Strategic Priorities: Figuring Out What You’re Doing And What You’re Not

The excitement. The laughter. The ideas. The energy. It was amazing!

Imagine you have a business idea, one for a very niche market where your friends are lining up to subscribe. It’s something you enjoy doing and want to share your passion with others. Sounds great, doesn’t it?!

That’s what two friends were describing over dinner to me and others. Jim and Sandy (not their real names) are HUGE bicyclers. Between their stationary, road, gravel, and mountain bikes, they ride thousands of miles per year and have traveled all over the world on different cycling adventures. They invite people to go with them when they do local rides or use their home gym equipment. Jim and Sandy also have had injuries throughout the years, so Jim became a certified trainer and teaches others exercises and stretches specifically for cycling.

With all this knowledge and equipment (2 Pelotons, 1 Nordic Trak, 6 other stationary bike holders, and an entire garage stall setup as a gym), an idea was beginning to take shape. Why not lease a space and start a gym specifically for the local cycling community?

I’m in! We’re all in! They asked for our help to develop strategies to get them off the ground. Before we knew it, not only was it a gym, but also organizing and leading weeknight rides in the summer, planning cycling trips around the country and even the world, leading an 8 person RAAM team, selling online classes, and being a retailer for their favorite brands. All great ideas, but a lot for two people who also have “day jobs”.

We took each idea and broke it down a few levels so they could see at a high-level the work required. The list was big. Each item was awesome, but the more we talked, the more heads started to spin. After a little bit I only had one question; what is most important and what are you NOT going to do?

Michael Porter has five essential tests of a good business strategy.

The first is a unique value proposition, which Jim and Sandy have focusing on cyclists. The second is a tailored value chain which would lead to greater margins. The next one was critical for the discussion with Jim and Sandy; choosing WHAT NOT TO DO! The conversations got a bit more difficult.

Prioritization and tradeoffs! That was the name of the game from that point on. To focus and be good at something, means you need to not focus on something else. Going back to Jim and Sandy’s list, what started at 12 was narrowed to 6, then to 4, then only the top 3 were prioritized. Those became their strategic priorities, which we helped plan to be completed within the next 12 months.

We all know if we try to prioritize everything as #1, very little gets done because we can’t focus and execute. But, this can be difficult because it means you’re accepting limits. And some of us, (me included) don’t like putting limits up! We think we can do more, but quickly find it’s tough. We can’t make more time, so maximize the time available.

If you think about the company you work for, there are (hopefully) strategic priorities that will be achieved within a certain amount of time. Chances are there were more ideas tossed around than what was approved, but priorities and tradeoffs had to be made. Depending on the company and situation, priorities could have been made based on ROI, the market, efficiencies, compliance, or a whole host of other considerations. The main point is, priorities were made and some things are not going to get done.

As for Jim and Sandy, their 12 month strategic priorities are 1) market research and business plan creation, 2) funding secured for capital expenditures and lease expenses, and 3) property identified, designed, and lease signed/secured. A “sub-strategy” is to build excitement through word-of-month within the cycling community this may be coming. They’ll have a client in me!

Next time the creative ideas are flowing, remember you can’t do them all. Prioritize, figure out what you will do and what you won’t!

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