuring out where to—and where not to—grow takes a lot of time and deliberation. Make time.
Hope this helps.
Robert Levin is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of The New York Enterprise Report. Levin has extensive experience with midsize and small businesses, having previously held CEO, CFO, and COO positions with companies in several industries. He is also a contributor for The Huffington Post. Levin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (212) 307-6760.