How Smart Strategy Can Move your Business Ahead (Part 1)

The-100-Title-OnlyThe first in a series of two posts

Mention the word “strategy” and many leaders will respond with a silent groan. Few like to discuss it, but “strategy” can feel like a 700-pound organizational elephant. Some of us struggle simply to define it. For some, “strategy” is just a fancy way to describe a daily “to do” list. Others use in-depth research studies and highly paid management consultants to map a strategy to guide their company’s direction.

Intertech takes an approach somewhere between these two extremes, which I’ve detailed in my recent book, “The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership.”

For us, strategy is an amalgam of our values, brand promise, and goals. This involves:

  • Gathering input from key stakeholders in an organized way
  • Having a clear process for making decisions
  • Measuring goals
  • Ensuring alignment

My next series of posts will peel the proverbial strategy onion (no tears here!). I will share not only my philosophy about strategy but also provide practical tips on using strategy to move your company ahead of your competition. Let’s begin today with the value of values.


Values are like an invisible hand guiding interactions between customers, employees and vendors. They’re most effective when they are clearly defined and consistently reinforced. If you’re not sure which values are most important at your organization, I recommend using the “Mars Group” exercise created by business expert and author Jim Collins.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick Mars Team: Ask your employees to identify a few colleagues who best represent what they believe are your company’s core values. The idea is that these select employees could go to Mars and easily recreate your company’s culture.
  2. Describe Candidates: Next, ask everyone to write down the three adjectives that they believe best define the people they selected for the Mars mission.
  3. Select Common Values: If your experience is anything like ours, similar values will pop up again and again. We found that at Intertech, the most common values were “positive attitude, commitment to delivering, honesty, teamwork and professional excellence.”

It was gratifying to learn that our employees strongly believed that these five rock-solid values best reflected Intertech’s culture. According to Jim Collins and other business experts, however, company values are most strategic when they differentiate your company from competitors.

So we took another hard look at our values and determined that the first three – attitude, commitment and excellence – truly set us apart from competitors. These are the three values that we selected to consciously emphasize internally and externally (although employees remain honest and consistently work well together!).

Next time: How to use values as a strategic culture-building tool.

Thoughts from The 100: Defining the Purpose of a Business

The-100-Title-OnlyIn previous posts, I provided practical “tactical” tips for providing leadership that helps employees to achieve their potential and for ensuring that your business (and that of your clients) thrives. Today’s message is broader, but ultimately the most important: Know what matters!

Ever heard the maxim, “If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything”? This is true for people and organizations. Without clarity around core beliefs and purpose, we can be blown off course by the latest fad, or, worse, start to think that we and our efforts do not matter.

Before I founded Intertech I worked for a large information technology company in the Twin Cities. My manager told me not to worry about putting in extra effort because the company was so big there was no need for any one employee to shoulder any additional effort. That was the moment I found my purpose. I knew I wanted my efforts to matter. Intertech was founded quickly thereafter.

A company’s core purpose should be clear and unchanging. Intertech’s purpose is “to create a place where people matter and where our clients’ businesses are improved through technology.”

In my next series of posts I’ll examine “Outsmarting and Out-planning the Competition with Strategy.  

Learn more about in my book “The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership.”

Presentations from Intertech’s 25 Anniversary Learning Summit

If you weren’t able to make it to Intertech for our 25th anniversary, here are the talks from my fellow presenters.  Senior Intertech Consultant Jim Karg delivers a presentation on The Internet of Things (IoT) for Business.  Lonnie Weaver-Johnson, Agile Coach and Instructor, presents on Organizational Benefits from Agile and Scrum Adoption.  Watch their presentations below.


Lifelong learning: only a click away

My t8130858401_7b3853d82d_zhanks to MinnPost for publishing my article Lifelong Learning: only a click away.  Here’s the start:

Schools are gearing up for another academic year and politicians are cranking up the rhetoric (heaven help us) as the election approaches. The quality and cost of education no doubt will be among the top debate subjects as the presidential candidates slug it out this fall. As the parent of a freshly minted kindergartner, I get why this is a compelling issue. But as the founder and owner of a technology consulting and training company, I wish the debate could be expanded to include lifelong learning. Specifically, how to encourage lifelong learning, particularly among minorities.

Read the rest of the article on the MinnPost website.