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.