Last night I was watching ‘The Queen At 90,’ a uniquely British (read this for very slightly off the wall) tribute to our inspirational monarch. I admire The Queen’s achievements enormously, but it’s her ability to make business strategy simple that I find particularly impressive.
She may not allow the word ‘strategy’ to be used in her presence, but the Queen is an excellent and instinctive strategist. She has adapted steadily and slowly over the course of her 63 year reign, whilst pursuing the exact same strategic principles throughout. Her standing is secure because the British public have a huge affection and admiration for her. It may not always have been so, but ‘Brand Windsor’ is now a masterclass in how to stray true to your vision and values, whilst retaining brand relevance.
The Queen will become a business-school case study in the management technique of rebooting.” ~ Tristram Hunt MP
Let’s explore the Queen’s ‘business strategy’ more deeply before exploring how other business leaders approach strategy.
The Queen quite simply has two primary objectives when it comes to business strategy. To preserve the monarchy for future generations and to extend the work of the Commonwealth.
The business strategy the Queen has deployed, in pursuit of these two objectives, is quite simply to respect the role of British traditions and values, while simultaneously adapting the monarchy to make it relevant to our modern age. Whilst the Queen does not publically express political views, the Commonwealth represents a clear and unequivocal expression of her personal mission and values. (Its terms of reference, state, “We are committed to democracy, good governance, human rights, gender equality, and a more equitable sharing of the benefits of globalisation.” While the Commonwealth website lists its areas of work as: Democracy, Economics, Education, Gender, Governance, Human Rights, Law, Small States, Sport, Sustainability and Youth).
The Queen, and her team, have deployed a range of tactics to implement this strategy. This includes building goodwill and affection both at home and abroad, taking control of the royal finances, making more imaginative use of the palace at the time of major celebrations, and a proactive approach to media management. Prince Harry’s stewardship of the recent Invictus Games was a masterclass in Brand Windsor’s business strategy at work. So too were last night’s ‘Queen At 90’ celebrations, set against the backdrop of Windsor Castle, and orchestrated by Prince Charles. And who can forget the Queen’s hilarious appearance at London 2012 as the ultimate ‘Bond girl’ which cemented her affectionate relationship with the British public?
My point is that a winning business strategy is always simple at its core.
A company without a strategy is willing to try anything.” ~ Michael Porter
Elon Musk’s Business Strategy
Elon Musk, the founder of Paypal and either founder, chairman, chief financier, and more at Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity understands business strategy better than most. He has a laser focused business strategy for each of his businesses. (You can read why Elon Musk is so successful here). The ultimate goal for Tesla Motors is the same today as it was when they first got started over a decade ago. But Tesla Motors didn’t start out making electric cars.
To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.”
Elon Musk’s master plan for Tesla Motors is very simple:
- Build a sports car
- Use that money to build an affordable car
- Use that money to build an even more affordable car
- While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
An Easy Way To Think About Business Strategy
A winning business strategy is never complicated. It’s brief, to the point and made up of the following three key components:
Objective – What do you want to achieve? Where do you want to get to?
Strategy – The bit between your purpose and your business plan. The ‘how.’
Tactics – How you’re going to achieve your objectives; your business, financial, sales and marketing plans and your brand strategy.
The Simplicity Of Steve Jobs’ Business Strategy
Good business strategies are often breathtakingly basic and straightforward. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, having been ousted in 1985, his approach was very simple:
Objective – Survival
Strategy – Simplification, design and innovate, focus
Tactics – Reduce the number of products, invest heavily in R&D, become the brand of choice of the new and the cool, refuse to play safe
Apple’s prospects were dim at the point of Jobs’ return. It had racked up more than $1 billion in losses in the previous four quarters, demand for the Mac, its biggest earner, was sinking, and the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. Eighteen years later, Apple’s worldwide annual revenue totalled $233 billion. Or to put this into perspective, approximately 1.25% of the total United States GDP. The company enjoys a high level of brand loyalty and, according to the 2014 edition of the Interbrand Best Global Brands report, was the world’s most valuable brand with a valuation of $118.9 billion.
Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” ~ Steve Jobs
Sir Alex Ferguson’s Winning Business Strategy
Love him or hate him, Sir Alex Ferguson is one of the most successful sporting coaches of all time, and one of the few leaders who knows what it takes to lead a team to world-class success over a sustained period of time. During his 38 year tenure in management, Sir Alex won an astonishing 49 trophies and helped grow Manchester United into one of the biggest commercial brands in the world.
Objective – Win all major titles, first in England, then in Europe
Strategy – Convey authority and control, no individual is bigger than the club
Tactics – Clear and consistent management structure, recruit and develop world-class young players, innovative training methods
“Most people with my kind of track record don’t look to change. My job was to give us the best possible chance of winning. That’s what drove me.” ~ Sir Alex Ferguson
The Strategic Brilliance of Nelson Mandela
It was Nelson Mandela’s absolute clarity of purpose – the absolute determination to see an end to apartheid as a governing system – that enabled him to overcome the hatred and bitterness he felt towards those who’d imprisoned him and formulate a strategy that led to the creation of the ‘Rainbow Nation.’
Objective – End apartheid as a governing system
Strategy – Develop meaningful relationships within the prison and political systems
Tactics – Form a modern team of rivals, use symbolic gestures to demonstrate change e.g. reach out to the Afrikaners by striding on to the turf at the Rugby World Cup wearing a Springbok jersey.
As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” ~ Nelson Mandela
You can have unlimited talent, ambition and resources, but without a clear and concise business strategy, enduring business success cannot be achieved.
Are you working just as hard as your competition, but not seeing the same level of business growth and profitability? Do you wonder why some businesses get significantly better results than others? Success comes down to one simple factor: the clarity and simplicity of your business strategy.
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Explore These Additional Resources
If you enjoyed this post, then you may also like:
- The 9 Characteristics Of A Successful Brand Strategy
- How Leading Brands Stay Relevant
- What Made Sir Alex Ferguson Such A Successful Leader?
- Business Lessons From Nelson Mandela
Prior to becoming a business consultant and coach, I gained 25 years’ experience in business in senior management and leadership roles, including 8 years as a former CEO. This experience is backed up by training at Cranfield School of Management, the UK’s leading business school. With experience in business planning, financial management, risk management, building strategic partnerships, product development, marketing (including PR) plus leading and developing staff teams of up to 150 people, there’s very little I haven’t had to deal with or experienced during my career in business.
You can find out more about working with me HERE. Or alternatively email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an informal chat over coffee. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of whether 1:1 business coaching or business consultancy would be a good fit for your business, the results you can expect and how to get started.
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