(This is the second in a series of four articles on the Four Cornerstones for Business Success.)

 In my previous article, I presented the Cornerstone of Purpose, which serves as the underlying foundation for your business. Sustainable success requires not only a viable business model, but a guiding vision and mission, with congruent and meaningful values. Being a contributing member of your community is also part of long-term business success.

 The second Cornerstone is Strategies. This is the intellectual aspect of your business, the place where intelligence, research, reasoning, analysis, and judgment rightfully prevail.  A strategy is a chosen path, a conscious commitment to a set of actions based on the analysis of information, selected for the purpose of  achieving the company’s goals, and shaped by its vision and values.  The caliber of its strategies separates a successful company from a mediocre one. At a minimum, strategies must be sound, and ideally, innovative. Strategies are necessary for each of the basic business functions, including: finance, product/service development and delivery, human resources, and marketing/sales.

 Each functional area merits its own mini-strategic plan, and the company's overall Strategic Plan then serves to ensure the coordination of all the elements of the enterprise. Each part of the whole must have its own strategic integrity as well as fit smoothly into the overall organization, each part supporting and complementing the other elements. A degree of creative tension between the functions is natural, and quite valuable, but irreconcilable differences or unresolved conflicts between functional areas will significantly weaken   a business.

After the functional areas of a business are clearly defined, we can consider its structure. How is the work organized? How are the parts related to the whole? Your organizational structure can either facilitate or hinder your work.  With contemporary developments in workplace technology, changing cultural norms, and advances in the field of knowledge management, the preferred structures of organizations have evolved dramatically. We now see less hierarchy, more employee participation, and more self-directed, virtual and project-based teams. The management and leadership challenge is to design a dynamic organizational structure that is logical and effective in achieving its purpose – coordinating and streamlining the work of the people in your organization.

Organizational processes go hand in hand with organizational structure. What are the methods for doing the work of the organization?  What sets of systems are needed? How can service delivery or product creation become more efficient and  more satisfying for both workers and customers? The concept of continuous improvement comes under this umbrella. Processes are often temporary systems, which require regular evaluation and revision.

Strategies are also time-relative. What is the natural cycle of your business? What is its rhythm and how do you work with it? Optimal growth and sustainability require this continuum-of-time perspective, from the immediate to the overarching long view. Some company goals may be very long-range, while others are mid-range or short-term. Although goals frequently have a somewhat general time frame, the specific objectives required to reach each goal need to include a clear timeline, with explicit action steps and the commitment of resources. 

The Kunde Family Estate Winery provides an excellent illustration of the effective use of strategies. The company decided to capitalize on their exquisite asset of 1,850 acres of prime location in the famed Sonoma Valley wine region. They subsequently set in motion a series of action plans to convert their already attractive winery into an even more desirable “destination” for visitors. In a few short years, the friendly and casual winery transformed itself into a popular destination site, hosting a remarkable variety of events as well as wine tasting. In the process of aligning their strategies with their values, the winery garnered multiple awards for their environmental and conservation standards and their innovative programs to educate visitors and the community on sustainable wine growing practices.

 Developing intelligent strategies is a great opportunity for a company to artfully combine several skill sets: the discipline of information analysis, the willingness to learn the lessons of history and experience, the research required for insight and forecasting into the future, the importance of evaluating possible alternatives, the ability to conduct healthy, constructive dialogues that welcome and explore differing opinions, and nurturing a company culture that supports creative ideas for doing things in new ways.

  This brings us to the third cornerstone: Skills. Join us here next time for the Skills Cornerstone for Business Success.                   •••


Mary Luttrell is a business strategy advisor who has helped hundreds of companies increase their success, providing services in strategic planning, marketing, organizational development, meeting and retreat facilitation, and executive/leadership coaching. Ms. Luttrell is an ISO-Certified Management Consultant whose firm has been named one of the 100 Leading Management Consulting Firms in North America. Contact Mary at 707-887-2256 or thecoach@sonic.net and visit her website at www.maryluttrell.com.