17 Apr How I Used Strategic Thinking To Sell My Business For Millions
Do you know how to be a strategic thinker? It’s a skill that you can learn surprisingly easy. Here’s my story and 3 strategic thinking tips I’ve picked up along the way.
You need to be more strategic.
It sounds like a simple piece of advice. And on the surface, it makes sense. Your company needs a strategy in order to achieve success. You need to know where you want to go and how you intend to get there.
But what does the word “strategic” actually mean?
It’s a fluid concept that can mean different things to different people. That’s what makes it so frustrating. You can’t figure out how to be a strategic thinker if you can’t even define what strategic means to you and your industry.
In this article, I aim to do a few things. Firstly, I’m going to tell you a story about how I used my strategic thinking skills to the benefit of my business. Secondly, I’m going to define strategic thinking. Finally, I’ll provide a few tips on how to be a strategic thinker that you can apply to your business.
Entrepreneurship is my bread and butter. It accounts for many years of my life and I have a true passion for the world of business.
During my career, I’ve learned a simple truth about business. My limitations are my business’ limitations.
What I mean by this is that my ability, or lack thereof, to think strategically affects the success of my business. If I can think outside the box and provide more value to clients, I succeed. If I can’t, I don’t. It’s about expanding consciousness and awareness to create a strategy that appeals to me and my clients. Moreover, my strategic thinking skills directly relate to my creative abilities.
I’ve spoken at length about the catering business that I co-founded in Sydney several years ago. As a start-up business, we needed to find a way to compete. We wanted quick growth and needed to activate our leverage well.
We identified that caterers often take one of two routes to success. They either provide high volumes at low quality, such as is the case with a small caterer that provides worker’s lunches. Or, they provide high quality at low volumes. We wanted to flip the script and provide high quality at high volume.
Our background contributed to the strategic thinking skills that we applied to this conundrum. We weren’t like many in the catering space because we didn’t come from a food-related background. We came from a business background.
This allowed us to figure out the key success driver in the catering industry. The food comes second to the venue. Anybody who holds an event has to find somewhere to hold it. And there are only a limited number of venues available.
Our strategic thinking shifted from trying to sell the quality of our food to trying to sell the quality of ourselves. We applied this thinking to our tenders. Instead of telling venues that we’d provide the best food, we treated them like business partners. We showed them how working with us could help them to expand their horizons and increase their revenue.
Simply put, we focused on the business of food, rather than the food itself.
This made our pitches stand out. Other caterers in the same space focus on the quality of their food. They may also talk about the skills that their teams have, or the many years they’ve been in business.
We treated the quality side as a given. Our company offered the same level of quality, but we pitched a relationship that went beyond what other caterers offered. We focused our pitches on how we would help the venue to raise its revenue.
After all, its revenue that’s the key concern for every business.
Or, as legendary sales guru Frank Bettger put it better: “The best way to get what you want is to find out what other people want and help them get it.”
The sum up, we knew that venues wanted two things:
- Quality catering
- Higher revenues
Other caterers focused on the first thing, but didn’t pay attention to the second. We flipped the script and showed them how they’d make money with us, as well as enjoy great catering.
The end result of applying our strategic thinking skills to the catering industry?
In just three years, our catering business had received several national catering awards. We’d also secured contracts with some of Sydney’s largest and most prestigious venues. In fact, we only lost out on a single tender during those three years.
When it came time to sell the business, we had plenty to offer buyers. The business had a track record for quality catering. But it also has a strategy in place for winning tenders.
Our approach had given us the leverage required to achieve fast success. The lessons you learn from this show you how to be a strategic thinker.
What is Strategic Thinking?
Think of it like a process. With strategic thinking, you assess a situation and create a plan based both on what you discover and your intended future. This makes it a valuable tool for business owners.
You can apply strategic thinking skills to every business decision that you make. It’s about treating your end goal as a problem that you need to solve. In doing so, you engage your own sense of logic, as well as your creative spark, to come up with a solution.
In our case, the problem related to how to quickly grow a catering business in a competitive industry. Logic told us that we need to get the venues on board, rather than try to sell ourselves solely on the quality of our food. Creativity came into it when we tried to figure out how to do that. That’s where our pitches for tenders came into play. We approached them from a creative angle that set us apart from everybody else. In doing so, we achieved success.
Moreover, strategic thinking isn’t just something that you can apply to your professional life. It’s relevant to all of the decisions you make in your personal life too.
Simply put, it involves devising strategies that allow you to achieve your goals.
Of course, you also need to know how to be a strategic thinker. These three strategic thinking tips will help you to develop your skills.
Tip #1 – Seek Out Trends
It’s so difficult to see the big picture when you have a lot of work on your plate. The temptation is to just get your head down so you can get on with what you need to do. You barely come up for air, which means you miss the ways the industry changes around you. Key information whizzes by and you approach your work without much thought for where you’re going with it. You just get a job done with no real goal in mind.
To understand how to be a strategic thinker, you must understand the importance of knowing your industry. Learn about the trends that affect the industry and its key drivers. Pay attention to the major issues, both within your company and those that affect the industry at large. Connect with others in the industry and learn from them. They’re often a great source of information in regard to what others aren’t doing to fulfil client needs.
Finally, use this information to devise a way to make your organisation stand out. In our case, understanding industry trends meant figuring out how other catering companies pitch to clients. From there, we could use our strategic thinking skills to figure out how to separate our pitches from theirs.
Industry trends also affect your vision. They help you to anticipate how your industry will move and react to different things. In doing so, you learn about how your decisions affect both yourself and others in the industry.
Tip #2 – Ask Difficult Questions
It’s not always easy for business owners to accept their shortcomings. They already have their strategies in place. If things aren’t working out, many people double down and hope that hard work will see them through.
To become a strategic thinker, you have to ask the difficult questions. Moreover, you have to figure out answers to those questions. Ask yourself things like “what does success look like during my first year?” Expand on that too. Figure out what success looks like for you in year two, three, and beyond.
After that, ask yourself about the factors that affect that success. What could have a negative impact on your business? What do you need to get right to achieve your intended successes? What do your business partners need to understand and provide to help you to move forward?
Ask and answer these tough questions as early as possible. Your answers provide you with a greater understanding of your industry and what you need your business to achieve. From there, you can work out a strategy that helps you to achieve your goals.
Tip #3 – Think of it Like a Jigsaw Puzzle
The aim of a jigsaw puzzle is pretty simple. You have a bunch of pieces and have to figure out how to slot them together to create a cohesive whole.
But that jigsaw puzzle teaches you how to be a strategic thinker. It’s all about taking in the information that you have available to you so you can figure out how to achieve your goal. In the puzzle’s case, the end goal is the completion of the puzzle. The pieces are the bits of information that you have to put together. When you add a piece to the puzzle, you affect the entire thing.
Use this approach with your business. Everything you learn about your industry, yourself, and your partners are pieces of your business jigsaw puzzle. Strategic thinking is all about figuring out how to put those pieces together to achieve your end goal. As each piece slots into place, you receive more information that helps you put the rest of the puzzle together.
In our case, the solution to the puzzle was the fast growth of our catering business. The pieces included the many venues, our own service, and our pitches. As we gathered more information, we put more of the pieces together until we had a strategy that solved the puzzle.
The Final Word
Your strategic thinking skills can spell success of failure for your business. Hopefully, we’ve helped you figure out what strategic thinking is and how to be a strategic thinker.
We’ll leave you with some final words of guidance:
- Figure out what everybody’s already doing in your industry. This allows you to pick out gaps that you can fill.
- Don’t avoid the difficult questions. If you don’t have the answers yet, that means you don’t have enough information.
- Approach your goals like a puzzle. The information you collect helps you to solve that puzzle. It’s just a case of putting the pieces together.
At Behind the Scenes, we can help you to become a strategic thinker. It all starts with out 1-hour Business Review Session.
During the session, my aim will be to help you see hidden opportunities in your business. We’ll discuss any aspect of your business in which you would like support, such as:
- Growth Strategies
- Sales and Distribution
- Pricing and Packaging
- Merger/Sale, Capital Raising, IPO
After 35+ years of working with small and large businesses, buying, selling and growing them across a range of sectors, I can work with you on any level or area.
And it all starts with a no-obligation 1 Hour Business Review Session.