Brad Chase, the mind behind some of Microsoft’s largest and most successful initiatives, has shared his strategy-first approach across the nation through speeches to large and small business executives, incubators, start-ups, entrepreneurs, and students at topflight MBA programs.
Now Brad brings his approach to the printed page via a powerful new book for business leaders and aspiring business leaders.
Featuring a Foreword by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Strategy First, available in June, explains why building winning strategies is the single most important element to business success, what Brad calls "the business success imperative." In a fun, thoughtful and easy to understand way, Brad teaches the art of business strategy with over 50 stories, countless tips and a useful, memorable model to help leaders build first place strategies. Brad will inspire readers to examine the effectiveness of their current strategies using the Strategy First toolkit that has served him in his long and distinguished career.
Business success requires Strategy First!
To powerfully show the importance of strategy, Brad starts the book with the tale behind two of the biggest, most successful bets in business history, two multi-billion dollar bets – Bill Gates & Paul Allen betting on the PC, securing the MS-DOS deal with IBM and then betting the whole company again on GUI (Windows) to build a new operating system business and take leadership in applications with Microsoft Office.
With that story as a backdrop, he defines strategy as “your plan to compete” and likenes strategy to making bets. Just like the enormous bets Bill made.
Just like the enormous bets Bill made.
Playing off Einstein’s E = mc2 for fun and memorability, Brad introduces the three key components of strategy with a corresponding model: Strategy = E × mc2 . The E stands for Execution, the m for market potential and the c for customer value. The c is squared because, in most non-commodity businesses, customer value is most critical. Importantly, he points out that your strategy effectiveness only matters relative to the competition.
Once the model is explained, Brad goes through lots of examples like Apple and the iPhone versus other smartphone makers like Samsung, to show how the model can work to calculate a Strategy score. By plugging numbers in the formula, Strategy = E × mc2 (5-point scale for each of the three components), you can gauge how you are doing versus the competition and consider opportunities for improvement.
Next, Brad discusses 5 key tips to strategy prosperity and finding customer value, market potential and execution opportunities:
1. Seek Change
Think about how electricity or the internet changed the world. Change often leads to strategic opportunities. Types of change to look for or try and achieve: tech change, innovation, new business models, societal trends, new markets, new buyers, new ways to think about a market. Examples: Warby Parker, Dollar Shave Club, Amazon AWS, Costco, Lululemon, The NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, Netflix.
2. Mine the Gaps
Many businesses have unrealized execution or customer value opportunities, often because of underperforming competitors. Examples: Google, Geico.
3. Adapt to the Tides
When developing a strategy, one must consider the external factors around you: Technology, Institutional/government, Demographic, Economic and environmental, Social. Example: Fedex, Kodak to Instagram, Pizza Patrón, farming, tourism.
4. Expand the Universe
You can grow your market potential by smart expansion to new customers or selling more to current customers. Examples: restaurants, Yeti, ESPN.
5. Climb Short walls; Build tall walls
Low barriers are easier to compete in. Once in a business, build tall walls. There are many types: Patent, Execution, Product, Brand, Marketing Program and Scale tall walls. Examples: Pfizer, Salesforce, Spanx, Nespresso, Boeing.
There is also a chapter on how to improve Execution
As a company how do you perform like a perfectly synchronized, powerful rowing team where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? The chapter on execution focuses on setting goals, priorities and principles and then how important it is to ACT: Align (resources), Communicate & Curate (strategy and culture), Track (to improve).
The book ends with a summary that reiterates the goals and north star for the book. It reviews the main points, reinforces how they all the work together and adds additional thoughts on strategy success.
A successful strategist isn’t afraid to make big bets – because behind every move is forethought, evaluation and planning. I’ve known Brad for decades, and seen firsthand how his inventive model has driven success for some of Microsoft’s most important initiatives. Strategy First is full of incredible advice on understanding opportunities and competition from a pioneer in his field.
Melissa Waggener Zorkin,
Global CEO and Founder, WE Communications