imageedit_31_9485065802 (2)I attended an insightful workshop at my 15th Harvard Business School reunion, Seven Strategy Questions by Professor Robert Simons.  He started by making 3 propositions:

  1. Successful strategic execution requires tough, uncomfortable choices based on simple logic and clear principles.  (You need a process not a retreat.)
  2. You know your business more than I can ever know.(Boy, is this true.)
  3.  Active discussions with people in your organization is the key – there is no magic bullet, no metric or scorecard that will tell you the strategic pitfalls. (You must ask the right questions!)

His first question of seven is: Are your resources and structure allocated to support your primary customer AND maximize the value? 

So, here is what I propose to you.  At your next monthly strategic meeting… yep, I said monthly!  Ask the leadership team, “Who is our Primary Customer?” Your leadership should clearly define using as much detail as possible.  Then compare answers.  As you know, the worst answer is “EVERYBODY”.  Strategy is about focus and choices.  You have lots of different customers with many needs, probably too many.  Who do you serve the best and where can you provide the highest value?

Once you get agreement to “who” then you can ask the second question: “What do they value?”  Here is list of things they could value:  expertise, dedicated relationship, best technology, customized features, or low price. What is the priority of this list?  Think about how to allocate resources to best delivery the highest value proposition.  Remember we are trying to understand “willingness to pay” to maximize the gap between “cost to serve”.

So, the questions for your leadership team: Who is your Primary Customer?  How do you know?  Does everyone agree?  Does your structure support them?  Do you know what they value most and are you maximizing resources to capture the value?

Start with you business segmentation and identify your ideal customer profile to uncover your primary customer.  Then through customer interviews and focus groups you will better understand what they value. As many of you know this takes work- asking the right questions and making tough choices.