Improving your business strategy: Are you playing to your strengths?

Maybe it just goes with this time of the year; businesses are reflecting on their past year and refining their plans for the next 12 months.

Companies are making assessments on all sorts of things: their product offerings, their current employee teams, if they have people in the right seats, what’s good, what’s bad, or what needs improvement. And as part of those assessments, there’s almost always a discussion around strengths and weaknesses.

When you think of strengths and weaknesses, what is your natural response? Do you play to your strengths? We tend to get into this discussion with clients more often than one might guess. Interestingly, when the idea of leveraging strengths comes up, it’s surprising how most people tend to shift the conversation to working on the areas they want to improve (their weaknesses) rather than finding ways to build on their strengths.

As a strategic advisor, this conversation is typically with a business owner or someone in a leadership position, but you’ll find this to be the case anytime you’re talking from a broader vantage point about someone’s strengths and weaknesses. Once they are exposed for being weak in an area, the knee-jerk reaction is to start diverting precious, limited hours of their day to improving that aspect of their business. But what happens to the area of the business where they already excel?

Our experience suggests that it usually suffers.

Using a golfer as an example, think about your friend who is great at driving the ball, but terrible once on the green. If their sole focus when practicing is to improve their putting, eventually their ability to consistently drive a ball where they want on the fairway will suffer. Their putting may improve, but their drives will start to falter (since they’re not practicing them).

The end result of focusing only on their weakness? At best, they become average across the board.

If the golfer would have instead continued to leverage the strength of their game and only replaced a portion of their practice time with trying to improve their putting game, more than likely their overall score would improve because they would not be any less accurate driving the ball, and they would see some improvement in their short game.

Applying this to business….

What are your strengths? We all have them. You may not hold a world record in anything, but you do have functions in your business that you are better at than others. It’s the things you enjoy doing and you’re usually better than average at doing them. What are they?

We usually suggest brainstorming to develop your initial list then narrow it down to the top two or three items you feel are your strengths. These are what make you feel energized and excited when you do them. Once you define them, think about ways you can leverage those strengths to best benefit your business and yourself.

Weaknesses. What are things you are currently doing that did not make the list? What do you do with those? Ideally, there is someone else on your team that is better suited to perform those functions – could you delegate them? If there is no one on your team that is really suited to perform them, then you may consider outsourcing that particular function. Fractional outsourcing for specific functions can be a tremendous resource to back-fill a weakness in a business.

You can do this same procedure with product lines and offerings. It’s great to see a company expand into a new market, but when they do it at the expense of damaging the brand or reputation of a product line that has been one of their strengths in the marketplace, it is can cause irreversible damage.

What about you? Do you play to your strengths? Have you witnessed an example of a company putting a clear strength of their business at risk because they lost focus by spending too much time focusing on a weak area? Play to your strengths. Remember high tides raise all ships!