Drink Like a Lady with Kathie De-Chirico Stuart & Joya Dass.Kathie is a brand strategist. Joya is a recovering journalist. Each week, on the Drink Like a Lady Podcast, they share tactical advice to support women getting a seat at the bar ---and the boardroom.
Season 4, Episode 10: How Do You Know if You Are a Strategic Thinker?
In Season 4 of the Drink Like a Lady Podcast, we have focused on how to kickstart the process if you need to lay out strategy. We also shared how that strategy worked at Spanx and Amazon. In this final episode of Season 4, we offer up SIGNS that you are, in fact, a strategic thinker. And steps you can take to make your strategic thinking skills BETTER.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE A STRATEGIC THINKER?
Here are some signs that you're a strategic thinker:
Spending time in self-reflection: If you frequently find yourself reflecting on your work, completed tasks or experiences that you wish had gone differently, then you likely are a strategic thinker. One of the characteristics of strategic thinkers is reflecting on events and experiences and then using that knowledge to impact your future performance.
Asking a lot of questions: Strategic thinkers try to understand context and avoid problems that could arise ensuring everyone involved understands what they need to do and why. Strategic thinkers ask questions about why an issue is important, what key factors led to a decision, what outcome is most desirable and who it will impact.
Compartmentalizing distractions: If you are a strategic thinker, you likely are effective at compartmentalizing your responsibilities and minimizing distractions to focus on whatever priority is most relevant and highest.
Setting regular goals: Strategic thinkers often set performance goals for themselves in order to continue progressing professionally.
Demonstrating decisiveness: Strategic thinkers understand the importance of being decisive in their decision-making. They efficiently gather information and then make a decision based on that information. They recognize that reaching decisions and being decisive takes both knowledge and confidence.
Welcoming to feedback: Another sign that you're a strategic thinker is that you are collaborative with others and open to feedback in order to improve your abilities.
Enjoying helping others: Strategic thinkers often enjoy helping others to perform at their best and achieve their fullest potential. They recognize that it's important to help everyone overcome challenges in order to reach company-wide goals.
Planning long-term career goals: If you are someone who regularly imagines where you will be professionally in one or even five years and begin taking the steps to get to where you need to be, then you likely are a strategic thinker.Here are the steps you need to take to further develop your strategic thinking skills:
1. Pause and reflect
The first step you need to take to improve your strategic thinking skills is to commit to slowing down and spending time reflecting on a situation. To ensure you do this regularly, you may want to schedule time each day or week to actively spend time just thinking.
2. Gain experiences and ideas
Try to gain new experiences whenever possible. Visit new places and meet and have conversations with new people. You could even just take a different route home after work or visit a new part to stimulate your mind.
3 Discuss ideas with people who think differently than you
If you need to resolve a problem, bringing together people who are extremely different, such as creative people and technical people or introverts and extraverts, can be extremely useful for generating new ideas.
4. Make decisions about what to do next
Part of being a strategic thinker is executing on what you learn. After you spend time thinking and generating ideas, you need to execute your strategy. Identify the resources that you need to execute your idea and then take action.
Season 4, Episode 9: How to Become a Strategic Thinker and the Spanx Story
In this episode, we share two lines of questioning you can use to become a more strategic thinker. We use Spanx as the case study to illustrate both schools of thought.
Look for solutions, not problems.
When she wanted to find manufacturers to make her prototype of her shape wear, all she could find was men making hosiery.
She, her mother, and her friends personally testing the garments. This was innovative at the time, as the industry did not test products with people. Blakely's research revealed that the industry had previously been using the same size waistband for all hosiery products to cut costs, and a rubber cord was inserted into the waistband. For her product development, Blakely created different waistbands to suit different-sized consumers
She wasn’t going to go door to door like she did selling fax machines. She knew she needed to get into department stores.Blakely had a meeting with Neiman Marcus Group, at which she changed into the product in the ladies restroom in the presence of the buyer to prove the benefits of her innovation. Blakely's product was sold in seven Neiman Marcus stores as a result of the meeting;Spending time in the stores where your product lives will not only let you pull sneaky marketing maneuvers, but it will also let you learn directly from customers about what’s missing in your market.
Do some research and find out what podcasts, television shows, publications, social media platforms, and events your target demographic is into.
Sara’s top media priority was Oprah, so she sent the TV mogul a gift basket of Spanx to get her attention. Don’t be shy about sending samples of your product to your favorite podcasters, Instagram celebs, or journalists in the hopes that they want to review it.
In 2017, Sara invited her friends to take pictures of themselves skiing in Spanx. In your notebook, label a page “(Kinda) Crazy Marketing Tactics.” Come up with at least 10 out-of-the-box marketing ideas
Be Willing to Take Risks.
Sara decided to patent Spanx early.
Use Packaging to Stand out
Spanx’s packaging shone in bright red—and the color alone subsequently became a form of advertising.
For inspiration, go on a recon mission to the types of stores that might carry your product. Take a good long look around. What packaging trends do you see? More importantly, what do you not see at all? Write your observations down and look for a packaging niche you can fil
Listen to and Recruit Others' Perspective.
She met Laurie Ann Goldman at the Saks Fifth Avenue in Atlanta in 2001, while she was on maternity leave from her employer at the time, Coca-Cola. Goldman was specifically looking for a Spanx product, and the pair exchanged contact details—Goldman became the CEO of Spanx in 2002.
Goldman crafted a business model for the company based on lessons she learned during her 10-year stint at Coke: thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast. She advised her team at SPANX to focus on product quality over profit margins.
Free Yourself from Execution.
Just 2 weeks ago, founder Sara Blakely sold a majority stake in Spanx to Blackstone, valued at $1.2 Bilion
Question 1: Why should I care about this problem?
Market opportunity: The number of women was on the increase
Question 2: What does success look like?
Question 3: How might I solve this problem?
Question 4: How should I actually solve the problem?
Question 5: How can I take action?
Season 4, Episode 8: The Amazon Business Model (and the Strategy You Can Learn From It)
In EPISODE 8, we take a deep dive into Amazon’s business model. The company started out selling books. But that was a beta test for everything else it could sell online.
We look at the company's strategy to sell everything else and how it keeps customers in its ecosystem.
We leave you with questions you can ask yourself about your business. What can you do to become indispensable?
WHERE AMAZON STARTED
Jeff Bezos started Amazon with $245,000 from his parents, in his garage. It launched in 1995 as the world's largest bookstore. But books were simply a beta test for Amazon's sales infrastructure and business model. After conquering the book business, Amazon realized it could feed more than paperbacks into its incredibly efficient sales network. Bezos believed in always be evolving.1. Figure out what your customers crave.
Amazon's initial work with book sales helped it recognize that people cared quite a bit about getting goods as quickly as possible. This realization helped Amazon as it began to offer different products. It recognized that the delivery logistics involved were just as important as the quality of the goods it offered.
Figure out what truly matters to your customer base, and adjust your business model to address those needs.
2. Create Unexpected Value
Delight your own customer base by solving problems they never knew existed. Pinpoint a shortcoming that people generally accept as a cost of doing business -- slow delivery, a lack of options or a lackluster review system -- and explore potential ways to eliminate those stumbling blocks. Once Amazon solidified its logistics based on one product category, it began to implement its model to other verticals.
3. Satisfy every customer.
Lesson here is that if your company can meet a basic human need (and do it better than anyone else), you're in solid shape to carve out a substantial customer base.
4. Pivot into things you make
Until the Kindle was introduced in November 2007, Amazon sold stuff. It didn’t make anything. But Bezos knew that ebooks wouldn’t take off without a sweet device on which to read them and an online store to make purchasing them easy. First-mover status does not necessarily guarantee that a company will lock up an entire category, but it worked for Steve Jobs, and Bezos was confident it would work for Amazon. Today, Amazon maintains an estimated 60% of ebook sales
This pivot into hardware, while surprising at the time, also helped usher in Amazon’s whole cloud computing initiative, because like Apple, Bezos wants to lock in customers into his ecosystem. Purchase ebooks, music and now movies from Amazon, store them in Amazon’s cloud, play them on Amazon’s device and, with a nod to Microsoft’s Windows strategy, if you don’t want to buy a Kindle you can use Amazon’s Kindle app on your iPad.
More than merely wanting to sell as much stuff as they can to the most people, Amazon strives to become so ingrained in people’s lives that they can’t imagine living without it.
Season 4, Episode 7: DO YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR BUSINESS MODEL?
We take a look at companies with successful business models and companies who successfully pivoted their business models. We share questions you can ask yourself as a leader if you think you need to make a pivot too?
COMPANIES WITH SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS MODELS
When they were founded, they didn’t have rivals.
Apple: Valuation in Trillions is 2.2 Founded in 1975. Function and design can co exist.Amazon: Valuation in Trillions is 1.7 Founded in 1994. Reliable delivery of any item you want.Facebook: Valuation in Trillions is .9 Founded in 2004. Worldwide connectivity.WHAT DID THEY HAVE IN COMMON?
They had recurring revenue streams (subscriptions) or recurring trafficThey didn’t make a one time sale of a physical product. They build a long-term client relationship.They tailored solutions to create value for the customer and more profit for themselves.Kathie's STORY: While working at WSJ, and then consulting with multiple companies, we concentrated on LTV (Life Time Value) for our customers. Segmenting out those customers who would bring added value, allow for increased products and services, allowed companies to positively contribute to the bottom line and grow their businesses competitively.
NETFLIX SUCCESSFULLY PIVOTED ITS BUSINESS MODEL
Mailing DVD’s to pivoting to an online streaming service
What did it do for the customer?Made it more convenientEnabled impulse purchasesEnabled access to recent best sellersGave customers access to a large back catalogVOD serves customers better than brick and mortar stores. Why Streaming Video Beat Rival Models:
Monthly subscription fees = recurring revenueLower cost to operateCost to Customer (2007):§ Streaming: $0.25§ DVD by mail: $1.25§ Video Stores: $2.24QUESTIONS YOU CAN ASK YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS MODEL
Is what got you here, going to get you there?Are you agile?Does your team have the authority to experiment with new configurations?Are you investing in capabilities for the future?Don’t design a completely new competitive position. Can you support entrepreneurial activity in house?Rather than fix the current operation, can you undergo a one time change-management process to execute a different strategy.How do the elements impact each other? How are you testing the hypothesis, experimenting, learning, and taking action? The faster a firm cycles through the process, the more effective it will be in the marketplace.LOOK AT YOUR COMPETITION
Where are the hot trends?Where can you create value? Look at their business model.How attractive are you in the industry? How are you positioned?How are you realizing and implementing? What is the outcome?And then you “re-loop” the continuous improvement on the strategy.
QUESTION: CEOs of mature companies should ask themselves, “When did our annual strategy process last generate a truly breakthrough idea?” like ride-sharing or mobile banking or even “streaming as we discussed above”?
These higher-level strategic programs must be owned and championed by the CEO.TO RECAP: HOW CAN YOU ASSESS A PIVOT IN YOUR BUSINESS MODEL?
Have clear direction and allow time for experimentation/innovation in houseDedicate time to a change in strategyEar to the ground. What is working for the competition?Be willing to be agile.
Season 4, Episode 6: MEASURING TO SEE IF YOUR STRATEGY WORKS
Let's talk about benchmarks. Better known as KPI's. These are the 10 or so metrics that will be used to track progress. We also talk about how to talk strategy to team members so they can execute on the HOW.
STEP 1 THE LANGUAGE FOR SHARING STRATEGY WITH OPERATIONS
COMMUNICATE GOALS AND MEASURES to your team leaders and/or team membersTURN STRATEGY INTO TARGETS. You want to set the goals that convert the strategic objectives into specific performance targets.THINK BIG PICTURE IMPROVEMENTS. Strategies help the business improve the way it operates and set new goals, as opposed to goals that simply improve or fix what the company is already doing.WHAT IS AN EFFECTIVE GOAL. It states the what, when, how, and who. They are SPECIFICALLY measurable.SHORT TERM ACTION ITEMS. They should address what you need to do in the short term (1-2 years) to achieve your strategic objectives.WHAT IS A RESULTS STATEMENT? These are outcome statements expressing a result expected in the organization. They are issued annually. They are specific, measurable, attainable, responsible and time bound. STEP 2 SELECT THE RIGHT KPI’s
WHAT IS A KPI Metrics that track and measure an organization’s progress toward its strategic objectives. KPIs tell a story about how well a company is performing.INDUSTRY KPI As a Senior Executive at Macy’s, when working at the individual store level, each of the departments had their % increase in sales measured against the following: the store's performance. The region's performance. The corporate's performance. The Goal…always to outperform any of the above metrics.KPI= BETTER DECISIONS Leverage these metrics to pivot.KPI= ARE OBJECTIVES BEING MET? A KPI measures a company’s performance against its primary objectives. High-level KPIs focus on a company’s overall performance, while lower-level KPIs focus on departmental processes, products, and productivity.10 KPIS are sufficientKINDS OF KPIS. Revenue and net profit margin.Customers- satisfaction or customer churn.Operations- time to market and average order fulfillment.Talent Management metrics- workforce retention and turnover.Leading-predict what may happen in the future.Lagging-reflect past results, measuring the aftermath of actions.STEP 3 THE LANGUAGE FOR SHARING STRATEGY WITH TEAM MEMBERS
Lay out the short-term goals organizational goals and measuresSelect the top 5-10 KPIs that will be used to manage the performanceUse your SWOT Analysis to Set Priorities and create tractionEvaluate the options you have prioritized and identify the ones that create the greatest benefit and to best achieve the mission and vision of your organization.STEP 4 Define the Long-Term Strategic Objectives
Create Annual Milestones. ...Create a Year One Operational Plan. ...Monitor Regularly at Board Level. ...Adjust Accordingly.EXAMPLE: Amazon's primary goal: link the digital and brick-and-mortar shopping experience in order to be part of every single purchase made.
A short-term strategy includes a detailed action plan: what platforms will the marketing appear (TV, radio, print, social media). Who will carry out the strategies, budget, profit, etc
Season 4, Episode 5: ROAD TESTING THE STRATEGY
How do you road test your strategy? How do you poke holes in it to see if it can stand up to the market forces? In this episode, we are going to share how to do a SWOT Analysis.
1. START BY ASKING ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS.
How do we create sustainable growth?How will we diversify our revenue streams?When I was in the wholesale business in fashion, it was always a challenge to not put all of your revenue growth into one retailer. (Or eggs in one basket as we would normally say). Many times, we have a single retailer who begins to take up a lot of our production, leaving us vulnerable to an unexpected “pull out” or their own economic limitations that may impact you. Diversifying your customer base.How do I adjust margins and costs to stay competitive?How do I innovate?2. DO A SWOT ANALYSIS
Collect competitive intelligence. What are the opportunities. What are the threats from your competition? How does it impact your own strategic offering. With your ears and eyes to the information being conveyed through customers, media, etc.STRENGTHS- Ask yourself
What do you do well in sales, marketing, product innovations, data capture and analytics as well key leadership?What are your core competencies?What differentiates you from your competitors? The standout word that anyone will refer about you.Why do your customers buy from you?WEAKNESSES
Where do you lack resources? People, talent, skills etc.What can you do better or should outsource?Where are you losing money, or your margins are nominal?What competitors have an edge over your current strategy and infrastructure?OPPORTUNITIES
What’s possible? What can you bring to market? What is it that you want to capitalize on?What do you have in the way of internal knowledge, resources, and capabilities to optimize?Can you run with this? Can you optimize part of the process whether it is technology, product offerings, global reach, or marketing.WHAT ARE THE NEEDS OF TARGET CUSTOMER. And how can your brand meet those needs?Customer segmentation and targeting is critical to developing your strategy and understanding the overall needs and lifestyle preferences that you will serve.
What needs or wants define your ideal customer? Utilizing surveys of current customer makeup will show gaps of fulfilling those needs.
What characteristics describe your typical customer? In my past brand building and strategic planning, I would have the teams create a Brand Persona- Give them a name and describe them so that we can bounce the strategy off of that persona for clarification.
Are there different profiles based on needs, wants, and characteristics? And do they align differently with each of those characteristics while remaining true to the umbrella persona?
For the segments of the target customers, are there clear communication channels and platforms to reach a large, targeted audience in that segment?
INTERNAL THREATSLack of talent in the areas of perceived expansion.
Lack of bandwidth to deliver the product/services that make up the opportunity list.
Lack of cohesion in an organization for delivering the product or belief in the strategy and time implementation plan.
Lack of motivation to meet the plan or those individuals who continuously say “What’s in it for me?”EXTERNAL THREATSNegative economic trends- think COVID last year.
Competitor market conditions