What Makes the Difference?

The critical difference is whether you are prepared; if you are aware of possible global developments, embrace changes that are coming, and take action to prepare yourself and your company.

In a rapidly changing world, new opportunities are emerging everywhere.  Can you afford to stand still?

The news — even instant news — is recent history. But understanding trends and possible future developments is some of the most valuable knowledge you can have. It enables you to prepare while you still have the opportunity and time to act.

The media is filled with gloom and doom about the economy, politics and what not.  Stop focusing on what doesn’t work.  Leave the crisis mentality and excuses behind and march towards opportunities.  Allocate your resources to take advantage of the opportunities being uncovered.  Focus your energy on establishing your footprint in the global market.

It is that time of the year when your team is putting their heads together to create the strategy for 2009.  Following are some suggestions to consider:

Manage your decision making

Make your decision making process a core competency and your company’s advantage.  For businesses competing globally, geographic and cultural issues are crucial to the decision making process.   As a result, devote your attention to managing decision-making characteristics, and furthermore, consider the influence of managerial belief systems.

The strategy of a business and its managerial decision-making characteristics are linked because these characteristics are fundamental to effective implementation of the particular strategy choice, are reflected directly in that choice, and are a direct source of competitive advantage.

The company’s culture–its values, beliefs, assumptions, and symbols–defines how a company conducts its business. To support competitive advantage, the belief systems of a company must not be common to other companies and you may want promote the capability to perform functional activities in a manner that increases the value-added of the company.

5 Tips on effective decision making that leads to a winning strategy:

Consider alternatives. Thinking about the opposite helps make better decisions.

Re-frame the question.   What are we dealing with?  What are the real issues?

Make contingency plans.   Have a plan and/or process in place if something goes wrong.

Weigh costs against benefits. Make sure you don’t get stuck on the sticker price, but understand the consequences if you DON’T take certain actions.

All decisions are not equal. Some decisions are more important than others. Not all decisions warrant effortful deliberation: sometimes it’s better just to choose and be done with it. The trick is knowing which is which – experience should provide strong clues.

Incorporate business sustainability strategy to achieve a competitive advantage

This can be part of creating your competitive edge and make a difference.  Other countries around the globe have initiated some of these guidelines and are seriously encouraging if not enforcing them.  For the business enterprise, sustainable development means adopting business strategies and activities that meet the needs of the enterprise and its stakeholders today while protecting, sustaining and enhancing the human and natural resources that will be needed in the future.

Corporate sustainability goes beyond the concept of eco-efficiency; it also requires socio-efficiency.

Some executives consider the principal objective of business to be making money. Others recognize a broader social role. There is no consensus among business leaders as to the best balance between narrow self-interest and actions taken for the good of society.  Companies continually face the need to trade off what they would ‘like’ to do and what they ‘must’ do in pursuit of financial survival.  Where do you stand on these issues?

How do you incorporate sustainability into everyday business activities?  How do you embark on business opportunities arising from sustainable development? 

Nike, the athletic footwear and clothing manufacturer, is a good example of a multinational corporation that has incorporated corporate social responsibility into its overall business strategy. In fact, Nike might argue that the move was necessary for its survival.

Chemical Lime Company of Canada is located on the Fraser River in British Columbia. Its key products include lime, hydrated lime and crushed limestone.  Estimated savings achieved through reduced energy, water, waste disposal, material loss and labor are estimated at $358,000 annually.

IKEA, the international retailer of furniture and household goods, has a reputation for low prices and fresh, innovative design. However, it is also keen to develop a reputation for environmental stewardship and sensitivity to social issues.

Instead of being forced to change, how about initiating change by taking a leadership approach?  How about looking for the opportunities that will make you stand out and grow your company taking on a responsible strategy? 

Back to basics

Are you doing the right thing?  Are you satisfied with your bottom line profits?

Can you measure what worked well in the past, and how it may apply to your 2009 and beyond strategy?  Just because something worked before, may not come with guarantees for the future; the global economic climate has changed, making it a good time to audit and evaluate your current activities and asses their viability.

Will you be launching your products into new markets?  Or, will you try to strengthen your position in existing markets?

JVD is a company in the personal care industry.  Their products have been successful in South America and Africa, and were rejected in Europe.  The company spent quite a lot of money to try and grow their European market for the last 4 years.  After analyzing the trends, economy and conducting a feasibility study, we recommended they invest more in successful markets and shy away from Europe, for now.

Getting the basic information to help you make the right decisions is usually neglected by many companies.  Who are your customers and how do they buy?  How does culture affect their buying habits and can you overcome these obstacles?  What is the role the competition plays in these markets?  And last but not least, how are you doing to use the information you have at your fingertips?