Some Strategy Is Easy

Suppose you wanted to develop a business development strategy for North Rubberboots, Elbonia.  Where would you start?

Many years ago I was working a little in business development for two communities.  Neither one had a well-defined answer to the question, “What kind of business would you prefer to see here?”  They just wanted more jobs.

Business development is an imperfect study at best.  It is a little like advertising.  Half of what you do works, but you don’t know which half.  Worse still the half that does not work is not the same half all the time.

The tendency becomes to try many things and hope.  But, like in golf, hit it and hope is unproductive.

There is a technique that clears the path.  Work at finding two things.

  1. Things I do not want
  2. Things I cannot have until I change some aspect of my environment.

If you do not know what you do want, the finding of what you don’t want is helpful.  It limits the useless application of resources.  Neither community leader wanted a smokestack industry even though they could provide jobs.  Neither wanted a lot of minimum wage jobs.  They both wanted high paying technically complex jobs.

Neither could have those jobs because their structural environment would not support them.  If you cannot provide skilled workers and easily acquired external support, then you cannot have some kinds of businesses in your community.  It is not a coincidence that Silicon Valley developed near Standford University, that Boston has a vibrant start-up world near MIT and Harvard and in Canada, Waterloo gains from the tech expertise at University of Waterloo.

Without knowledge, easily found workforce, communications, transportation, strong community values and shopping, most businesses will look elsewhere.  Knowing why people say “No,” is important.  Some of the objections can be remedied.

I recall one transportation-challenged community where the industrial part of the strategy was one line.

“It must be valuable, it must be small, and it must be light.”

Freight per unit as a percentage of value matters.  The cost for a plane load really does not.

Every planning environment comes with three components.

  1. All things that are available
  2. All things I want
  3. All things I can have.

The little space where all three are present is the sweet spot.  Avoid spending your time and money resources where only one or two of the variables are present.

This works the same way exactly for your personal financial plan.  Think it through.  The first secret of success is to avoid predictable failure.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact: 

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