Scale-up SNAFU—The Idea of the Month Approach

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On January 17, 2020

We often associate scaling up of a business with increased efficiency and the ability to do things faster. After all, the pace of business has certainly increased over the past few years. But as I recently wrote, too much speed can actually kill your ability to scale up. That’s particularly true in the areas of vision and strategy. Unfortunately, for some scaling companies, the emphasis on being flexible and adaptable has led them into what you could call “the idea of the month” approach. They are constantly shifting in order to adapt to the needs and demands of the market.

Flexibility Isn’t Aimlessness

There is a lot of talk about businesses needing to be nimble today. I think that’s spot on. But there is a difference between being nimble and being without focus. Flexibility isn’t aimlessness. It’s still important to have a clear vision and a strategy that enables you to accomplish that vision.

Find Your Focus

It’s good to keep an eye on what’s happening in the market. It’s also important to look at broader trends—rather than concentrating exclusively on your own industry. The problem I see as a business coach is that some businesses are so focused on what’s changing, that they miss the things that haven’t changed. Smart businesses see what needs and desires haven’t changed—and then come up with radically new ways to meet those needs. These businesses have found their focus. Here are a few examples.

Company                    Unchanging Need                               New Way to Respond

Amazon                       People want/need to shop                 Convenience/selection/speed

Zappos                        People still need shoes                       Convenience/selection/free returns

Southwest Airlines      People still need to travel                   Low rates/No frills/Friendly service

Microsoft                    Need for updated software                Software as a Service/Auto Updates

Netflix                         Watching movies at home                  Streaming service

This is just a handful of companies that are innovative and adaptive to the changing needs of the market. What’s interesting is that while these companies are nimble and flexible, they are not all over the map. They don’t keep changing their vision or focus. They may adapt their strategies, but they don’t go off in a new direction every month. For instance: Netflix has been delivering streaming services for quite a while. Then they expanded their services by creating their own content. Their vision didn’t necessarily change, but their strategy for getting content did (instead of buying content exclusively from others they began creating their own).

Canceling Your Subscription to the Idea-of-the-Month Club

So how do you “cancel your subscription” to the Idea-of-the-month club? A big part of making sure that you don’t go off in a bunch of different directions is to make sure you are disciplined in setting—and reviewing your vision and your strategy. Don’t rush the process. Your goal isn’t just to capture a vision or a strategy. It should be to develop the right vision and the right strategy. Then, make sure you pay attention to the rhythm of your meetings. Evaluate your strategy and execution regularly. Make sure they still align with your vision. Keep your eyes and ears open for changes in the marketplace—but don’t chase every new idea that comes along.

How can you tell if your strategy is right? Click on the button below for a quick (2-minute) assessment of your strategy. It will help you see where you’re on track—and where you may have some work to do.