The Most Common Strategy Mistakes

I recently read this article from the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge newsletter.  It is an excerpt of an interview between the author (Joan Magretta) and Michael E. Porter, renowned authority on competition and strategy.

 Even though it is an excerpt, the Q & A format touches on the key mistakes we all can relate to as business operators.  They are the sort of missteps we wish we could avoid.  They are wasteful of time and other resources; yet we appear unable (perhaps unwilling) to remedy the situation.

 According to the interview, businesses make several common strategy mistakes, including the following:

  1. The biggest of all mistakes is competing to be the best, going down the same path as everybody else and thinking that somehow you can achieve better results.  This is a hard race to win.  So many managers confuse operational effectiveness with strategy.
  2. Another common mistake is confusing marketing with strategy.  It’s natural for strategy to arise from a focus on customers and their needs.  So in many companies, strategy is built around the value proposition, which is the demand side of the equation.  But a robust strategy requires a tailored value chain — it’s about the supply side as well, the unique configuration of activities that delivers value.
  3. It is a mistake to overestimate strengths.  This is indicative of an inward-looking bias observed in many organizations.
  4. A common mistake is getting the definition of the business wrong, or getting the geographic scope wrong. Are you really a global operation?
  5. The worst mistake — and the most common one — is not having a strategy at all.  Most executives think they have a strategy when they really don’t, at least not a strategy that meets any kind of rigorous, economically grounded definition.

 As I indicated in the opening paragraph, these mistakes are familiar.  We are guilty of committing some, or all, and know of businesses in the same trap. Why then do these mistakes persist?  What is responsible for the failure to strategize –in the economically meaningful sense?

 According to Porter, many barriers distract, deter, and divert managers from making clear strategic choices.  Some of the most significant barriers come from the many hidden biases embedded in internal systems, organizational structures, and decision-making processes.

 He sums things up as follows: “Strategy links choices on the demand side with the unique choices about the value chain (the supply side). You can’t have competitive advantage without both” – Michael E. Porter.

CLICK HERE to read the article.  There is a link to information about Joan Magretta’s book, which distills Porter’s core concepts and frameworks into a concise guide for business practitioners.



© Rachel Agheyisi, Report Content Writer, Report Content Writer’s Bolg, 2012


Happy Holidays!





Are Creative People More Dishonest?

buzzYES, that is the title of an article in the December 7, 2011 issues of the HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL Newsletter.

In a series of studies, Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely found that inherently creative people tend to cheat more than noncreative people. Furthermore, they showed that inducing creative behavior tends to induce unethical behavior. It’s a sobering thought in a corporate culture that champions out-of-the-box thinking. Key concepts include:

  • In a series of experiments, the researchers found links between creativity and unethical behavior.
  • Inherently creative people tend to cheat more than noncreative types. Furthermore, inducing creative behavior tends to induce unethical behavior.
  • Creativity is not necessarily bad, but managers would do well to consider how to structure the creative process to get the good outcomes of creativity without triggering the bad ones.


For details of the research and findings, go to:



Perfecting Your Digital Handshake

Get your "Mo"Side bar:  I just read the following article by Heather Robson, Managing Editor, Wealthy Web Writer.  She makes some helpful suggestions on how to make a good first impression and enhance your professional profile.  See if you can use some or all of them.  Don’t forget to share what works!


The Basics of a Good Digital Handshake


When it comes to making a good online impression, there are a few things you want to keep in mind:


Be a real person: No matter where you are online, you want to be a real person. That means you shouldn’t hide behind a company persona or take all the personality out of your communication. You can be personable and still be professional … mostly by being yourself while avoiding inappropriate topics. For example, let’s say you’re on an industry forum, and you’re responding to a post about social media marketing. It relates to something you’ve tried and you’re excited to share the results. It’s okay to let your excitement come through in what you say. However, if your experience relates to a bad incident with a client, you want to avoid naming names or getting into too many details.


Have a sense of place: There are lots of different places you might use your digital handshake, and how you execute it might vary from place to place. When you’re shaking hands on your website, visitors have come to the site because they’re interested in something you have to say. So, you want to make sure you let them know right away how you can help them. On the other hand, if you’re commenting on a blog post, you want to stay on topic and be generous with your knowledge. You don’t want to come across like you’re trying to sell something.


Perfect your USP: When it comes to a solid online handshake, it’s important that you can convey your value and do it quickly. You do that through your Unique Sales Proposition, which helps to set you apart from the competition. So, for example, using a USP on your website like, “I bring you more sales through better web writing” might accurately convey the biggest benefit you bring to your clients but it doesn’t necessarily convey it in a memorable way. “I bring you more sales by making your clients fall in love with you,” might stand out a little more.


Be generous: Wherever you are on the Web, you can make a stronger first impression by being generous. Share your knowledge. If someone solicits advice, do your best to give it. If someone asks you to contribute to his site, see if you can find a way to make that work. If someone wants to do an interview with you, say yes if possible.



A Different Handshake for Different Modes of Contact


Once you’ve nailed down the basics, it’s time to think about how you want to present yourself when you’re working in different channels. The first impression you make on your website might be different from the first impression you want to make through your email newsletter. This goes back to understanding where you are.


When you’re making a first impression through your website or an online event, you’re often connecting with people who are completely unfamiliar with you. You want to anticipate their questions and make sure you give them the information they’re looking for. Now is not the time to be cute or clever. Now is the time to be straightforward and to present your knowledge clearly and concisely.


When you’re making an impression through an industry forum or in response to an industry blog, the people you’re “shaking hands with” have even less context about who you are than those who arrive at your website or attend an event where you’re presenting. Be polite. Stay on topic. And, try to share something new and useful. Let your personality come through, but follow the basic rules of Internet etiquette.


Your handshake on your blog or through social media will be slightly different from on your website or in response to a forum post. Chances are, you’ve already made a first impression and you’re on to the relationship-building phase. Your handshake on your blog or in social media will be a little more familiar. Be friendly. Let your personality shine through. And, work to provide fresh information to your following. If you can’t help being cute, clever, or funny, this is the space to do it in.


How you present yourself to your email audience (whether through your email newsletter or through an initial email to a potential prospect) will be different again. In the case of email, you want to be aware that you’re entering your reader’s email inbox, which is like entering their home, so behave accordingly. Get right to the point, and let your host know why you’re there. Make your contact useful. And, always be polite.


No matter where you’re connecting online, you want to cultivate a voice that conveys your personality and credibility. You want to be professional, approachable, and consistent. Any time you make a first impression online (or a second impression or third), it’s the same as shaking somebody’s hand. Keep that in mind and approach every situation with confidence (even if you have to fake it), an eye for the opportunity to share your knowledge, and the willingness to let your personality and voice shine through. Work on your digital handshake, and you’ll find you’re more successful at developing relationships that eventually convert to clients.




End Note:  This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) Wealthy Web Writer, a free newsletter for learning how to effectively write online copy and market products on the Web.  For a complimentary subscription, visit

© Copyright Rachel Agheyisi and Report Content Writer’s Blog, 2009-2011


Success – Wanting It Badly Enough

Let me admit it outright: I’m hooked on those competitions on Cable TV’s Food Network.  It started when I stumbled onto one of the shows, Iron Chef America, around last Thanksgiving.  Anyone who’s seen the cooking show knows of the frenzy and craziness that the competing chefs generate as they race to create multiple gourmet courses – in one hour while incorporating the “secret” ingredient of the day.


The first time I watched the show, I had no clue what the running around and frenzy was about.  But after the kitchen smoke, literally, cleared, and the chefs faced the judges (oh, those judges!!!), it began to make sense.  Timing, finishing, taste and appearance were everything.  Winning was everything.  I’m not a cook, but just watching these chefs perform is simply wild in an awesome sort of way — a virtual vicarious delight.  These culinary experts carry you along and you find yourself rooting for them throughout the contest, particularly when they are at the judging table.


Well, the Iron Chefs got me hooked on the food network and soon thereafter, another show, Cupcake Wars sealed the deal.  “War” is an apt title for this show because the competition is tough, and the judging is brutal.  Cupcake bakers compete for a monetary prize and the “privilege” of serving their cakes at a gala event at the end of the contest.  Before I started watching these wars, I had no idea cupcakes were so hot!!  However, from all indications, they are – literally the hot item in pastry land.  It explains the presence of so many flavors and choices of cakes and their many colorful bakers!


It’s amazing how each contestant manages to create an indelible impression during the brief period they are on the show – even those who are eliminated early in the contest.  They’ve certainly captured my interest – even though I’m not a cupcake eater, which leads me to the purpose of this article.


What is it about these reality/competition shows that caught my attention?  I know it’s not the foods and desserts per se.  I think it’s the personalities of the contestants and the way they make you catch a glimpse of their soul within such a sort time.  There’s something admirable about these non-celebrities, ordinary individuals who take the chance in pursuit of their business ambitions.  They put themselves out there and dare to dream.  These enterprising people dare to dream “out loud” as it were, by entering and participating in these strenuous contests.  They are to be commended for acting on their hopes and aspirations.


Watching these contestants perform make me think of my own business goals and how much effort I’m willing to exert to translate my dreams into reality.  How willing am I to dream aloud, pursue my goals and extend my comfort zone?  This is the real food for thought.


How about you?  Do you have goals that you hope to achieve this year?  I’m sure you do.  Every small business owner knows that running a successful business is like being in a contest every day.  Challenges and risks are part of the game.  How well we play, determines our outcomes.


We should be in it to win.


Let’s get this year started by saying NO to inertia and YES to action.  Action is the best way to silence those pesky personal doubts and gain confidence.  Action is the key to creation and the realization of all good things.


Let’s make this year one of dreaming, daring and doing – one day at a time.


It might not be easy, but it is doable with courage and perseverance.  Remember: Courage is the ability to disregard fear.  Courage is grace under fire.  Courage is a great companion to have on this year’s quest.


Let’s go out there and ACT ON IT!!!




© Copyright Rachel Agheyisi and Report Content Writer’s Blog, 2009-2011.


Keeping Your 2011 Plan Simple and Doable

This year I decided not to make any New Year’s resolutions – at least not in the traditional sense of a creating a list of wishes, do’s and don’ts.  Experience has shown me that those types of resolutions are transitory.  They survive only for a few weeks and before long are buried in the field of the forgotten.  Why bother?


So this year, I opted to create a simple plan with a better chance of surviving throughout 2011 and hopefully beyond.  I’m labeling it “simple” because the details are few and easy to remember.  Sure, I have a written copy, but I won’t have to keep looking it up to recall what needs to be done.


It is a plan because I’ve structured it into manageable parts, which when completed, will move me closer to a clearly defined “big picture” goal.


Yes, I know – there’s nothing novel about this idea.  Anyone can do it, and in fact should do it.


The great thing about it though is that it makes accountability easier for me to track.  I consider accountability a big deal.


I consider accountability a business priority.  It feeds into how many projects I win, how I interact with my clients, and the overall quality of my product.  In short, accountability is critical to the survival of my business.


It is, therefore, important that I have a way, preferably an easy way, to track my operations and account for my progress.  This is the underlying motivation for my 2011 Simple Plan.  Right now, it looks good and doable.  In fact, the doing has begun.


The best part is you don’t have to invest in any sophisticated software or program to create a plan with accountability as a central component.  The key is to keep it simple and meaningful for you, after all, it is not meant to be a showpiece.  It is a work document.


Let’s suppose that your business provides professional services.  Your 2011 simple plan could be based on the following hypothetical considerations:


Big Picture:                      Grow my business


Specifically:                      Add $50,000 in net income


More specifically:             Win ten new projects in X industry


This can be refined further by specifying a sub-set of companies in X industry as the focus of your marketing efforts.  You may want to allocate your target project wins among the prospects (in a way that improves your income potential) and set time targets for each win.  You get the idea.  The goal is to keep it clear and manageable.


Accountability begins by asking and answering this question:  What am I doing now to win the first project?  The remaining nine projects don’t matter quite yet until that first one is won.


Accountability is what you do each day, week, and month to raise your company’s profile, stimulate the interest of your target prospects, and make project wins possible.


Not everything has to scream FOR SALE or BUY FROM ME.  Ultimately, we sell (whatever it is) when we deliver what buyers want (whatever it is).  We are able to deliver what buyers want by getting to know them


Thankfully, the various social media make it doable even for a small business on a zero or tight marketing budget.  Just start with one thing (say interacting on Twitter) and build on it.  A small business owner has the same chance to interact with the “big guys” in the industry, as do any other businesses.


Perhaps better than any other size business, those of us who are solopreneurs are well suited to put subtle, yet powerful positive word-of-mouth recommendation to work for us.  We can distinguish ourselves by tightening our niche and by consistently cultivating our presence and expertise day by day.


I believe that the best-selling experience occurs organically.  It is sustainable.  Accountability, developed through consistent action, makes it happen.


Just keep it simple and doable this year.




© Copyright Rachel Agheyisi and Report Content Writer’s Blog, 2009-2011.

Tis That Time of Year!

Tis the time for frenetic activity, accompanied by indulgencies in food and spending.  It is also the time to look ahead in anticipation of the New Year – a time to think of new beginnings in our personal, community, and business lives.

 For me it is a time to anchor my thoughts and expectations around a few ideas – a few things I can track, accomplish, and celebrate in the coming days.  I call them my guiding points.  I try to keep these points no more than I can count on one hand.  The idea is not to generate an impressive list.  Rather, the goal is to create a working list in the true sense of the word.

 This year I have decided on three simple words to help me set the stage.  I want to share them with you in the hope that they‘ll motivate you create your own plan for the year ahead.

Here we go—

1.    DREAM

 Sometimes we confuse dreams with wishful thinking.  Anyone who’s done it (and that means a good number of us) knows that wishful thinking does not get you anywhere.  I like to think of my dreams as visualizations of things to come – a foretaste of what is achievable.  Einstein puts it well when he said imagination is the preview of life’s coming attractions.

So, I dream of what is to come in the year ahead.  Sometimes, when I really put my mind to it, my dreams get so vivid that when they do come true, they are wonderfully familiar.  Those are my favorite dreams.

 So, my first guiding point is to dream lavishly.  Dreams motivate.  They create focus.

  2.      HOPE

 According to Webster’s dictionary, to hope is to desire with expectation of fulfillment.  How cool is that?  One of my favorite quotes about hope is this one attributed to Helen Keller: “Nothing can be done without hope and confidence”.  To that I’d add: “nothing destroys hope faster than negativity”. 

So, in the days ahead, distance yourself from naysayers.  Surround yourself with inspiration.

Hope is a powerful enabler.  Embrace it.

 3.      ACTION

 One doesn’t have to be in the movie business to feel the energy behind the word “action!”  It embodies activity.  Properly channeled, action can take dreams and hope and create magic.  Action says NO to stagnation and inertia.  Action moves, builds, restores, and turns the impossible into the possible.  Action defines your mindset, your strength or lack thereof.

 So, in the days ahead, take action and create lasting success from your dreams and hope.

That’s the gist of my plan.  Now it’s your turn.

I wish you an abundance of dreams, hope, and action in the New Year!!!

 H A P P Y    H O L I D A Y S! ! !



© Copyright Rachel Agheyisi and Report Content Writer’s Blog, 2009-2010.