Strategy requires understanding, not just a checkbox.
Developing and executing a strategy is an important part of business leadership. Especially if you are a founder of an early-stage startup.
However, many founders make the mistake of treating their strategy like it is just a to-do list of tasks. This inaccurate understanding of strategy causes issues for early-stage startups and impacts the likelihood of their success.
What is strategy?
So this post isn’t intended to go into detail about what strategy is. But at a high level for a startup, a strategy should be undertaken quarterly, it should have a single theme or focus for the period and it should outline key metrics and initiatives to be undertaken to achieve those metrics. It should focus and direct the entire startup to be moving in a consistent direction.
Where do founders go wrong?
Strategy is not just a tick and flick exercise, it is about learning, gaining understanding and moving the business in the right direction. For example, if the focus for the period is on customer development and finding product-market fit don’t tick it off as done because you have done some exercises but not actually found what you are looking for.
You need to gain understanding, or it was a waste of time and you will move on to the next step before it was ready. This could lead you to launch a product too soon, seek fundraising before you are ready or start scaling too soon.
Deadlines and schedules are the greatest pressure that encourages this kind of behaviour. Pressure from investors, other stakeholders or even just pressure founders place on themselves. A schedule or a deadline should be changed rather than continue before you are ready and have the necessary understanding.
When executing your strategy don’t rush through it like a list to be checked off. Strategy is important, the steps involved are about understanding and this should always be sought before moving on to the next step.