Starting and growing a successful business requires focus, hard work, and a great deal of industry knowledge. Understanding how to select and appeal to a target market, increase efficiency, and grow revenue are just a few of the important facets that should be considered. To bridge this knowledge gap, hiring a third-party consultant to improve your company’s business strategy is a great option.
For some strategic insight into business development we reached out to Chris Lema — CTO & Chief Strategist Crowdfavorite and speaker, coach, and daily blogger.
Q: How did you start?
A: From 1997 until 2006 I worked in five software startups in San Francisco. I loved startups and found myself, towards the end of that period, coaching a lot of other startups. Most of the time we were talking product strategy, team formation, and fundraising. But every one of them needed a website. Initially it would be some simple HTML, but over time I wanted to support them without supporting them. So I wanted a content management solution (CMS) that would let them edit their own site. And while I started with a product called DotNetNuke, I quickly found WordPress one weekend in 2005 and started using it. My first several sites (> 25) only used pages — so I didn’t really discover the loop and posts until later.
In those early days I discovered a fundamental truth that transcended the startup world — one I’m sure others have discovered as well. Clients, no matter how technical or not, “hire” a website to do a job. More often than not, looking good is only one part of it. They want it to deliver leads, or to close sales, or to increase adoption, or to reduce calls. That’s how they value their site, and how they think about what they spend on it. It’s also how they assess how soon they want it.
This is remarkably different than how we often think about these projects.
Q: How has your new role at Crowd Favorite impacted your positioning in the WordPress space?
A: My sense is that it will change everything and change nothing.
The reality is that my new role will impact some of the companies that I coach. Even though none of them are direct competitors to Crowd Favorite, it’s easy to predict (and it’s already happened) that some clients will be hesitant to ask for strategy help from someone who now works full time in the space. I get that.
On the other hand, my blog, speaking at WordCamps, and my commitment to helping young WordPress companies grow hasn’t changed one bit. So I still take calls, still help on strategy, and still do some branding work with some folks in the space. My coaching and consulting has always been a very small part of my week (never more than 3-4 hours), so it’s never really conflicted with my work hours.
Additionally, my role inside of Crowd Favorite gives me a platform to help other companies unlike I was able to before. Because we work in the Enterprise segment of WordPress services, we can open the door to other partners, and I’m excited to see that process begin taking shape.
Q: What’s the most common hardship you’ve helped others overcome?
A: Here’s the reality. Most of the time people aren’t very strategic. They’re moving way too fast and driven by excitement to act. There’s nothing wrong with having an action-oriented perspective. I love folks who execute. But when it’s rushed, there are consequences — most of them negative and preventable.
The other challenge people face is that they only make short-term plans. But if you ask about their goals, they’re big. It’s just that the in-between is never fleshed out.
The result, from both of these dynamics, is that people are using hope as a strategy. That’s what I help with, more often than not.
Q: What advice do you give them?
A: A friend of mine, a leader in decision science, wrote several books. But as he was sharing with me his process on the first book, he highlighted that he wrote and rewrote full chapters. Over and over. When he calculated it all out, he could have written one single sentence every day and he would have finished faster.
The trick is to make sure that every action we take, as much as possible, is additive. Not wasted effort that we’ll have to change, reverse, or eliminate. When we plan, both in the short and long run (with contingencies), and make sure that every bit of our effort furthers our goals, we can be leaner, move faster, and see better results. It’s all about alignment.
But to find alignment, you need to step back and think about your fundamental objectives. You need to know how you’ll measure progress along the way, and you need to build in the infrastructure along the way to support your efforts.
It sounds like a lot of work. It is. But it’s way less work than randomly pursuing all sorts of different short-term objectives only to see most of them filled with wasted effort that goes nowhere.
You can contact Chris on Twitter @ChrisLema!
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