How To Create Better Strategy By Going Simple

Simplify Strategy

Being “disruptive” at it’s core is about simplification. Getting to outcomes or results more simply by better using the resources you have around you, by creating more efficient processes or a little bit of both. Disruption is all the rage these days in startups all over the world. There are books dedicated to teaching you to innovate in disruptive ways and conferences that pull entrepreneurs and programmers together to celebrate and showcase how markets are disruptively evolving. There are companies pitching for investor dollars everyday because they’ve thought up tricky ways to deliver value to customers in markets that have been stagnant for decades - think Uber.

You’re not Uber though (yet). So why should you care about disruption?

Thinking in terms of disruption is very good for running your business. The best part of thinking disruptively is that it doesn’t cost much and you don’t need a fancy set of tools to implement it well. In this blog post I outline three tips to help you get to simple so you can get more out of your strategy and your business.

Think simple for your next attempt at a strategy you want to try out. Running a business successfully means managing a lot of moving parts, there is no getting around that. Lots of running parts often leads people to think that there’s too much complexity to try to navigate around. I’m encouraging you to think about the parts of your business that you can simplify by a step or two. What are the processes you wake up and start in on everyday? At any time any one process might be a positive thing but look at what those singularly good processes are doing on the entire company. Are they slowing things down? Making it hard for information to flow or for decisions to get made? Besides trying to simplify how you do business, which could conceivably reduce your resource burn, how you position your brand and what you stand for also doesn’t have to be complicated. Think simplicity and act like 37Signals.

If you aren’t familiar with 37Signals (now officially just Basecamp) they are a firm that not only puts out amazing software but has published a few really rockstar entrepreneurship books. (One that I re-visit daily is ReWork.) What makes them simple lies in their product offerings: Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire. Each of these SaaS product offerings are very specific and very simple in their functionality.  I want to highlight Basecamp in particular. It’s SaaS business that is built around one thing project management. If you go to their website today you’ll see that they are pivoting their model yet again. They are going all in on Basecamp. They are taking their already simple model and drilling down to get really good at one thing. Project Management.

37Signals is an awesome example of how a business can cause innovative disruption, continue to differentiate themselves, and succeed. ( I swear this isn't a plug, just really like their model.) This is also not the only thing I want you to take away from this post - I want you to walk away with some tips on simplifying your strategy and finding success.

1. Start with the why.

This one is a little introspective but seriously, why are you in business. The more honest you can be about what your business does, the better. Stop trying to do everything. I did that once and I burned myself and a few relationships out. No bueno. When you can craft a story behind the motivation of why you are in business it not only helps your stakeholder’s relate to what you’re doing but it helps to make decision making in the future just a little easier because you have a story compass to follow.

2. Boil down to what matters most in your business.

What are the most critical functions within your business. What needs to happen every time so that a customer is delivered an amazing experience. Focus on flushing those out and simplifying them as much as possible. There is so much bloat in even small companies these days because firms are trying to hard to be the all providing problem solving experience for the customer. That suffocates your “why” and your mission and makes it harder for your key processes to work efficiently.

3. Fight wanting to do more.

I don’t mean get lazy what I do mean is flex your “no” muscle. As the economy continues to recover and expand it will be tempting to want to reach out to new markets or offer up complimentary products or services. It will sound great and you might even produce data that would support chasing customers in a new segment but you should fight that urge. Instead focus on being the best you can be at a few core competencies, offer more value, innovate, and reduce costs. Work on serving your clients and customers the best way that you can. This will keep you from feeling overworked, spread too thin, and help to keep you from wasting resources. If Google can and did unload Motorola to Lenovo that has to create some kind of social proof right?!

Simplify doesn’t mean easy and it doesn’t mean lazy. It means serving very specifically and very intensely to a focused market. When you do that you create opportunities to differentiate in a way that makes it very hard for rivals or competitors to match because you cultivate a depth of understanding and relationships that someone just strolling into your market won’t find. There are a lot of programs that do way more than Basecamp and I’ve tried them - only to hate them and make my way back to a software that is easy to use, has awesome customer services, and always does what I expect it to do. Make your business do that in your industry and you will have no problem being as successful as someone like 37Signals.