Most businesses struggle with strategy. Strategy is poorly understood and even more poorly executed. Strategy is all about positioning and not trying to win, or hit a six on every ball. Sometimes it is about surviving until the right ball comes your way, and then hitting a six.
That’s the strategy that Australian Steven Bradbury adopted in the final of the men’s short track skating in the 2002 Olympics. Australia had never won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. In the pool we are great, but on the snow, we are like the Jamaican bobsled team in Cool Runnings. Our tallest mountain would be regarded as a foothill in the Swiss Alps, so our winter athletes have none of the natural advantages that the athletes in cooler countries have.
Under these circumstances, reaching the final was a great achievement for Bradbury, but he knew that he would be the slowest in the next race. He knew that on most occasions his competitors could out race him – but he also knew that in this highly aggressive sport, collisions were frequent. He was just hoping that if there was a collision taking out 2 of the skaters, he could pick up a bronze just by staying clear of the collision by holding a position at the back of the pack and waiting for his chance.
In this event, however, four skaters went down, and he was able to skate past all the fallen competitors to pick up the gold!
If this race was held again 10 times, in all likelihood he would not have picked up any medal nine of the times. He knew he could not win in a head-to-head competition with his more experienced rivals in playing their game. He would simply exhaust himself. So he played a different game. Not one that would work every time, but one that would work often enough to make it worthwhile for his more modest and realistic ambitions.
Having seen how the top skaters raced, he identified a weakness that he could exploit by positioning himself. It was not a strategy for the top ranked competitors, but one a competitor with less capacity could adopt.
Do you have a business strategy that allows you to compete with your bigger rivals, that exploits their weaknesses rather than trying to take them where they are strongest? One that does not exhaust your resources while you wait for your chance? If you deplete all your resources playing your larger competitors’ game, you will have none left to play yours.
Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.
Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.
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